SREBRENICA, Bosnia and
Herzegovina (Dispatches) – Thousands of people attended Monday’s commemorations of the 27th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide, which most Serbs and their leaders still refuse to recognize in ethnically divided Bosnia.
The remains of 50 more recently identified victims of Europe’s worst massacre since World War II were buried alongside 6,671 others in the cemetery of the memorial centre.
Some 8,000 Muslim men and boys from the eastern town of Srebrenica were killed by Bosnian Serb forces in July 1995, an act of genocide under international law.
The EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell and enlargement commissioner Oliver Varhely paid tribute to the Srebrenica dead.
“In Srebrenica, Europe failed and we are faced with our shame,” they said in a statement.
The Netherlands offered its “deepest apologies” for the role played by Dutch peacekeepers in the Srebrenica genocide, but refused to accept blame.
It is the first time the Dutch government has apologized to the relatives of the victims.
Outgunned and outnumbered, Dutch peacekeepers were unable to prevent Bosnian Serb forces from overunning the UN declared “safe haven” at the tail end of the Balkan wars of the 1990s.
“Only one party is to blame for the horrific genocide; the Bosnian Serb army. But let me be clear. The international community failed to offer adequate protection to the people of Srebrenica and as part of that community the Dutch government shares responsibility for the situation in which that failure occurred. And for this we offer our deepest apologies,” Dutch Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren said.
The discovery of skeletal remains from the massacre has become rare in recent years, even though some 1,200 people are still missing, according to the Missing Persons Institute of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The identification process has been made more difficult by the bulldozing up of the remains and their removal to mass graves in a bid to conceal the extent of the slaughter.
Mass funerals of those identified are held each July 11, the takeover date by the forces of Bosnian Serb general Ratko Mladic, who has been jailed for life for war crimes.
The remains of one of the 50 people awaiting burial were found spread across three separate mass graves, said Amor Masovic, a forensic expert who has worked on dozens of mass grave sites in the Srebrenica region.
The remains of most of the others were found spread across two mass graves, he added.