EN | BA

22 years ago 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed at Srebrenica in Bosnia

Thousands gathered in Srebrenica on Tuesday to mark the 1995 massacre of some 8,000 Bosnian Muslims, Europe’s worst atrocity since World War II, with some giving their loved ones a proper burial for the first time.

Gravestones at the Potočari genocide memorial near Srebrenica. | wikimedia

Every year, new bodies are discovered and the remains are identified through DNA analysis before being buried at Potocari.

The remains of 71 victims of the bloodshed, considered genocide by international justice, will be laid to rest in a joint funeral at a memorial cemetery in Potocari, near Srebrenica.

They include seven people who were under 18 when they were killed and a 33-year-old woman.

Adela Efendic said she had come to “finally say goodbye” to her father Senaid, who was 35 when he was killed.

“His remains were found nine years ago in a common grave, but only a few bones,” the 22-year-old said, her head covered with a violet veil and tears streaming down her cheeks.

“We were waiting hoping to find more, but nothing turned up... We decided to bury him now so his bones find peace,” said Efendic, who was only 20 days old when her father died.

“I have only one photo of him, a small one, like for an ID card. But my mother told me a lot about him... it allows me to imagine him.”

The International Committee of the Red Cross has estimated the number of victims at 8,000. The United Nations has called this “the greatest atrocity on European soil since the Second World War”.

Bosnian Serb forces captured the eastern Bosnian town, a UN-protected enclave at the time, on July 11, 1995, five months before the end of Bosnia’s inter-ethnic war.

Thousands of Bosniaks had sought shelter from Bosnian Serb soldiers in a UN Safe Area base, which was being defended by the Dutch peacekeepers when it was overrun by Serb forces.

Serb death squads butchered a large number of Muslim Bosnian boys and men in Srebrenica over the course of four days.

Last month a Dutch appeals court upheld a 2014 ruling that found the Netherlands responsible for the deaths of 350 Bosniak men in the Srebrenica massacre.

According to declassified US cables, cited in a report by the UK-based daily The Guardian, British, American and French governments were prepared to cede UN-protected safe areas to armed Serb militias during the war in Bosnia.

In the following days they summarily killed some 8,000 Muslim men and boys.

So far the remains of 6,429 Srebrenica victims have been buried at the memorial site and 233 in other cemeteries, according to Bosnia’s institute of missing people.

The remains of more than 1,000 other victims still have to be located.

The victims were found in some 80 mass graves of which the last one was discovered in December 2015.

Among the identified victims there were 22 women and some 440 children who were under 18 when they were killed, according to the institute.

In March last year, former Bosnian Serb political leader, Radovan Karadzic, was convicted of war crimes for his role in the Srebrenica killings and was sentenced to 40 years in prison.

Bosnian Serb wartime military chief Ratko Mladic is expecting a verdict by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in November.

Bosnian Serbs still deny the Srebrenica massacre was an act of genocide, although international courts have ruled so.

Bosnia’s 1992-1995 war between its Croats, Muslims and Serbs claimed some 100,000 lives.