Hundreds of thousands Bosnians gathered in Sarajevo, commamorating the victims of Srebrenica massacre, the Europe’s worst genocide after WWII as trucks loaded with the remains of 775 newly identified victims of the Srebrenica massacre left the morgue there to head for the ill-fated eastern town.
The Bosnians gathered near Sarajevo carrying the victims, whose remains were found in numerous mass graves scattered around eastern Bosnia, will be reburied at a memorial cemetery near Srebrenica on Sunday, on the 15th anniversary of the massacre.
Although between 10,000 and 15,000 tried to escape on foot through the forests to Muslim-held territory, Serbian forces captured and systematically killed nearly 8,000 men and boys from Srebrenica on July 11, 1995 despite , the enclave had been declared a United Nations “safe haven” two years earlier.
Sabit Cvrk, 48, said he walked with eleven other men, including one who was wounded when their group was bombed.
“We only walked at night, were horribly scared, the ambushes followed one after another. We prayed to God not to fall into the hands of the Bosnian Serb forces,” he told reporters.
Trucks loaded with the bodies, which left Visoko after Muslim and Catholic clerics said their prayers for the dead, briefly stopped in front of the presidency building in Sarajevo en route to Srebrenica.
Thousands of people lined the streets of the Bosnian capital to honor the victims, Balkan Insight said.
Numerous politicians joined the mourners on the street, including the Bosniak and Croat members of the country’s tripartite presidency.
“I had everything and now I have nothing. I had three sons, I lost all three of them,” 71-year-old Izet Osmanovic told Balkan Insight in Visoko.
Osmanovic will bury the remains of his oldest son Muhidin at the memorial cemetery in Potocari, near Srebrenica.
“I decided to burry Muhidin before I die although they only found a few of his bones,” Osmanovic said.
During the 1992-95 Bosnian war, the United Nations had declared Serb-besieged Srebrenica, some 90 kilometers (60 miles) northeast of Sarajevo, a protected area for civilians. But the few hundred Dutch Blue Helmets on the ground were left short of credible weaponry or a clear mandate to protect the town.
Srebrenica fell to the Serbs after senior U.N. commanders dithered on Dutch requests for air strikes and its overwhelmingly Bosnian Muslim residents swarmed the U.N. military base, seeking refuge. But the peacekeepers allowed the Serbs to take away the townspeople when Gen. Ratko Mladic, their leader, said they would not be harmed.
In July 1995, Serb troops led by Gen. Ratko Mladic overran the enclave. The outnumbered U.N. troops never fired a shot. They watched as Mladic’s troops rounded up the population of Srebrenica and took the men away for execution.
Men and boys among the 50,000 Muslim refugees from nearby towns and villages sheltering in Srebrenica tried to escape through the woods after the town fell but most were hunted down, detained and executed by the Serb forces.
So far some 3,200 Srebrenica victims have been buried at the memorial cemetery. Forensic experts from the International Commission on Missing Persons said they have identified 6,186 of those killed in the atrocity.
In 1995, about 15,000 men tried to escape the slaughter by fleeing over the mountains toward the safe town of Tuzla. They were hunted along their 65-mile (100-kilometer) walk; those caught were killed. At the time, Serb TV filmed the hunt and the footage was later used at the court as evidence. Many times it was aired on TV throughout the region. One section shows an elderly man, Ramo Osmanovic, caught by Serb soldiers and forced to call his son, Nermin – 16 years old at the time — to come out from the forest and surrender. The boy obeyed.
Bosnian Serbs sought to cover up the massacre by reburying the remains of victims using bulldozers, which caused body parts to become separated.
So, DNA analysis is the only tool for identification.
Prosecutors of International Criminal Court (ICC) said top Serbian war criminal Radovan Karadzic led a genocidal campaign to make Bosnian Muslims “disappear from the face of the earth” and carve out a mono-ethnic state for Bosnian Serbs during a war that killed an estimated 100,000 people.
In Srebrenica, the presidents of both Serbia and Croatia will for the first time pay respects to victims alongside Bosnian Muslims.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a 1999 report that the United Nations failed at Srebrenica because of errors, misjudgment and “an inability to recognize the scope of the evil confronting us.” He said the U.N. treated Serbs and Muslims equally when they should have made a “moral judgment” that ethnic cleansing — practiced mostly by the Serbs — was evil.
An independent study by the Netherlands Institute for War Documentation cleared the Dutch troops of blame, noting they were outnumbered, lightly armed, undersupplied, and under instructions to fire only in self-defense. However, the Dutch government has accepted “political responsibility” for the mission’s failure, and has given tens of millions of dollars to Bosnia, with a third earmarked for rebuilding Srebrenica.