Survivors of Srebrenica bury their dead

Monday 11 July 2011 15.51
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A Bosnian Muslim woman cries over one of the 613 coffins before a mass burrial ceremony at the Potocari Memorial Cemetery
A Bosnian Muslim woman cries over one of the 613 coffins before a mass burrial ceremony at the Potocari Memorial Cemetery
Families prayed over the graves of their loved ones
Families prayed over the graves of their loved ones
Bosnian Muslims walk past a memorial marble plates with the names of the victims
Bosnian Muslims walk past a memorial marble plates with the names of the victims
Special commemoration service held today
Special commemoration service held today

More than 15,000 people gathered today to commemorate the 16th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre just weeks after the arrest of its alleged mastermind, Ratko Mladic.

A special commemoration service was held at the cemetery and memorial centre where over 4,000 of the 8,000 victims of the massacre are buried.

Families prayed over the graves of their loved ones, and some came to bury 613 people whose remains were identified just last year.

‘Having him (Mladic) behind bars brings some comfort but the true relief will come only once I find the body of my 18-year-old son who was sent to death by Mladic,’ said Munira Subasic, a member of the Mothers of Srebrenica group.

Serb troops overran the eastern town, declared a United Nations safe haven, on 11 July 1995. It was the worst mass killing in Europe since the end of the World War II.

Mladic was arrested in neighbouring Serbia in May, after years in hiding, and handed over to the UN war crimes tribunal.

He and his political master, Radovan Karadzic, are on trial for genocide over Srebrenica and the 43-month siege of Sarajevo.

Both have denied all charges.

Subasic said she had begged Mladic to spare her son as his soldiers separated men from women, children and the elderly.

‘He promised he would but did not keep the promise. I wish him a long life in prison to pay for this,’ she said.

Subasic said she hoped a legal case brought by Srebrenica survivors against the Dutch state, now before that country's supreme court, would finally be resolved.

‘This will be yet another step forward in our fight for the truth,’ she said.

An appeals court ruled last week that the Dutch state was responsible for the deaths in Srebrenica of three Bosnian men whose families had filed a legal case.

If confirmed by the Supreme Court, the ruling paves the way for financial compensation and similar legal action from other Srebrenica survivors.

Hamida Nuhic, whose sons, aged 11 and 15, were the youngest victims buried today, said the war crimes trials in The Hague were taking too long.

‘The (Hague) court should stop their charade and... speed up the trials so we see the justice served while we live,’ Nuhic said as tears ran down her cheeks and Muslim prayers echoed across the green valley.

Today, hundreds of men passed green-draped coffins from hand to hand towards the graves.

The coffins contained only bones, painstakingly identified by DNA analysis.

After the massacre, Serbs dumped the victims' bodies into mass graves.

They were later dug out with bulldozers and removed to different sites in an attempt to cover up the crime.

The International Commission for Missing Persons has so far identified 6,598 Srebrenica victims and 4,524 of them have been buried in a memorial graveyard after being unearthed.