Today, on 11 July, we remember ‘the worst [case of genocide] on European soil since the Second World War’, the case of Srebrenica. In only five days, 8,372 men and boys in Srebrenica were killed by Bosnian Serbs.
The story of Srebrenica is a tragic one. It is tragic not only because of the mass-cleansing in Bosnia at the time but because Srebrenica was meant to be the safe haven for the persecuted.
On 6 April 1993, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 819 requiring all parties to the conflict to treat ‘Srebrenica and its surroundings as a safe area which should be free from any armed attacks or any other hostile act.’
In March 1994, a Dutch battalion, Dutchbat, was sent to Srebrenica to protect Muslim communities in the region. Dutchbat acted under the UN command.
On July 5, 1995, the southern part of Srebrenica came under attack.
The shelling of the zones continued over the next days, including Bosnian Serbs shelling Dutch positions in the zone. Ultimately, on 11 July 1995, the attacks led to the fall of Srebrenica.
Over 20,000 people were fleeing to the Dutch base at Potočari.
The base of the Dutchbat troops filled out. The 20,000 refugees who walked for over three miles to seek refuge in the base were stuck outside. They sought safety in factories and fields. Only about 5,000 were allowed to stay in the base.
Less than half an hour after taking over Srebrenica, Bosnian Serbs arrived at the Potočari base.
By midnight, around 15,000 men left the safe zone to walk for 63 miles to Tuzla, the closest Muslim area. Over the following days, these 15,000 men were subjected to a systematic massacre and horrific conditions. ‘Bosnian Serb soldiers brutally slaughter 8,372 men in Srebrenica alone.’
(More details can be found at: http://www.srebrenica.org.uk/what-happened/srebrenica-genocide/happened-srebrenica/)
11 July was officially recognised as the Srebrenica Remembrance Day by the European Parliament in its resolution of 15 January 2009. The UN Security Council considered recognising the Srebrenica massacre as genocide in 2015. However, the attempt was blocked by Russia. The draft resolution proposed, among others, to:
2. Condemn in the strongest terms the crime of genocide at Srebrenica as established by judgments of the ICTY and ICJ and all other proven war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the course of the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina;
3. Agree that acceptance of the tragic events at Srebrenica as genocide is a prerequisite for reconciliation, calls upon political leaders on all sides to acknowledge and accept the fact of proven crimes as established by the courts, and
in this context, condemns denial of this genocide as hindering efforts towards reconciliation, and recognises also that continued denial is deeply distressing for the victims.
The 8,372 lost lives must be remembered. The atrocities of Srebrenica must be recognised as genocide.