Human rights activists gathered in front of the Serbian parliament to light candles and place tributes to the Bosniak victims of the Srebrenica genocide to mark its 21st anniversary.
Carrying banners with slogans like “We will never forget the genocide in Srebrenica” and
“To young to remember, determined not to forget”, around 100 Belgraders joined the commemoration of the 21st anniversary of the 1995 massacres organised by the Youth Initiative for Human Rights NGO on Monday evening.
They placed sheets of paper with printed numbers on the pavement to symbolise 8,327 Bosniak men and boys from Srebrenica who were killed by Bosnian Serb forces.
Anita Mitic, the director of Youth Initiative for Human Rights, said that they decided to stage the commemoration in front of parliament because the legislature continues to ignore
requests to adopt a resolution calling the Srebrenica massacres genocide.
“We wanted to mark the 21st anniversary of the genocide in Srebrenica as we were prevented from doing it last year and our event was banned. We are however marking it
now, at a specific moment when we have various political parties in parliament which directly supported or took part in the war or openly deny the genocide,” Mitic said.
The Serbian government does not accept that the Srebrenica massacres constituted
genocide, despite the rulings of international and Bosnian courts, and has never organised any event commemorating the victims.
Last year on the 20th anniversary, all Srebrenica commemoration events were banned in Belgrade, with police citing “security reasons” after right-wingers threatened counter-
In March 2010, the Serbian parliament adopted a resolution condemning the massacres, but failed to call them genocide. In the past, parliament has also issued statements of condolence to the victims in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Two minority factions in parliament, one composed of the Liberal Democratic Party and the Party of Democratic Action of Sandzak, the other made up of the League of Social Democrats of Vojvodina and The Green Party, submitted a proposal last month for the urgent adoption of a resolution on the genocide, but they failed to gather enough support from MPs for it to pass.
This year’s commemoration in Srebrenica was marked by a bitter row between Serbian and Bosnian officials, after the organising committee refused to invite anyone who denied that the massacres were genocide.
Marko Djuric, the head of the Serbian government’s office for Kosovo, responded angrily that Belgrade’s “hand of reconcilation” had been rejected, and accused Bosniaks of staging a “chauvinist rampage”.
As a result, no officials from Serbia or Bosnia’s Serb-dominated entity Republika Srpska attended the memorial event in Srebrenica on Monday, although the leader of the opposition Liberal Democratic Party, Cedomir Jovanovic, did take part.
“That is why it is more important now than ever before to have this commemoration in Belgrade in this atmosphere,” said Mitic.
“Today in Serbia we don’t speak about the victims nor about the responsibility for the genocide, which lies in Belgrade. And 20 years after, we have made virtually no progress,” she added.
Last year in Srebrenica, the 20th anniversary commemorations were marred when Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic was pelted with bottles and stones by angry mourners.
Serbian courts prosecute Srebrenica killings as war crimes, not genocide, citing “insufficient evidence and legal issues” as the reason.
In Serbia’s first Srebrenica-related case, Bosnian Serb ex-soldier Brano Gojkovic was jailed for ten years in February this year after making a plea bargain with the prosecution, admitting he took part in executing 800 Bosniaks from Srebrenica in 1995.
Another Srebrenica case is still ongoing before a Serbian court, in which the offence is also condemned as a war crime.