Receiving a Muslim burial at last. More than 600 coffins containing the remains of some of the victims of the Srebrenica massacre will be buried today at a ceremony marking the 10th anniversary of the killings. Some 50,000 people are expected at the commemoration.
A newly-opened grave was uncovered this morning. Experts estimate it contains about 50 bodies. Each opened grave gives hope to relatives, most of whom have been searching for years to discover their loved ones’ bodies. Back in July 1995 Bosnian-Serb forces were continuing their offensive in north eastern Bosnia.
Muslim civilians were driven to Srebrenica looking for shelter. Bosnian-Muslim militia kept up resistance, but with few weapons they retreated and the enclave came under siege from Bosnian-Serb forces. Over the next few days the town of Srebrenica was to become a deadly trap for thousands of Bosnian-Muslim civilians.
Officially it had been designated a United Nations Safe Area, together with five other towns in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The mandate of the UNPROFOR forces was to ensure conditions for peace talks, and they were technically authorised to use force if necessary in coordination with Nato.
But the 600 Dutch UN troops charged with protecting the safe zone were heavily outnumbered and only lightly armed. By July 11 tensions were coming to a head – 30 Dutch soldiers had been taken hostage and the Serbs were refusing to withdraw. Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic told the Dutch commander that the Bosnian Muslims had to hand over their weapons if they wanted to live.
The next day buses took an estimated 23,000 women and children into Muslim territory, while the Serb soldiers held back all men and boys aged between 12 and 77. The peacekeepers handed over 5,000 Muslims in exchange for the 14 Dutch soldiers held hostage. A video released in June showed what happened next.
It’s estimated that more than 7,000 Muslim men were slaughtered over the course of the next few days. A decade later and the shadow of the Bosnian war still hangs over Srebrenica. One Serb general has been prosecuted for genocide while others like Mladic are still on the run.
The town remains depressed – home to 7,000 people, mostly Serbs.