|Mourners at the Srebrenica commemoration. Photo: Anadolu.|
Crowds of mourners gathered on Monday at the genocide memorial centre in the village of Potocari near Srebrenica to commemorate the victims killed by Bosnian Serb forces in July 1995.
Buses brought people from all over the country for the 21st anniversary commemoration of the massacres of more than Bosniak 7,000 men and boys.
Flowers were laid and there were Muslim prayers for 127 victims who had been identified over the past year and whose remains were buried at the memorial site.
The youngest of the victims was Avdija Memic, who was 14 years old when he was killed.
Srebrenica mayor Camil Durakovic told the memorial ceremony that the search for about 1,000 more victims continues, and called on anyone who knew where more bodies are buried to inform the authorities.
He also called on Bosniaks who fled Srebrenica during wartime to return to live in the town.
“Justice will be our revenge. The laughter of our children, who will come here and live here, will be our revenge,” Durakovic said.
Carmel Agius, the president of the UN war crimes court in The Hague, said that the international tribunal’s verdicts served as “a reminder of barbarism”, but more efforts to achieve reconciliation were necessary.
“Justice itself is not sufficient. Processes bringing the three peoples [Bosniaks, Croata and Serbs] closer to each other are needed,” Agius said.
Montenegro’s Bosniaks commemorate Srebrenica victims
The Forum of Bosniaks in Montenegro NGO on Monday marked the 21st anniversary of Srebrenica by laying flowers at a monument to victims of the 1990s wars in Podgorica’s Pobrezje Memorial Park.
The Forum also issued a statement arguing that Montenegro has still not fully faced up to its past, and urged the authorities to help create a Research-Documentation Centre to collect and “preserve from destruction” facts about war crimes in the 1990s.
It also accused the authorities of not doing enough to ensure that war criminals are punished.
“The Montenegrin judiciary, in dealing with the crimes, still does not have the power to convict and condemn perpetrators of war crimes in the 1990s,” said a representative of the Forum, Mirsad Rastoder.
The opposition Civic Movement URA also issued a statement expressing sympathy with the families of the Srebrenica victims, saying that there is “no alternative to coexistence”.
The party said that Montenegro had not done enough to punish the perpetrators of war crimes in the country and those who ordered them.
Over 10 per cent of Montenegro’s population is made up of Bosniaks and Muslims. After the Bosnian war broke out, some of them were subjected to intimidation and torture.
Dusica Tomovic, Podgorica
The Bosnian Council of Ministers declared July 11 a day of mourning in the entire country and flags at state-level institutions were lowered to half-mast.
Srebrenica survivor Nermina Muminovic said that the 127 victims who were buried on Monday were killed because they were Bosniaks.
“They have returned to the green valley of white tombstones 21 years after the genocide,” said Muminovic, who was 13 at the time of the massacres.
She said that despite the killings, she had gone back to live in Srebrenica.
“My two daughters are proof to the criminals that they shall never win,” she said.
The annual commemoration was again tinged with controversy after the organising committee, headed by mayor Durakovic, said that Serbian political leaders who denied that the mass killings were genocide would not be invited to attend.
Last year the 20th anniversary commemorations were marred when Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic was pelted with bottles and stones by angry mourners.
Serbia admits that the Srebrenica massacres were a crime, but does not define them as genocide, despite the rulings of international courts.
The leader of Bosnia’s Serb-led entity Republika Srpska, Milorad Dodik, said on Monday that he will never accept that the Srebrenica massacres were genocide, arguing that the number of victims has been exaggerated, regional television station N1 reported.
“We will not recognise the genocide. There was no genocide,” Dodik said.
“I’m sorry to say these things today. I don’t want to downplay anybody’s pain, but this has become just a political issue,” he added.
However Serbian opposition politician Cedomir Jovanovic, the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, did attend the commemoration in Srebrenica, saying that it was his “human obligation and political duty”.
“What is necessary is [to adopt a clear stance] on what happened in Srebrenica … until this happens, the people of Serbia will carry the burden of what happened here,” said Jovanovic, who was one of the MPs who tried last month to get the Serbian parliament to adopt a resolution condemning the Srebrenica genocide.
Meanwhile activists in Belgrade will light candles outside the Serbian parliament on Monday evening to commemorate the victims of Srebrenica.