Srebrenica Massacre

Bosnia buries 19 newly identified victims of 1995 Srebrenica massacre

Published : July 12, 2021 17:57 IST

The remains of newly discovered victims were found in mass graves and recently identified through DNA analysis. Photo: Darko Bandic/AP Photo/picture alliance

A memorial center is still searching for the remains of over a thousand victims as Bosnia marks the 26th anniversary of the genocide that deeply divides the Balkan nation.

The remains of 19 newly identified victims of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of Bosnian Muslims were buried on July 11 as thousands gathered to commemorate the slaughter of Muslim Bosniaks. Serb forces killed 8,000 Muslim men and boys after capturing their town 26 years ago in the final stages of Bosnia's 1990s war.

'New' victims, old grief

Bodies of the victims had originally been dumped into mass graves and then moved in an effort to hide the atrocity. As a result, families could not bury the remains of their loved ones until they were found years later. "We are still searching for more than 1,000 victims," the memorial center spokeswoman Almasa Salihovic said.

"I will bury only the skull of my brother even it is not whole," said Azir Osmanovic, whose brother's skull was found in 2018 and identified recently.

Suhra Salihovic buried her niece who was killed while trying to flee Srebrenica. "It is impossible to explain how much pain we carry ... my two sons and husband and almost all of my other [male] relatives were also killed [in the massacre]," she said.

Bosnian leaders reject 'genocide' label

The 1995 massacre is Europe's only acknowledged genocide since World War II. However, Serb leaders continue to downplay it — and sometimes deny it. The Serb member of Bosnia's joint presidency Milorad Dodik said on the eve of this year's massacre anniversary that "there was no genocide."

"There is information that coffins are empty, that there are no remains in them, they just put a name," he was quoted as saying by the Bosnian Serb broadcaster RTRS.

Head of Bosnia's institute for missing people Amor Masovic described Dodik's comments as "horrifying."

"At the memorial center, there are victims of whom only one bone was found and buried," Masovic said.

A 'go-to tool' for division

Judge Carmel Agius, president of the United Nations court that is completing war crimes trials stemming from the breakup of Yugoslavia, said genocide denial was a political tool.

"Sadly, for more than two decades now, denying the genocide in Srebrenica has been a go-to tool for making sure that the people [of Bosnia] are kept divided between us and them," Agius said.

"The denial of crimes still shocks me to my core," he added. "It is a repudiation of the lived experiences of the victims as well as the facts repeatedly established by international tribunals.''

fb/jlw (AFP, AP)

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