Bosnia: The Genocide
The Srebrenica massacre, also known as the Srebrenica Genocide, refers to the July 1995 killing, during the Bosnian War. More than 8,000 Bosnian Muslims, mainly men and boys, in and around the town of Srebrenica in Bosnia and Herzegovina, were rounded up and killed by units of the Army of Republika Srpska (VRS),under the command of General Ratko Mladić.
Srebrenica's Genocide is the largest mass murder in Europe since World War II and the largest massacre carried out by Serb forces during the Bosnian war.
A brief outline of the events leading to this massacre:
6 - 8 July 1995: Bosnian Serb forces had laid siege to the Srebrenica enclave, where tens of thousands of civilians had taken refuge from earlier Serb offensives in north-eastern Bosnia.
They were under the protection of about 600 lightly armed Dutch infantry forces. Fuel was running out and no fresh food or water had been brought into the enclave since May.
Serb forces began shelling Srebrenica. Bosnian Muslim fighters in the town asked for the return of weapons they had surrendered to the peacekeepers so that they could defend themselves, but their request was refused.
The Dutch commander called UN Headquarters in Sarajevo asking for close air support after Serb shells and rockets landed close to refugee centres and observation posts manned by peacekeepers.
9 July 1995: The Bosnian Serbs stepped up their shelling and thousands of refugees fled to the town from southern camps, ahead of advancing Serb forces, who attacked Dutch observation posts, taking about 30 Dutch soldiers hostage.
10 July 1995: Dutch Commander Colonel Karremans filed a request for UN air support after the Bosnian Serbs shelled Dutch positions. UN Commander General Janvier initially refused, but agreed after another request from the Colonel. Serb attacks stopped before the planes arrived and strikes were postponed. Some 4,000 refugees were in the town by the evening and there was panic on the streets. Large crowds were gathered around the Dutch positions. The Dutch commander told town leaders that NATO planes would launch massive air attacks against the Serbs if they had not withdrawn from the safe area by 06:00 hrs the following morning.
11 July 1995: The Serb forces did not withdraw, but at 09:00 hrs Colonel Karremans received word from Sarajevo that his request for close air support had been submitted on the wrong form. At 10:30 hrs, the re-submitted request reached General Janvier, but NATO planes had to return to base in Italy to refuel after being airborne since 06:00.
By midday, more than 20,000 refugees - mostly women, children and the infirm - fled to the main Dutch base at Potocari.
At 14:30, two Dutch F-16 fighters dropped two bombs on Serb positions surrounding Srebrenica. The Serbs responded with a threat to kill their Dutch hostages and shell refugees, causing the suspension of further strikes.
The Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic entered Srebrenica two hours later, accompanied by Serb camera crews. In the evening, General Mladic summoned Colonel Karremans to a meeting at which he delivered an ultimatum that the Muslims must hand over their weapons to guarantee their lives.
12 July 1995: Buses arrived to take women and children to Muslim territory, while the Serbs begin separating out all men from age 12 to 77 for "interrogation for suspected war crimes". It is estimated that 23,000 women and children were deported in the next 30 hours. Hundreds of men were held in trucks and warehouses. About 15,000 Bosnian Muslim fighters had attempted to escape from Srebrenica overnight and were shelled as they fled through the mountains.
‘The Serbs began at a certain point to take girls and young women out of the group of refugees. They were raped. The rapes often took place under the eyes of others and sometimes even under the eyes of the children of the mother. A Dutch soldier stood by and he simply looked around with a walkman on his head. He did not react at all to what was happening. It did not happen just before my eyes, for I saw that personally, but also before the eyes of us all. The Dutch soldiers walked around everywhere. It is impossible that they did not see it.’
‘There was a woman with a small baby a few months old. A Chetnik told the mother that the child must stop crying. When the child did not stop crying he snatched the child away and cut its throat. Then he laughed. There was a Dutch soldier there who was watching. He did not react at all.’
‘I saw yet more frightful things. For example, there was a girl, she must have been about nine years old. At a certain moment some Chetniks recommended to her brother that he rape the girl. He did not do it and I also think that he could not have done it for he was still just a child. Then they murdered that young boy. I have personally seen all that. I really want to emphasize that all this happened in the immediate vicinity of the base. In the same way I also saw other people who were murdered. Some of them had their throat cut. Others were beheaded.’
Testimony of Ramiza Gurdić:
'I saw how a young boy of about ten was killed by Serbs in Dutch uniform. This happened in front of my own eyes. The mother sat on the ground and her young son sat beside her. The young boy was placed on his mother’s lap. The young boy was killed. His head was cut off. The body remained on the lap of the mother. The Serbian soldier placed the head of the young boy on his knife and showed it to everyone... I saw how a pregnant woman was slaughtered. There were Serbs who stabbed her in the stomach, cut her open and took two small children out of her stomach and then beat them to death on the ground. I saw this with my own eyes.'
Testimony of Kada Hotić:
'There was a young woman with a baby on the way to the bus. The baby cried and a Serbian soldier told her that she had to make sure that the baby was quiet. Then the soldier took the child from the mother and cut its throat. I do not know whether Dutchbat soldiers saw that... There was a sort of fence on the left-hand side of the road to Potocari. I heard then a young woman screaming very close by (4 or 5 meters away). I then heard another woman beg: “Leave her, she is only nine years old.” The screaming suddenly stopped. I was so in shock that I could scarcely move... The rumor later quickly circulated that a nine year old girl had been raped.’
That night, a Dutch Bat medical orderly came across two Serb soldiers raping a young woman:
'We 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.
13 July 1995: The first killings of unarmed Muslims took place in a warehouse in the nearby village of Kravica. Peacekeepers handed over about 5,000 Muslims who had been sheltering at the Dutch base at Potocari. In return, the Bosnian Serbs released 14 Dutch peacekeepers who had been held at the Nova Kasaba base.
16 July 1995: Early reports of massacres emerged as the first survivors of the long march from Srebrenica began to arrive in Muslim-held territory. Following negotiations between the UN and the Bosnian Serbs, the Dutch were at last permitted to leave Srebrenica, leaving behind weapons, food and medical supplies. In the following five days Bosnian Serb forces overran Srebrenica, more than 8,000 Muslim men are thought to have been killed.
The remains of 534 identified victims of the Srebrenica massacre were buried in a ceremony, attended by tens of thousands of relatives and survivors at the Potocari Memorial Park, outside the town in eastern Bosnia, on the 14th anniversary of the atrocity. The bodies, which had been unearthed from mass graves, were buried alongside nearly 3,300 others at the memorial site. The victims were aged between 14 and 72 at the time of their deaths. Forensic experts have now identified more than 6,000 of the estimated 8,000 plus victims of the massacre through DNA analysis. The memorial opened in 2003 as a final resting place for remains uncovered from some 70 mass graves.
The massacre was officially commemorated for the first time this year across Europe—but not in ethnically divided Bosnia itself. The European Parliament in January proclaimed 11th July a day of commemoration and urged European countries to support the resolution. The parliaments in both Croatia and Montenegro also passed resolutions proclaiming the date as a day of remembrance. There was no such initiative in Serbia and in Bosnia, ethnic Serb deputies in parliament blocked the resolution. Speaking to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Bosnia's grand mufti, Mustafa Ceric, said that Bosnian legislators "Missed the historic opportunity to say to their children that they earned their salary."
The Srebrenica massacre has been termed a genocide by both the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). Bosnian Serb war leader Radovan Karadzic, charged as the main culprit behind the atrocity, is awaiting trial before the ICTY. On 26 May 2011 Europe's most wanted war crimes suspect - Ratko Mladic, Ex Bosnian Serb Army General was finally arrested. Along with Karadzic, they both came to symbolise the Serb campaign of ethnic cleansing of Croats and Muslims. They were finally arrested by Serbian intelligence officers and war crimes investigators in the village of Lazarevo, 100km (60 miles) north-east of Belgrade. Insh’Allah they will be brought to justice.
The ethnic cleansing of innocents will never be forgotten by those who lived during this time, who witnessed mass murder and torture of thousands people.
For those of you who have forgotten, for those of you who were not there, what have you done to make sure that the people at large behind these atrocities are held to account?
“O you who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allâh, even though it be against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, be he rich or poor, Allâh is a Better Protector to both (than you). So follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest you may avoid justice, and if you distort your witness or refuse to give it, verily, Allâh is Ever Well Acquainted with what you do.” [Surah An’Nisa 4:135]
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