Today marks the 20 years since that fateful time with all the major press outlets covering the event such as the BBC and CNN (who have a well done video on their site of the story), and Al Jazeera, In September 2011 I went to Bosnia, during my trip I went to Srebrenica and it was honestly a life turning moment.
So firstly for those who are unaware of what occurred 20 years ago, in July 1995,there was a killing of more than 8,000 Bosniaks, mainly men and boys, in and around the town of Srebrenica during the Bosnian War. The killing was perpetrated by units of the Army of Republika Srpska(VRS) under the command of General Ratko Mladić. The Secretary-General of the United Nations described the mass murder as the worst crime on European soil since the Second World War.
As Srebrenica was the most murderous single event in Europe since the aftermath of the second world war, the international war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the International Court of Justice have each determined that the killings, carried out by Bosnian Serb forces, amounted to genocide.
But the massacre also stands out for the shameful failure to prevent it that, even today, is a scar on the conscience of the UN and of western governments that were drawn into the war, especially the Dutch, who have been ordered now to pay some victims for their negligent acts.
Since 1995, 233 mass graves with bodies from those killed at Srebrenica have been found and investigated by the Bosnian Institute for Missing Persons and the International Commission on Missing Persons.
In several cases, bones from one body have been found in four and five different grave sites. DNA samples are taken from the dead and matched with those provided by survivors searching for their loved ones.
About 1,000 people remain missing from Srebrenica, another 7,000 are unaccounted after the 1992-1995 conflict which claimed a total of 100,000 lives.
The harrowing accounts you come across when you are there, the stories told by the survivors, the mass graves, the fact justice still eludes the victims, it is all quite overwhelming.
Here are some excerpts taken from Wikipedia:
Dutch Bat medical orderly came across two Serb soldiers raping a young woman:
“[W]e saw two Serb soldiers, one of them was standing guard and the other one was lying on the girl, with his pants off. And we saw a girl lying on the ground, on some kind of mattress. There was blood on the mattress, even she was covered with blood. She had bruises on her legs. There was even blood coming down her legs. She was in total shock. She went totally crazy.”
Bosnian Muslim refugees nearby could see the rape, but could do nothing about it because of Serb soldiers standing nearby. Other people heard women screaming, or saw women being dragged away. Several individuals were so terrified that they committed suicide by hanging themselves. Throughout the night and early the next morning, stories about the rapes and killings spread through the crowd and the terror in the camp escalated.
Screams, gunshots and other frightening noises were audible throughout the night and no one could sleep. Soldiers were picking people out of the crowd and taking them away: some returned; others did not. Witness T recounted how three brothers – one merely a child and the others in their teens – were taken out in the night. When the boys’ mother went looking for them, she found them with their throats slit.
One survivor described the murder of a baby and the rape of women occurring in the close vicinity of Dutch U.N. peacekeepers who did nothing to prevent it. According to the survivor, a Serb told a mother to make her child stop crying, and when it continued to cry he took it and slit its throat, after which he laughed. Stories about rapes and killings spread through the crowd and the terror in the camp escalated. Several individuals were so terrified that they committed suicide by hanging themselves.
One of the survivors, Zarfa Turkovic, described the horrors of rapes as follows: “Two [Serb soldiers] took her legs and raised them up in the air, while the third began raping her. Four of them were taking turns on her. People were silent, no one moved. She was screaming and yelling and begging them to stop. They put a rag into her mouth and then we just heard silent sobs….
Below is the gallery of the memorial room which really hits home the deep sense of shock of that time.
Inside the Memorial Hall they show a video, I have made a video of this because the story needs to be told.
Serbia has banned the Srebrenica anniversary rallies, find it unbelievable that Serbia cannot deal with its ill judged history and refuses to push forward, by stopping the rally what do they hope to achieve? Not many people may know this but parts of Bosnia are still controlled by Serbia via their special relations with The Republika Srpska is one of two entities in Bosnia and Herzegovina; the other entity is the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. In their areas you find the flag which is similar to Serbia and also remnants that the area is still quite hostile as you can see from the mine picture below.
I really do hope the victims can get closure and peace and that mankind learn this can never happen again,though judging by Syria and parts of Africa we have forgotten , as George Santayana once said…“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”