In Bos­nia, re­burial 15 years later

On an­niver­sary of mas­sacre, fam­i­lies pay trib­ute to their dead

Austin American-Statesman - - MONDAY BRIEFING - By Radul Radovanovic

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.”

Marko Drobnjakovic

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.

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