The worst case of genocide on European soil since the Second World War is remembered today.
Thousands are gathering at more than 400 events across the UK as part of the Srebrenica Memorial Week to commemorate the 8,000 Muslim Bosniak men and boys killed 22 years ago in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica.
The “worst [case of genocide] on European soil since the Second World War” as then-United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan described it, took less than five days in July 1995.
While thousands of men and boys as young as 12 were systematically murdered, many women were raped and tortured by the Bosnian Serbs. Over 50,000 known cases of sexual abuse were recorded during the Bosnian War from 1992 to 1995.
The massacres are now know as the Srebrenica genocide.
Remembering Srebrenica, a British charity, is organising a 8-3-7-2 Srebrenica Memorial Football tournament on 12 July. Children will be playing football in memory of those killed in Srebrenica and against the hatred and intolerance that led to the genocide.
The charity is also focusing on the testimonies of the women who survived the Srebrenica genocide throughout this month, with the theme “Breaking the Silence: Gender and Genocide”.
Genocide survivor Munira Subašić, who is President of the Mothers of Srebrenica, will be speaking at the Srebrenica Memorial week launch tonight (Tuesday evening) at the London Guildhall.
After Bosnian Serbs began ethnically cleansing Bosnia to create a dominant Serbian state, Srebrenica was designated as a UN safe area for civilians, protected by Dutch peacekeepers.
However, Bosnian Serbs took control of the area and sent civilian men and boys in buses to mass killing sites. They were buried then dug up and reburied in mass graves, in a bid to conceal the evidence. As a result an estimated 1,000 people are still missing and the search for bodies continues.
Since the war, schools have often been segregated on ethnic lines, teaching children different, mutually exclusive narratives of what happened after the disintegration of Yugoslavia. Bosnia and Herzegovina today is divided into two political entities, the majority-Serb Republika Srpska and the majority-Bosniak Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Despite international court rulings, ignorance and denial of the 1995 Srebrenica genocide is still widespread in Serbia.
A festival scheduled in Srebrenica in July was slated to include the launch of a book Srebrenica: A Lie And Deception Against The Serb Nation, by an author regarded as a genocide denier, Ljiljana Bulatovic. Under pressure from some local NGOs, Srebrenica’s mayor cancelled the book promotion.
The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, the International Court of Justice and the Bosnian state court have all defined the massacre as a genocide but this is contested by Serbian and Bosnian Serb officials.
In March 2010, Serbia’s parliament adopted a resolution condemning the Srebrenica massacres, but failed to call them a genocide. In 2015, the UN also failed to pass a resolution condemning the 1995 Srebrenica murders as genocide after Serbia’s ally, Russia, vetoed it.
Writer and commentator Nedad Memic tweeted that “#Srebrenica must be the world’s only place of #genocide where genocide deniers can fully spread their ideology and insult victims.”
— Nedad Memić (@NedadMemic) July 3, 2017
The Srebrenica genocide was a build up of nurtured divisions between ethnically and religiously different groups of people living in the same country. Prejudice and intolerance was stoked by political factions until killing fellow citizens became thinkable for ordinary people. It remains an abject lesson of the path hate and ‘othering’ can lead to.