In Bosnia, reburial 15 years later
On anniversary of massacre, families pay tribute to their dead
SREBRENICA, Bosnia-Herzegovina — Hoisting hundreds of coffins aloft, a line of weeping relatives stretched for at least a mile Sunday as they honored Srebrenica massacre victims on the 15th anniversary of the worst atrocity in Europe since World War II.
A whole hillside in the eastern Bosnian town was dug out with graves, waiting for 775 coffins covered in green cloths to be laid to rest at the city’s biggest funeral so far.
Still, that was less than a tenth of the total number of Muslim men and boys executed and buried in mass graves after Serb forces overran the U.N.-protected town on July 11, 1995, during the 1992-95 Bosnian war.
“I grew up without a father, and I don’t even remember him,” 16-yearold Hajro Ibrahimovic said.
When the procession reached the hill, about 60,000 people splintered into rivulets as relatives sought the exact grave for their loved ones. The sound of dirt pounding against the coffins’ wooden lids echoed over the valley as two announcers, one male and one female, solemnly read out the names of the victims being buried. That took 64 minutes. On that fateful day in 1995, about 30,000 Bosnian Muslims had flocked to the U.N. military base in the town’s suburb of Potocari for refuge. But when Serb forces came, they forced outnumbered Dutch peacekeepers to open the gates. The Serbs then separated the Muslim men and boys, putting them on trucks and carting them away, the vast majority never to be seen again.
The Srebrenica memorial center now stands across the road from that former U.N. base.
Serbian President Boris Tadic was the first dignitary to arrive Sunday, saying he was coming in an “act of reconciliation.” Some in the crowd yelled, “Bravo, Boris!” while others asked, “Where is Mladic?” — a reference to former Bosnian Serb Gen. Ratko Mladic, who led the Serb troops into Srebrenica.
Mladic and former Bosnian Serb President Radovan Karadzic were indicted on genocide charges for the Srebrenica massacre by the U.N. war crimes tribunal in 1995. Karadzic is on trial at The Hague, while Mladic is a fugitive, presumably hiding in Serbia. Tadic said he “will do everything” to apprehend all war crime suspects in Serbia.
The Bosnian Serbs were represented at the ceremony by a lowlevel delegation, headed by the deputy president of their ministate within Bosnia. In a deliberate snub, Karadzic’s Serb Democratic Party honored him Saturday at a ceremony marking the party’s 20th anniversary.
With the exception of Rudolf Hren, all of the victims buried Sunday were Muslims.
“They asked me if I wanted him to be buried elsewhere because this is mainly a Muslim graveyard,” said his mother, Barbara Hren. “He died with them. Let him rest with them.”
About 60,000 Bosnian Muslims gathered at the Potocari Memorial Center in suburban Srebrenica on Sunday for a ceremony and reburial to honor those killed in a Serb attack during the Bosnian war.