BOSNIAN SERBS ADMIT SREBRENICA GENOCIDE – SAY MASSACRE OF 7,800 PEOPLE PLANNED – ISSUE AN APOLOGY
The Bosnian Serb government has for the first time publicly acknowledged that more than 7,800 Bosniaks were massacred by Serbian forces at Srebrenica in eastern Bosnia in 1995.
A Serb commission’s final report on the 1995 Srebrenica massacre acknowledges that the mass murder of 7,800 Bosniak men and boys by Bosnian Serb forces was planned, an international official said yesterday.
The report on the worst massacre of civilians in Europe since World War II was presented to the Bosnian Serb government last month but has not been made public.
“The report itself admits and provides details of the plan and deliberate liquidation of thousands of Bosniaks [Muslims] by the Bosnian Serb forces,” said Bernard Fassier, deputy to Bosnia’s top international administrator.
Although Bosnian Serbs have long been blamed for the massacre, it was not until June — following the Srebrenica commission’s preliminary report — that Serb officials acknowledged that their security forces had carried out the slaughter.
Fassier said the report also gives names of people who “could be perpetrators” of the massacre, but declined to give any details.
Last month the government of the Serb-run Republika Srpska (RS) was said to have accepted an official report that 7,800 Bosniaks were killed in the massacre, Europe’s worst atrocity since World War II.
“The report recognises and gives details of the pre-planned murders of thousands of Bosnians by the Serbian armed forces,” said Bernard Fassier, deputy to Bosnia’s top international administrator Paddy Ashdown.
“The list includes the names of more than 7,800 people who have disappeared and it will have to be brought further up to date before being made public,” Fassier said.
Although Bosnian Serbs have long been blamed for the massacre, it was not until June — following the commission’s preliminary report — that Serb officials acknowledged their security forces carried out the slaughter.
The government’s acknowledgment represents a dramatic departure from its previous official position, which was to play down the numbers killed, to the outrage of surviving relatives and the international community.
Bosnian Serb forces seized Srebrenica on July 11, 1995. The UN had previously declared the area a safe haven and the Dutch forces responsible for protecting the enclave failed to prevent the slaughter.
Fassier said the massacre must now be fully investigated and those responsible brought to justice.
That process could involve the exhumation of mass graves where some of the victims are presumed to have been buried.
Fassier said the international community was still waiting for the RS to arrest those charged with the massacre by the United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague who are still fugitives.
Bosnian Serb authorities have apologised for the first time for the killing of about 8,000 Bosniaks by Serb forces in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, Europe’s worst atrocity since World War II.
“The government of Republika Srpska sympathises with the pain of relatives of the Srebrenica victims and expresses sincere regrets and apologies over the tragedy which has happened to them,” a government statement said.
The Bosnian Serb government accepted last month an internal report by a special investigative commission acknowledging that almost 8,000 Bosniaks were killed in the massacre, in the final stages of Bosnia’s 1992-95 war.
The report marked the first time Bosnian Serb authorities have admitted the scale of the massacre after its troops overran the UN-protected enclave.
Serb authorities had previously downplayed the slaughter, classed as an act of genocide by the UN war crimes tribunal at The Hague.
But the report’s toll of up to 8,000 victims is in line with independent estimates.
Bosniak men and boys were separated from the women and murdered over several days after Serb forces swept through the eastern region.
So far more than 6,000 bodies have been exhumed from mass graves near Srebrenica.
Republika Srpska is the Serb-run entity which along with the Bosniak-Croat Federation makes up post-war Bosnia.
Srebrenica was a predominantly Bosniak town before the war but it is now part of Republika Srpska.
The Bosnian Serb government also said it was committed to bring to justice those responsible for the massacre, a key demand of the international community and the relatives of the victims.
The UN war crimes tribunal has indicted Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic and his military commander, Ratko Mladic, for genocide for their alleged roles in the massacre.
Although the war ended nine years ago the two still remain at large, hiding somewhere in the former Yugoslavia where they are still regarded as heroes by their hardline supporters.
The Republika Srpska is the only territory of the former Yugoslavia that has yet to arrest a single war crimes suspect despite relentless international pressure and sanctions.
Survivors of the massacre as well as the international community welcomed the apology while continuing to demand action to arrest those responsible.
Several Bosnian Serbs have been convicted by the UN war crimes court for their roles in the atrocity, including General Radislav Krstic who was sentenced in 2001 to 46 years for genocide.
Former Bosnian Serb president Radovan Karadzic and his military chief Ratko Mladic have been on the run since being charged in 1995 by an international tribunal for war crimes in Srebrenica and elsewhere during the 1992-1995 war.