Some 50,000 survivors, guests and dignitaries gathered yesterday at the site of Europe's worst massacre of civilians since World War II to mark the 10th anniversary of the Srebrenica slaughter and to bury the newly identified bodies of 610 victims.
The sound of Muslim prayer echoed through the valley as family members wandered between the 610 caskets laid on the ground of the Memorial Center ready to be buried.
"They killed my entire life and the only thing I want now is to see the guilty ones pay for it," said Fatima Budic, 60, as she wept next to the coffin of her son Velija, who was only 14 when he became one of the nearly 8,000 victims of the slaughter. Her husband Ohran and another son, who was 16, have never been found.
Shortly before the end of the 1992-95 Bosnian war, the town's population fled to the UN compound after Bosnian Serb soldiers overran Srebrenica -- a UN-protected zone. However, the Serb soldiers entered the camp and began a slaughter that left 8,000 Muslims dead, most of them men and boys. Their bodies were dumped in mass graves throughout eastern Bosnia. Dutch UN troops did nothing to prevent the massacre.
Forensics experts so far have exhumed more than 5,000 bodies, 2,032 of which have been identified through DNA analysis and other techniques. More than 1,300 Srebrenica victims are already buried at the cemetery which is part of the memorial center.
Apart from the survivors and local guests, the anniversary is being attended by presidents of countries in the region and by foreign ambassadors -- including the architect of the peace agreement that ended the war in Bosnia, Richard Holbrooke.
The alleged masterminds of the July 11, 1995, massacre -- Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic and his military commander, General Ratko Mladic -- have been indicted by the UN tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, for genocide and crimes against humanity at Srebrenica and elsewhere. Both are still at large.
"This is an extremely important and sad event," the President of the UN tribunal, Theodor Meron, told reporters. "Its dimensions resonate with the events of the Second World War and this definitely qualifies into the category of genocide," he added.
Asked about the Mladic and Karadzic, he said that he is "sure that their day in the Hague won't be before long. I'm quite optimistic."
A high-ranking official from neighboring Serbia-Montenegro was expected to attend the service -- a significant gesture given Serbia's political and military backing of the Bosnian Serbs during the war.
Srebrenica was brought back into focus in June when footage -- recorded by Serb troops -- was broadcast worldwide showing Serb paramilitaries executing six Muslim men from Srebrenica. The footage showed that Serbs, and not just Bosnian Serbs, had taken part in the slaughter.
"I am going to Srebrenica to pay tribute to the innocent victims of the crime committed there," Serbian President Boris Tadic said. "It is necessary to establish full trust and cooperation in the region. We have to break the circle of evil on the Balkans."
Other officials attending were members of Bosnia's three-person presidency, Bosnia's international administrator, Paddy Ashdown and the head of the World Bank, Paul Wolfowitz.
On Sunday evening hundreds of survivors who took part in a three-day memorial death march arrived in Srebrenica, having retraced the route some took to Muslim-controlled territory and freedom in 1995. Some 250,000 people were killed in the 1992-95 war between Bosnian Muslims, Catholic Croats and Orthodox Serbs.
About 16,500 bodies have been exhumed from more than 300 mass graves throughout the country.
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