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World marks tenth anniversary of Srebrenica

Foreign dignitaries paid their respects in front of a common grave

(Keystone)

World leaders and about 40,000 people on Monday commemorated the deaths of nearly 8,000 Srebrenica Muslims killed in 1995 by Bosnian Serb soldiers.

In Switzerland, a non-governmental organisation, TRIAL, called for renewed efforts to bring to justice those responsible for Europe’s worst massacre since the Second World War.

After a religious service in Srebrenica’s memorial centre, the caskets of the 610 most recently identified victims were passed in a long line from hand to hand toward grave pits and buried.

Government leaders and dignitaries, among them Switzerland’s ambassador to Sarajevo, Urs Breiter, were among the crowd commemorating the killings.

The Serbian president, Boris Tadic, laid a wreath and stood silently before a memorial in what was considered a significant gesture given Serbia’s political and military backing of the Bosnian Serbs during the war under former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

The killings began on July 11, 1995, when Bosnian Serb soldiers overran the town, which was at the time in a United Nations "safe" zone.

Slaughtered

Outgunned UN troops watched as the men were separated from the women. The men and boys were led off and slaughtered, and their bodies dumped in mass graves throughout eastern Bosnia.

The Srebrenica victims were among about 250,000 people killed in the 1992-95 war among Bosnian Muslims, Catholic Croats and Orthodox Serbs.

The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague has indicted the alleged masterminds of the massacre - Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic and his military commander, General Ratko Mladic – for genocide and crimes against humanity at Srebrenica and elsewhere. Both are still at large.

Switzerland’s Carla Del Ponte, chief prosecutor at the ICTY, did not attend the commemoration ceremony "out of respect for the victims".

Her spokeswoman Florence Hartmann said that Del Ponte could not look the victims in the face while those responsible were still on the run.

"As long as they are not arrested, justice will not be done," she said.

More effort

In a related development, the Swiss Association against Impunity (TRIAL) called on Serbia and Montenegro to "put more effort" into hunting down those responsible for the crimes.

The non-governmental organisation’s message was contained in an open letter handed in on Monday at the republic’s embassy in the Swiss capital, Bern.

A delegation from the association laid wreaths and handed over messages from survivors of the massacre.

"I hope that the government of Serbia will cooperate with the ICTY," commented Fahrudi Salihovic, the former mayor of Srebrenica who sought refuge in Switzerland and was with the TRIAL delegation.

On the eve of the anniversary, the Swiss-run International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) called for renewed efforts to establish the fate of more than 14,500 people still unaccounted for as a result of the conflict.

The figure includes more than 5,500 people reported missing following the events in Srebrenica and the surrounding area.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

On July 11, 1995 Serbian soldiers and paramilitary forces massacred about 8,000 Muslims in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica and chased away 30,000 other people.
The town was one of six "safe" zones created by the United Nations. Dutch forces in the UN peacekeeping mission were unable to prevent the massacre.
Since 1995, an international criminal tribunal in The Hague has charged 14 people with being responsible.
Serbian authorities have not handed over the former Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic and his military commander, Geneal Ratko Mladic. Both are still at large.

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