July 12, 2009 in Nation/World

Families bury victims of Bosnia genocide

Hundreds more Muslim dead removed from mass graves
Almir Arnaut Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

A Bosnian Muslim woman weeps beside the gravestone of her relative during a funeral ceremony Saturday near Srebrenica, northeast of Sarajevo.
(Full-size photo)

SREBRENICA, Bosnia-Herzegovina – Tens of thousands of Bosnian Muslims prayed for the dead in Srebrenica and buried hundreds more recovered bodies Saturday on the 14th anniversary of Europe’s worst massacre since World War II.

Family members laid to rest the remains of 534 victims, removed recently from mass graves, next to the existing 3,297 graves at the Srebrenica-Potocari memorial center.

Visitors and dignitaries prayed for the 8,100 Muslim men and boys who were killed in Srebrenica over several days in 1995 when Serb forces overran the town.

U.S. Ambassador to Bosnia Charles English said President Barack Obama has called the Srebrenica slaughter “a stain in our collective consciousness.”

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 of 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 population of Srebrenica and took the men away for execution.

It has been described by former Secretary-General Kofi Annan as the darkest page in U.N. history.

Every year, more victims’ bodies are recovered from mass graves found in the area, identified through DNA analysis and buried. This year among the 534 victims, there are 44 teenagers. Four were 14 when they were killed.

Kadrija Muminagic arrived from Germany to bury his nephew Saidin, who was 14 when he and his father ended up at the execution field somewhere around Srebrenica. Saidin’s 16-year-old brother Sulejman was killed by a shell that landed close to their home a week before Srebrenica fell. Only the mother survived the massacre. She died three years later.

“She died of sorrow,” said Muminagic, who escaped the killing by hiding in the forest.

The International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, has ruled that the Srebrenica massacre was genocide.

Former Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic is on trial at the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague. He claims he is not guilty for what happened. Mladic, also indicted on genocide charges, is still in hiding, apparently in Serbia. Belgrade has faced immense international pressure to arrest him.

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