News / Europe

Thousands Mourn Srebrenica Massacre Victims, Criticize UN

Survivors have expressed frustration over the United Nation's perceived failure to prevent the killing of more than 8,000 Muslims by Serb forces in July, 1995

Stefan Bos

Tens of thousands of people have commemorated the 15th anniversary of Europe's worst massacre since World War II in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica.  Survivors have expressed frustration over the United Nation's perceived failure to prevent the killing of more than 8,000 Muslims by Serb forces in July, 1995.

In the summer heat, huge crowds of mourning Muslims attended the biggest funeral near the eastern Bosnian town of Srebrenica.

A hillside was dug out with graves for 775 green-draped coffins of recently identified victims of Europe's largest mass killing since the Holocaust.  The youngest victims were two boys, aged 14, who were laid to rest alongside thousands of bodies already in the graveyard.

The funeral at the Potocari Memorial Center was part of the 15th anniversary commemoration of what became known as the Srebrenica massacre.

More than 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed by forces led by Bosnian-Serb General Ratko Mladic who seized Srebrenica on July 11, 1995, during the Balkan conflict that broke up Yugoslavia.

Investigators say the troops went on a week-long killing spree as U.N. troops protecting the town stepped aside.  Survivors are angry that Mladic remains at large.  But they have also criticized the United Nations for allegedly failing to prevent the massacre.

Before Sunday's ceremony, relatives of two men killed by Serbian forces at Srebrenica filed a complaint with the Netherlands' prosecutor's office against commanders of the U.N. Dutch battalion, Dutchbat, which was based in the Srebrenica enclave.

The complaint charges the Dutchbat commanders with complicity in war crimes, lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld explained to Radio Netherlands Worldwide.

"...There is sufficient evidence for war crimes and genocide in this case.  The commanders of Dutchbat have evicted the victims from the Dutchbat compound in Srebrenica on the 13th of July 1995," Zegveld said. "They have forced them to leave a safe environment.  It is supported by statements made at the time by the Dutchbat military stating that they feared for the fate of the Muslim men. That they feared a mass execution.  That they knew that the men who were evicted from the compound were not arriving in the safe area ... whereas the women and children did arrive."

Dutch soldiers have said they were outnumbered and not able to halt the Serbian invasion.

The presidents of all the states that made up the former Yugoslavia were present for the commemoration, including Serbia's President Boris Tadic.  Some in the crowd yelled "Bravo, Boris!" others asked "Where is Mladic?"

There was no official seen from the United Nations.

In a statement read for him at the ceremony, U.S. President Barack Obama urged "governments to redouble their efforts" and arrest those responsible for the war crimes at Srebrenica.

Mr. Obama called the Srebrenica genocide a "stain on our collective consciousness" after decades of pledges of "never again" following Nazi atrocities, during World War II.

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