Tue, Jul 13, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Srebrenica massacre victims laid to rest

WAR LEGACY Sunday's ceremony saw the final internment of the remains of 338 Muslim boys and men who were among the thousands slaughtered and buried in mass graves


A Bosnian woman weeps next to the coffins of Muslim men and boys before their burial in Potocari, near Srebrenica, on Sunday. The recently identified remains of 338 Muslim boys and men, aged from 15 to 70, were buried in a common funeral attended by 20,000 people.


Commemorating Europe's worst massacre since World War II, more than 20,000 people gathered to rebury the remains of some of the more than 7,000 Muslim men and boys killed by Bosnian Serbs nine years ago.

In an emotional ceremony on Sunday at the site of the slaughter, the crowd, including relatives of the 338 victims being reburied, fell on its knees in front of the caskets containing remains exhumed from mass graves dug by the Serbs to cover up the killings.

Most of the crowd of people at the Srebrenica Memorial Center in the suburb of Potocari mourned silently. But some women sobbed and wailed as the green coffins were lowered into graves freshly dug next to mounds containing the remains of 998 previously identi-fied and reburied victims.

Mustafa Ceric, the head of Bosnia's Muslim community, asked God to bring healing to the hearts of those who lost husbands, sons and brothers in the killings.

"There cannot be revenge, because revenge is not our faith, not our destiny and it is not the way in Bosnia," he said.

The youngest identified Srebrenica victim was 15 and the oldest 77. The victims were separated from the town's women and children by Bosnian Serb troops who hauled them away, shot them and buried them in mass graves.

Women wept over the graves as the coffins of their sons, husbands and brothers were lowered into the dank earth. Many fell in each other's arms and cried. Some poured water from plastic bottles over others who fainted in their grief.

More than a dozen Serbian women from the Belgrade peace association, "Women in Black," stood next to the graves offering support to the Muslim widows.

A teenage boy sat lonely at the edge of one of the graves, his head bowed. He refused to communicate. The massacre left many children orphans.

The slayings have come to symbolize Bosnia's devastating three-and-a-half-year war, which took some 260,000 lives and left half of the country's population homeless.

UN and Muslim experts have so far discovered remains of about 5,000 victims in mass graves in eastern Bosnia. The others are still missing.

Bosnian President Sulejman Tihic reminded the crowd that many of the perpetrators of this crime still remain at large and that without them facing justice, ethnic mistrust cannot dissipate.

"The most important thing is the establishment of trust among the peoples of Bosnia-Herzegovina and we can build trust only on the basis of truth and justice," Tihic said.

Bosnia remains ethnically divided after the 1992 to 1995 war between the country's Serbs, Muslims and Croats. The punishment of war-criminals is seen as a precondition for reconciliation.

Radovan Karadzic, the wartime leader of Bosnian Serbs remains at large, along with his top general Ratko Mladic. Both are being sought by the UN war crimes tribunal at The Hague, Netherlands for their alleged roles in the Srebrenica massacre and other war crimes.

The same court is trying Yugoslavia's former president Slobodan Milosevic for his alleged part in atrocities committed in Bosnia.

While Bosnia's Croats and Muslims have handed over all major suspects sought by the tribunal, the government of the Serb half of Bosnia has not followed suit.

Bosnian Serb President Dragan Cavic only recently acknowledged that the Srebrenica massacre actually happened. He was in Belgrade on Sunday, choosing to attend the inauguration of the new president of Serbia.

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