reburies 308 victims of massacre
Thousands mark 13th anniversary of Europe's worst post-WWII massacre
AP - July 11, 2008
SREBRENICA, Bosnia-Herzegovina - Tens of thousands of people commemorated Friday the 13th anniversary of Europe's worst massacre since World War II, and buried 308 more victims of the infamous Srebrenica massacre.
Sobbing women walked among the rows of green coffins looking for husbands, sons, fathers and brothers, wanting to touch them one more time. The coffins were picked up by other family members and friends, and carried to pits where the dead were laid to rest.
Some 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed in Srebrenica over several days in 1995 when Serb forces overran the town. Like the nearly 3,000 victims already buried at the Srebrenica-Potocari memorial center, the
308 victims buried Friday were found in mass graves, identified and returned to their families.
Zina Huremovic, 49, was pregnant the last time she saw her husband, Izet, before she escaped the besieged town in 1993. She searched for Izet ever since, even leaving a drop of her son's blood at the DNA lab.
Last year she was notified that Izet's body had been excavated and identified.
"I was waiting for all these years — looked at his picture and hoped he would come back," her son, Ermin, now 15, said as his mother sobbed in his arms.
"Today I am burying my hope with him," the boy said. "That's why I will never forget or forgive."
With each year, more bodies found
Every year, more victims' bodies are found in mass graves around Srebrenica. DNA tests and other forensic methods have led to the identification and burial at the memorial center, which consists of a huge cemetery, a small museum and a row of marble blocks on which the names of the victims — those unearthed and those not — are engraved.
Beyond the sea of 3,300 graves lies a huge field awaiting another 5,000 bodies yet to be found.
During the 1992-95 Bosnian war, the United Nations declared Srebrenica — which had been besieged by Serb forces throughout the war — a U.N.-protected safe area for civilians. A number Bosnians flocked there for protection.
But 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 entire population of Srebrenica and took the men away for execution.
The International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, has ruled that the Srebrenica massacre was genocide. It has been described by former Secretary General Kofi Annan as the darkest page in U.N.
Mladic and the former Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic, both indicted for genocide, are still in hiding. Mladic is believed to be in Serbia; Karadzic's whereabouts are unknown.
In Belgrade on Friday, Serbian President Boris Tadic pledged to arrest Mladic. Tadic said in a statement issued Friday to mark the anniversary that "the new authorities in Serbia are fully committed"
to arresting the former Bosnian Serb army commander.
Serbia has faced immense international pressure to arrest Mladic and Karadzic.
Previous Serbian governments have said they were unable to locate the two. But Western officials hope that the new Cabinet, which took office this week and is dominated by Tadic's pro-Western Democrats, will finish the job.
Those responsible for the crime must be found and punished, said Bosnia's top international official, Miroslav Lajcak.
"Somewhere between Bosnia's past and its future lies justice," he said.
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 walk; those caught were killed.
The youngest victim
Among them was the youngest victim buried Friday. Kasim Omerovic was
15 when he persuaded his mother to let him join his older brother, Camil, on the walk to Tuzla.
"Camil was 21. He told me that it may be best for him to try to flee through the woods. Kasim begged me to let him go along, saying he feels safer with his older brother," their mother, 49-year old Fata Omerovic said.
"They found Kasim in a mass grave," she said. "They have not yet found Camil."
Many Muslim Bosnians blame the Dutch U.N. peacekeepers for not protecting the civilians in Srebrenica. The Dutch argue they were outgunned and outnumbered.
This year, 12 former Dutch soldiers who served in Srebrenica joined a memorial march — made by survivors and volunteers every July — along the mountain track the 15,000 men took in 1995.
"I do not consider myself personally responsible for what happened,"
said Rob Zomer, 35, one of the former soldiers. "I did what I could."
His colleague Johan de Jonge, 40, said July 1995 has changed his life:
he has become aggressive, and suffers nightmares and insomnia.
The head of Bosnia's Islamic Community, Mustafa Ceric called on the European Union to declare July 11 a European day of mourning — a day on which European nations will pledge every year that neither another Holocaust nor another Srebrenica will ever happen again.
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