Accessibility links

Breaking News

Ten Years Later, Massacre Victims Laid to Rest at Last


Coffins of 613 Bosnian Muslims discovered in mass graves in Potocari
At Srebrenica in eastern Bosnia Monday some 600 victims of Europe's worst atrocity since World War II were laid to rest on the tenth anniversary of what has become known as the Srebrenica massacre.

The names of the victims are read out as each casket is passed at shoulder height along a line of men arrayed in two narrow rows. After Muslim prayers and some speeches, the bodies are laid to rest. For the family and friends of these 600 victims of the Srebrenica massacre, the burials are a dignified ending to the unspeakable horrors that took place in these green hills in July 1995.

Layla Avdic, 23, a Bosnian now living in the United States, wears a white head scarf. She fights back tears as she stands at the side of her grandfather's coffin. Ms. Avdic lived not far from here, in Tuzla, when the massacre took place.

"I was here in Bosnia. I lived with my mom and my brother. My father died too. He died in 1992. They found him the same place they found my grandfather," Ms. Avdic says.

Among the speakers was the president of The Hague war crimes tribunal, Theodor Meron. What happened at Srebenica, he says, was genocide.

"By seeking to eliminate part of the Bosnian Muslims, the Bosnian Serb forces committed genocide. They targeted for extinction the 40 thousand Bosnian Muslims living in Srebrenica, a group that is emblematic of the Bosnian Muslims in general," Mr. Meron says.

The murder of nearly 8000 unarmed Muslim men and boys occurred after they had surrendered to Bosnian Serb forces. The killings went on for several days and the bodies were dumped into mass graves. The gruesome work of identifying the dead through DNA testing continues.

Sonja Biserko, a human rights activist in Serbia, says it is appropriate that the Serbian president, Boris Tadic, defied domestic pressure and attended the memorial service. It is significant, Mr. Biserko says, that a Serb leader was at the ceremony.

"It was not quite clear from the beginning whether he would be here. But I think it is very important (that he is). It is a first step (toward acceptance of responsibility)," Ms. Biserko says.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw was one of several speakers who demanded that the men most responsible for Srebrenica be apprehended.

"It is sickening that ten years after the massacre at Srebrenica those accused of it, notably Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadjic, are still free. No one should protect them from facing transparent international justice," Mr. Straw says.

Radovan Karadzic was the war-time leader of the Bosnian Serbs, and General Ratko Mladic was his military commander.

The two men have evaded capture for a decade. They are believed to be hiding in Bosnia or in neighboring countries, protected by people who regard them as Serb patriots.