Thousands of mourners including victims’ relatives attended the annual commemoration at the Srebrenica memorial centre, as 33 more people killed in the 1995 massacres were buried.
Prayers were said and mourners shed tears as 33 more victims Srebrenica massacres – defined as genocide by international courts – were laid to rest at a ceremony at the Potocari Memorial Centre during the annual commemoration on Thursday.
The youngest victim buried this year was Osman Cvrk, who was 16 when he was killed – one of around 8,000 Bosniaks who died in a series of mass killings after the UN-protected ‘safe area’ of Srebrenica fell to Bosnian Serb forces in July 1995.
The oldest victim, Saha Cvrk, who was 82, was buried together with her son Resid.
None of the bodies that were laid to rest this year were complete. In some cases, only a few bones were buried. Bodies were sometimes broken up after they were initially buried in mass graves in attempts to cover up the killings.
Nedzad Avdic, who survived one of the massacres in Petkovci at the age of 17, said at the commemoration that he was a split second away from death in July 1995.
“I was a mistake made by Bosnian Serb Army soldiers. When they checked if they had killed everyone, they missed me,” Avdic recalled.
The Bosniak member of the country’s tripartite state presidency, Sefik Dzaferovic, said the only reason the victims were killed was because they were Bosniaks.
“Their aim was to destroy an entire people. The crime happened in front of the eyes of the whole world. The UN did not prevent, when it could have, the gravest crime in modern Europe,” Dzaferovic said.
He also appealed to Bosnian Serbs who might know the locations of more hidden mass graves to come forward. Some 1,000 Srebrenica victims have yet to be found.
“I am sending an appeal to our neighbours. Reveal the sites of mass graves. Help the victims’ families and at least partially relieve your conscience. Bear in mind that you will not be at peace until their souls have found their final rest,” he said.
The international overseer of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s peace agreement, High Representative Valentin Inzko, said at the ceremony that denying the massacres were an act of genocide is unacceptable.
“Denial of genocide is like saying that the Holocaust never happened. That is inadmissible. I shall advocate for the adoption of a law on prohibition of genocide denial in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Inzko said.
Lars Gunnar Wigemark, chief of the EU’s delegation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, said that mothers of Srebrenica victims had lived for 24 years now with the fact that their sons, husbands and fathers were systematically exterminated.
“Srebrenica is a deep wound that is opened each time the responsibility for crimes committed is denied and perpetrators are glorified,” Wigemark said.
The Hague Tribunal and courts in Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia have so far sentenced a total of 47 people to more than 700 years in prison, plus four life sentences, for Srebrenica crimes.
In March this year, a former Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic was jailed for life for the Srebrenica genocide and other crimes.
The final verdict on former Bosnian Serb military chief Ratko Mladic is due to be handed down sometime in the next year.