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Srebrenica: 16 Years Later
The 16th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide was commemorated on July 11, 2011. The remains of 613 people were buried in the monumental graveyard in Potoçari near Srebrenica. The DNA tests conducted by the International Commission on Missing Persons resulted in the identification of 6598 Srebrenica victims. This commission puts the approximate number of Bosnians killed in Srebrenice in July 1995 at 8100.
The atrocities in Srebrenica have been qualified by international tribunals as the only case of genocide among the crimes committed in Europe in the past six decades. It is one of the most important incidents casting a shadow on the conduct of the international community. Srebrenica was a town declared a safe area by the UN Security Council in order to protect the civilian Bosnians during the Bosnian war. In line with the UN Security Council resolution number 836 dated June 4, 1993, the UN forces were entitled to use force and even demand air support if necessary in the face of attacks on or around the safe zone. However, neither the UN troops deployed in Srebrenica nor the weapons they were equipped with were sufficient to safeguard security there. The declaration of Srebrenica as safe area and the deployment of UN troops were believed would be enough to protect Srebrenica. But this was a grave delusion.
Serbs under the command of General Ratko Mladic attacked Srebrenica on July 6, 1995. But the mechanism devised to protect the area was not set in motion. As 30 Dutch soldiers were taken hostage by the Serbs, the Dutch battalion entrusted to safeguard security remained passive. When the Serbs threatened to kill the Dutch hostages, the UN Secretary General's special envoy in Bosnia stopped air attacks on Serbian positions. Mladic succeeded in entering Srebrenica on July 11, 1995. The safe area was turned into a death camp, where more than 8 thousand Bosniaks were left to death in exchange for 30 Dutch soldiers. A genocide was carried out for the first time in history before the cameras. The monumental memorial in Potoçari is today like the valley of Bosniak martyrs.
The Dutch government led by Wim Kok resigned as a gesture on April 16, 2002 owing to negligence of Dutch battalion in Srebrenica. However, the soldiers who left Srebrenica to the Serbs were decorated with medals of honour in December 2006. On 5 July 2011 Dutch Court of Appeals has ruled on the appeal of the District Court's verdict filed by the two survivors of the Srebrenica genocide, with the concussion that the Netherlands is responsible for the deaths of three persons in Srebrenica.
About 4,5 years after the massacre in Srebrenica, the UN has drawn up a report about Srebrenica. Released on November 15, 1999, the report said the UN made a lot of mistakes in Srebrenica, came up with faulty predictions regarding how things could develop and failed to provide sufficient protection to the people of Srebrenica. A commission of Serbian Serbs estimated the number of those who participated in the Srebrenica genocide directly or indirectly to be 25 thousand.
Several mothers have returned to Srebrenica in our day. Having completely forgotten to enjoy what good things life may offer, these mothers continue living immersed in deep sorrow but still hopeful the remains of their beloved ones will one day be found. Bosnians believe that all evil things which happened to them were plotted in neighboring Serbia and Montenegro and that the Slobodan Milosevic regime in Belgrade orchestrated all the wars in the geography of former Yugoslavia. That is why the verdict passed by the International Court of Justice in the Hague on February 26, 2007 in the lawsuit opened by Bosnia and Herzegovina against Serbia was found insufficient and falling short of fulfilling their demands. As one may recall, the verdict, citing that the genocide took place in Srebrenica alone, held the Bosnian Serbs' army responsible for the killings. The civilian deaths outside of Srebrenica were not qualified as genocide on the grounds there was no solid evidence. As for Serbia, it got away with its misdeeds not having been charged with any of the crimes related to the 3 article of the Genocide Convention. Serbia was accused only of failing to abide by the obligation to stop those who carried out the genocide in Srebrenica and apprehend the perpetrators and send them to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. Bosniaks were not happy with the International Court of Justice verdict and are of the conviction that it is politically motivated.
To see the facts in true light about the Bosnian War is important in terms of the creation of the feeling of justice for the families of victims. Without justice, the process of reconciliation in Bosnia will never be completed. On the other hand, there will always be a shadow cast on international law and justice unless all facts of the Srebrenica genocide are clarified.