The 4-year war in Bosnia was planned, started and implemented by Bosnian Serbs, joined later by Bosnian Croats, with the backing up from the leaders and intellectual elites from Serbia and Croatia that wanted to divide the country between themselves. For the ultimate goal of creating a “Greater Serbia”, immediately in the beginning of the war, Serbian army and paramilitary forces committed horrendous atrocities against civilians including forced deportation, torture, mass murder, detention camps, and systematic sexual violence, which proved to be their general military strategy.
During the war the United Nations declared six “safe areas”, for the aim of protecting civilians, at the same time controlling the possible exodus of refugees. In order to obtain a protected status these zones needed to be completely demilitarized, and people were urged and ordered to hand over all weapons they had. The established safe zones should have been safe havens for civilians, to provide them protection, but in fact turned to be prisons for the people. Bosnian Serbs blocked the access to them and continuously, especially in Sarajevo and Gorazde, hinder and even attacked convoys of humanitarian and medical aid for people in these zones. As a result of these actions the situation in the zones was very difficult – shortage of food, medical means and even electricity and water, with Serb forces the same time striking and bombing unselectively very often civilian targets made living circumstances of civilians unbearable.
One of the UN safe zones was also Srebrenica, a town that lies near the border with Serbia, with Drina river being a natural border between the two countries. Serbian forces started an invasion of Srebrenica in 6 July 1995, which was thoroughly planned action under the command of general Mladic uniting military and palamilitary forces from both Bosnia and Serbia. The UN couldn’t give shelter to hundreds men and boys who were seeking help in the UN base in Srebrenica and Dutch battalion proved to be completely incapable of protecting civilians in the saftey zone. In the town there were around 50 000 disarmed people that could not give any resistance. From 11 July and for the next couple of days, the worst atrocity in Europe after WWII happened. Serbian forces systematically selected from women more than 8000 Muslim men, elders and boys, took into places of detention in and around of Srebrenica where they were tortured, beaten and executed. They were usually taken blind-folded from their detentions directly to their burial place, then lined up and executed. In order to hide the mass execution, the bodies from these mass graves were then once or twice reburied, the reason why the remains of most victims are not completed.
11 July is marked as the memory of Srebrenica Genocide but also as burial of those victims that are identified during previous year. Until now, 6643 victims, or their remains, were buried, out of 8327 people that are totally killed in Srebrenica. The process of identification, as well as completing the remains is still ongoing.
ICTY (International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia) investigated and ruled the mass execution in Srebrenica as a genocide that is considered to be the worst masacre and the most horenodus crime against the civilians in Europe after the WWII. The Genocide was executed under the command of Ratko Mladic, the general of the Army of Republika Srpska, but also paramilitary forces ad units that were under the direct control of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Serbia.
Ratko Mladic and other military officers are charged before ICTY with the Genocide war crimes including. In total, more than 700 years was ruled for Genocide and other crimes in Srebrenica before international courts and courts in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia. 47 persons are judged on the ground of being decision makers in the chain of command, giving orders and making executions.
Courts pronounced five life imprisonment sentences, including the sentence for general Mladic (still not final decision).
The Genocide in Srebrenica is nowadays, more than ever, denied and revised. Some Bosnian Serb historians and politicians continue to deny that genocide and ethnic cleansing took place in Bosnia. The history is being distorted by genocide deniers in the country where it was committed, as the Genocide denial is not legally persecuted. Moreover, the Srebrenica Genocide is often used as a motive for white supreme terrorists throughout the world, it is used as a ideological pillar for far right, as a kind of inspiration for these groups.
Russia is often siding Republika Srpska and Serbia in their intention to relativize the ethnic cleansing and genocide in Bosnia. In 2015, Russia vetoed a UN resolution condemning the Srebrenica massacre. While this resolution was supported by European and U.S. governments, it was condemned by Serbia, wchich called the resolution “anti-Serb” and having Russia on their side for this matter.
The lesson from Srebrenica is that no society is invulnerable to prejudice and intolerance. We must all remain vigilant against these forces, and take timely action to build stronger, more resilient communities.