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UN approves annual commemoration of 1995 Srebrenica genocide

A woman prays next to the monument with names of those killed in the Srebrenica genocide, on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, in Potocari, 27 January 2024
A woman prays next to the monument with names of those killed in the Srebrenica genocide, on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, in Potocari, 27 January 2024 Copyright Armin Durgut/AP Photo
Copyright Armin Durgut/AP Photo
By Euronews with AP
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Supporters of the measure, backed by Germany and Rwanda, say it is necessary so that the massacre is not denied or forgotten, while Serbs fear being unfairly labelled as supporters of genocide.

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The United Nations General Assembly has approved a resolution to commemorate the 1995 Srebrenica genocide in Bosnia annually, over strong opposition from Serbs in Bosnia and neighbouring Serbia.

Proponents of the measure sponsored by Germany and Rwanda say it is necessary so that the massacre is not denied or forgotten.

The vote in the 193-member General Assembly was 84-19 with 68 nations abstaining, a reflection of concerns among many countries about the impact of the vote on reconciliation efforts in deeply divided Bosnia.

The resolution designates July 11 as the “International Day of Reflection and Commemoration of the 1995 Genocide in Srebrenica,” to be observed annually starting in two months.

Mejra Djogaz mourns next to the graves of her two sons, victims of the Srebrenica genocide, at the Memorial Center in Potocari, Bosnia, Wednesday, May 22, 2024.
Mejra Djogaz mourns next to the graves of her two sons, victims of the Srebrenica genocide, at the Memorial Center in Potocari, Bosnia, Wednesday, May 22, 2024.AP

Serbs said they feared it would brand them all as “genocidal” supporters of the mass killing. The resolution doesn’t mention Serbia as the culprit, but that didn’t stop the intense lobbying campaign for a “no” vote by the Bosnian Serb president, Milorad Dodik, and the populist president of neighboring Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic.

On July 11, 1995, Bosnian Serbs overran a UN-protected safe area in Srebrenica. They separated at least 8,000 Bosniak men and boys from their wives, mothers and sisters and slaughtered them. Those who tried to escape were chased through the woods and over the mountains around the town.

The Srebrenica killings were a bloody climax of Bosnia’s 1992-95 war, which came after the breakup of the then-nation of Yugoslavia unleashed nationalist passions and territorial ambitions that set Bosnian Serbs against the country’s two other main ethnic populations, Croats and Bosniaks.

Both Serbia and Bosnian Serbs have denied that genocide happened in Srebrenica although this has been established by two UN courts.

Dodik, who is president of Republika Srpska, the Serb part of Bosnia which comprises about half its territory, said Wednesday on the social media platform X that the U.N. resolution is being forced on the country by supporters of Bosniaks and that it will split up the country. He suggested his government would secede from Bosnia if the resolution were to pass.

Dodik has made several such threats in the past to have the Serb-controlled territories secede from Bosnia and join with neighbouring Serbia. He and some other Bosnian Serb officials are under US and British sanctions partly for jeopardizing a US peace plan that ended the Bosnian war.

The final draft of the resolution added a statement reiterating the General Assembly’s “unwavering commitment to maintaining stability and fostering unity in diversity in Bosnia and Herzegovina.”

The determination in 2007 by the International Court of Justice, the UN’s highest tribunal, that the acts committed in Srebrenica constituted genocide, is included in the draft resolution. It was Europe’s first genocide since the Nazi Holocaust in World War II, which killed an estimated 6 million Jews and people from other minorities.

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