UN declares July 11 a day of remembrance of the Srebrenica massacre

Guy Delauney,BBC Balkans correspondent


A memorial center commemorating the massacre was established in Potocari in 2020

United Nations member states have voted to declare July 11 an annual day of commemoration of the victims of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre.

The proposal from Germany and Rwanda was adopted despite furious lobbying by Serbia against the resolution. President Aleksandar Vucic said he was being “politicized” and risked labeling Serbia and the Serbian people as collectively responsible for the genocide.

Ultimately, 84 member states voted in favor of creating an “International Day of Reflection and Commemoration of the 1995 Srebrenica Genocide.” Serbia can note that this number was exceeded by 19 votes against and 68 abstentions.

But the greatest satisfaction will be felt by the relatives of the more than eight thousand Bosnian Muslim men and boys who died in the massacre. Bosnian Serb forces systematically murdered them after defeating peacekeeping forces meant to protect the UN “safe zone” in Srebrenica, eastern Bosnia.


Ratko Mladic (left) with former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic

Led by Bosnian Serb military leader Ratko Mladic, troops separated men and boys from their wives, mothers, sisters and daughters. Most were never seen alive again.

The horror did not stop with the killings. Over the following months, in an attempt to conceal the scale of the massacre, Bosnian Serb troops dug the mass graves of their victims. They then scattered the remains over several sites.

As a result, body parts were scattered, making identification difficult. Some relatives have waited decades to bury their family members. But 29 years later, most families were able to bury at least some remains in the Potocari cemetery, near the site of the massacre.

The International Commission on Missing Persons was the first to use DNA technology to help identify more than seven thousand victims. He issued a statement welcoming the UN resolution.

“This solemn decision represents an important step in recognizing and honoring the memory of the victims and survivors of the Srebrenica genocide,” it said, adding that the day of commemoration would act as “a poignant reminder of the lasting impact of genocide on individuals, families and communities.

This is not how the Serbian government sees things. During the debate at the UN General Assembly, President Vucic warned that voting in favor would “open Pandora’s box” – and lead to more resolutions regarding other cases of genocide.

He suggested that Serbia could itself make such a proposal, pointing out that there had never been a UN resolution regarding Serbian victims of the genocide – such as those murdered by the Nazi-allied regime in Croatia. during WWII.

Mr. Vucic insisted that the Srebrenica resolution “was not about reconciliation, nor about memory, but about something that would open new wounds, not only in our region but also in this room.”


Srebrenica is a small mountain town in Bosnia and Herzegovina

However, even in Serbia, some are wondering why their government was so strongly opposed to the resolution. After all, the proposal explicitly stated that only individuals had been convicted of genocide and that such culpability “could not be attributed to any ethnic, religious, or other group or community as a whole.”

In 2007, the International Court of Justice ruled that genocide had been committed in Srebrenica, but found that Serbia was neither directly responsible nor complicit. The judges ruled, however, that Serbia had failed to prevent the massacre. Three years later, the Serbian National Assembly passed a resolution condemning the massacre and apologizing for the fact that nothing had been done to prevent it.

In 2015, Mr Vucic – then prime minister – paid tribute to Srebrenica on the 20th anniversary of the massacre. Some demonstrators threw bottles and stones at him, but he promised that he would “continue his policy of reconciliation.”

Serbia – and its president – ​​have been consistent in some respects. Mr Vucic called the massacre a “horrible crime”. Neither he nor his country ever admitted it was genocide – but neither did they challenge the genocide convictions of Bosnian Serb leaders Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic in The Hague.

The president of Republika Srpska, a Serb-majority region of Bosnia, Milorad Dodik, is another matter. He has repeatedly denied that the genocide took place in Srebrenica, even though Bosnia has a law criminalizing genocide denial. Other Serbian nationalists have been happy to take the same approach – and even glorify Mladic as a Serbian hero.

Mr Dodik’s offensive antics may have prompted the adoption of a UN resolution, to reaffirm that the massacre was indeed a genocide – and that the anguish of the victims’ families should not be used for ethno-nationalist demagoguery.

The president of Republika Srpska tried anyway. He threatened “the end of Bosnia-Herzegovina” if the resolution was adopted, with the “peaceful separation” of Republika Srpska. Those familiar with Mr. Dodik’s regular secessionist outbursts rolled their eyes.

At the end of the vote, the Bosnian Serb leader claimed victory. It was “not even an absolute majority,” he said. “Their plan to accuse the Serbs of being a genocidal nation has failed.”

There has never been such a project. But for politicians who rely on nationalist support, claiming there had been any was a convenient fiction.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *