Local Time

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Srebrenica Muslims bury the dead

Tens of thousands of people have been attending ceremonies marking the 10th anniversary of the massacre of Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica.
Grieving relatives buried more than 600 newly identified dead, after prayers and words of support from international and local officials.

About 8,000 men and boys were killed by Bosnian Serb forces in 1995 in Europe's worst atrocity since World War II.

Serbian officials led by President Tadic paid respects for the first time.

Muslim prayers echoed through the valley of the memorial site at Potocari, the site of the slaughter, as women in white headscarves wept beside the remains of their loved ones.

The green coffins were then passed from hand to hand through the crowd to the freshly dug grave sites, as announcers called out one by one the names of the 610 dead.

Each family buried its own dead, by hand or using shovels and buckets.

'Deeply sorry'

Serbia's parliament observed a minute silence for all victims of atrocities in and around Srebrenica, and also of last week's London bomb attacks.

But it failed to make specific reference to the massacre, and was boycotted by the ultra-nationalist Serbian Radical Party.

Earlier, UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw apologised on behalf of the international community for not doing enough to prevent what he described as one of the darkest chapters of European history since 1945.

"For it is to the shame of the international community that this evil took place under our noses and we did nothing like enough. I bitterly regret this and I am deeply sorry for it," he said.

He said that it was "sickening" that former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and his army commander Gen Ratko Mladic, who are accused of the slaughter, had not yet been brought to justice.

Also attending Maonday's ceremonies were former US Balkans envay Richard Holbrooke and the president of the war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Theodor Meron.

But the tribunal's chief prosecutor, Carla del Ponte, boycotted the occasion to protest against the failure to arrest Mr Karadzic and Mr Mladic.

Bosnian police provided security for the event, which took place in the Serb-controlled part of the country, but international peacekeepers and police officers watched from a distance.

Arrests 'imminent'

In Serbia, many still believe the mass killings never took place. But a new video showing the execution of Muslim civilians sparked national soul-searching among Serbs last month.

Dutch peacekeepers who were guarding the Srebrenica enclave at the time of the massacre have accepted partial responsibility for what happened.

Mr Karadzic and Gen Mladic have been indicted for genocide but are still at large.

Serbian President Boris Tadic told the Bosnian Serb newspaper Nezavisne Novine that he hoped Gen Mladic would be arrested in the next few days.

Many of the widows attending the ceremony are still waiting to see justice done, says the BBC's Nick Hawton in Srebrenica.

"They killed my entire life and the only thing I want now is to see the guilty ones pay for it," Fatima Budic, whose 14-year-old son Velija was one of the victims, told AP news agency.

Her husband and another son are among the missing.

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