Tens of thousands of Bosnian Muslims have prayed and remembered the dead in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica on Saturday, the 14th anniversary of Europe's worst massacre since World War II. They also re-buried hundreds of victims recently recovered from mass graves. Saturday's ceremony came amid international concerns over remaining ethnic tensions in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
It took 14 long years to find and identify them. But on Saturday, at an emotionally charged ceremony, family members finally laid to rest 534 victims into pits next to the nearly 3,300 graves at the Srebrenica-Potocari memorial center.
The victims, including 44 teenagers, were among more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys who were killed when Serbian forces overran the Bosnian town of Srebrenica during the Balkan wars in July of 1995.
Bosnian Muslims had fled to Srebrenica as it was declared a United Nations "protected safe area for civilians." But the outnumbered U.N. troops never fired a shot as they were overrun by Serbian forces. Instead, they stood by as Serbian troops rounded up the population, separating males for execution.
On Saturday, thousands of people prayed and remembered Europe's worst massacre since World War Two. One elderly woman was close to tears when she explains that she is sad that the victims could not live to see this day.
A middle aged woman was overheard telling a reporter that she saw her young son during prayers in a mosque. Another family member said she has been hallucinating for the last 14 years.
The wounds of history have not yet healed. Serbian deputies in the Bosnian parliament have blocked an initiative to declare July 11 the "Srebrenica Genocide Remembrance Day" in the former Yugoslav republic.
Earlier the European Parliament proclaimed July 11 a day of commemoration of the Srebrenica genocide. Bosnia's inter-ethnic war cost thousands of lives and left the country split into two highly autonomous entities - the Muslim-Croat Federation and the Serbs' Republika Srpska.
European Union officials, including Germany's Deputy Foreign Minister Peter Ammon, warn that these divisions will hold up Bosnia's attempt to join NATO and the EU. "In this regard we are concerned about the developments in Bosnia Herzegovina, the reform process there has almost come to a stand-still. And allow to be frank: Only Bosnia Herzegovina as a whole enjoys the European prospective, not its parts of entities. NATO and EU accession are a major step towards stabilization of the whole region," he said.
He spoke at a summit on Southeastern Europe in neighboring Croatia. Saturday's commemoration for the victims of Srebrenica was also attended by a United States congressional delegation that put a wreath near what is known as the Memorial Stone.
In a statement,U.S. Ambassador to Bosnia Charles English said U.S. President Barack Obama has called the Srebrenica slaughter "a stain in our collective consciousness," and that the world has to ask itself how this genocide could have happened.
Last year Bosnian Serbian President Radovan Karadzic was captured and transferred to the United Nations Tribunal in The Hague. However another key suspect, former Bosnian Serbian commander, General Ratko Mladic, remains at large.