By Valerie Hopkins
Almost forty thousand people attended the burial of 520 victims of the Srebrenica genocide in Potocari, as Bosnians mark the 17th anniversary of Europe’s worst massacre since World War II.
The commemoration and funeral of the Srebrenica victims was attended by Bosnian politicians, among whom were Bosniak and Croat members of the Presidency, as well as representatives of the international community, including the High representative Valentin Inzko and ambassadors of the United States and European countries.
The Muslim burial service, Dzenaza, was led by Grand Mufti of Bosnia, Mustafa Ceric.
Amongst the 520 victims whose remains were laid to rest are six underage boys, younger than 15 at the time of their death, and three women, one of whom was 94 years old when she was killed.
During this year’s commemoration there were no speeches from the international and local politicians, as the organising committee, led by the acting mayor of Srebrenica, Camil Durakovic, is disappointed in the international community for not supporting another exception for Srebrenica in the upcoming October elections that would ensure a Bosniak mayor.
According to the local media the election issue was the reason why the procession of foreign and local dignitaries, on their way to the commemoration, was jeered by several thousand relatives of the Srebrenica victims.
The only official who spoke before the funeral was Durakovic, who said he still believes in justice and truth for Srebrenica victims.
“In the caskets today lies the whole world. Today we bring back the identity to those that were killed. They become men again and not just unidentified remains. We are not burying remains but our fathers, brothers and sisters,” said Durakovic.
Some members of the international community, however, spoke with the participants of the Srebrenica Summer University at the Memorial Center in Potocari in the former UN Dutchbat compound.
The US Ambassador to Bosnia Patrick Moon read out President’s Obama message: “The name Srebrenica will forever be associated with some of the darkest acts of the 20th century.”
“We all desire continued reconciliation and peaceful coexistence for the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Balkans because achieving that will be the ultimate repudiation of the evil that started the wars,” wrote President Obama.
Close to 40,000 people are attending this year’s commemoration, including 7,000 marchers who retraced the steps of 15,000 Bosniaks who fled the town after it fell to the Bosnian Serb Army in July 1995.
“The fact that every year more and more people are participating in the commemoration is a testament that we will never forget the genocide in Srebrenica, “ Bakir Izetbegovic, Bosniak member of the Bosnian tripartite Presidency, told Balkan Insight.
Srebrenica was a UN protected enclave when it was overran by Bosnian Serb forces in July 1995. The troops lead by Ratko Mladic separated men from women and executed over 7,000 men and boys within just a few days.
The bodies of the victims are still being found in mass graves throughout eastern Bosnia. The victims have been identified through DNA analysis and newly identified ones are buried at the Srebrenica memorial centre every year.
So far, 5,137 Srebrenica victims found this way have been laid to rest.