Tag Archive: Islamic Land of Bosnia


November 02, 2016

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — Hundreds of Bosnians protested Wednesday in Sarajevo, demanding a rerun of the municipal election in the southern town of Stolac that was halted by claims of irregularities and violent disruptions.

Members within Bosnia’s Central Elections Commission disagree over whether to sanction those who allegedly manipulated the voting process on Oct. 2 or those who tried to prevent them. But the commission says sanctions must come before a repeat election.

The mainly Muslim Bosniak protesters say a month has been enough to decide and claim the Bosnian Croat nationalist party that has run the town for two decades has gained power by rigging every election.

Violence erupted when the opposition tried to stop Bosnian Croats suspected using false names and other irregularities. Voting was canceled shortly after noon and no ballots were counted. Opposition representatives have filed complaints to the Central Election Commission, saying they were immediately fired by the head of the local election commission, a Croat, as soon as they reported irregularities. They said those included people voting with foreign passports, fishing licenses and in the name of dead people.

The local election commission chief, Ivan Peric, has denied the accusations. Bosnian Croat units expelled the majority Muslim Bosniak population as well as other non-Croats from Stolac during the bloody 1992-95 Bosnian war. After the war, many non-Croats returned to the area but say rigged elections mean they have no say in its local government. They say if the town does not produce a fair election, they will consider civil disobedience.

The incident turned international when two days after the election, a government delegation from Croatia visited Stolac to express support for the party ruling there, the Croat Democratic Union. The incident was also discussed during Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic’s visit last week to Sarajevo.

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September 30, 2016

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — Bosnians will vote Sunday in local elections marked by a battle over who will run the municipalities in the part of the country run by Bosnian Serbs — a pro-European Union coalition or the already ruling separatist party with close ties to Russia.

(1 of 11) Bosnian Serb Milorad Dodik, President of the Bosnian Serb region of Republic of Srpska, attends a pre election rally of the “Alliance of Independent Social Democrats” party in the Bosnian town of Banja Luka, 240 kms northwest of Sarajevo, Bosnia, on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016. Bosnians will vote in local elections on Sunday Oct. 2.

Municipal councils and mayors will be chosen throughout the country, but the main contest will take place in Republika Srpska region between the party of regional President Milorad Dodik — the Alliance of Independent Social-Democrats — and a coalition called The Alliance for Changes.

Dodik advocates secession from Bosnia and has promised Bosnian Serbs a 2018 referendum on independence — something many of them have been seeking since Yugoslavia collapsed during the 1990s. The equally nationalistic coalition sees the future Republika Srpska as a semi-autonomous region within a Bosnia that is an EU member.

The coalition led by the Serb Democratic Party focused its pre-election campaign on bread and butter issues, but also published details of Dodik’s alleged corruption and accused him of throwing the region into poverty during his decade in power.

However, Dodik managed to shift voter’s attention away from the accusations by holding, a week before the regional elections, a divisive Bosnian Serb referendum over a disputed Republika Srpska holiday that the country’s constitutional court had banned because it discriminates against non-Serbs.

The court also banned the referendum, but Dodik conducted it anyway and portrayed the court’s actions as an attack on Serb autonomy. Voters overwhelmingly approved the holiday, although non-Serbs mostly boycotted the vote.

The opposition says the “unnecessary” referendum cost taxpayers 750,000 euros ($840,000) and was used as a ploy by Dodik to divert attention from serious issues facing the region. Each of Bosnia’s two regions — Republika Srpska and the Bosniak-Croat Federation — has its own government, president and parliament, but the two are linked by a shared state-level government, parliament and a three-member presidency comprised of a Muslim Bosniak, Christian Orthodox Serb and Roman Catholic Croat.

In general elections two years ago, Dodik’s party lost the Serb posts in the state elections to the opposition coalition, but retained power in the regional parliament and government. Since his opponents joined the central government, Bosnia made progress toward obtaining EU membership and begun major socio-economic reforms. Dodik has called them Serb traitors.

A poor showing for Dodik’s party in Sunday’s municipal elections, following the loss at the national level, would be a sign of his diminished popularity among Bosnian Serbs after more than a decade in which he has gone unchallenged.

September 25, 2016

BANJA LUKA, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — Bosnian Serbs on Sunday voted in a referendum banned by the country’s constitutional court, risking Western sanctions against their autonomous region and criminal charges against their leaders.

The vote was whether to keep Jan. 9 as a holiday in Republika Srpska, commemorating the day in 1992 that Bosnian Serbs declared the creation of their own state, igniting the ruinous 1992-95 war. It comes despite the top court’s ruling that the date, which falls on a Serb Christian Orthodox religious holiday, discriminates against Muslim Bosniaks and Catholic Croats in Bosnia.

Authorities said turnout was between 56 and 60 percent. Preliminary results after 30.76 percent of the ballots were counted say 99.8 percent of the voters were in favor of the holiday. The vote has raised tensions and fears of renewed fighting as Bosniaks and Croats see the referendum as an attempt to elevate the Serb region above the country’s constitutional court. It is also a test for a more serious referendum that Bosnian Serb leaders have announced for 2018 — one on independence from Bosnia.

During the 1992-95 war that killed 100,000 people and turned half of the country’s population into refugees, Bosniaks and Croats were persecuted and almost completely expelled from Republika Srpska territory.

After the war, Republika Srpska ended up not independent but an autonomous region of Bosnia. Bosniaks and Croats who returned there view the holiday as a celebration of their expulsion. Republika Srpska, a region of 1.2 million, marks the day with religious ceremonies, hinting the region is still meant just for Serbs.

The constitutional court has banned both the holiday and the referendum, a ruling that Bosnian Serbs see as an attack on their autonomy. The West has urged that the illegal referendum not be held, but Bosnian Serbs are backed by Russia. Western officials said they might consider halting projects in the mini-state or impose travel bans on its leaders and freeze their assets.

Tomislav Stajcic, a resident of Banja Luka, the capital of Republika Srpska, compared the holiday with a birthday. “There is no force on this earth, political or divine or any other really, which can change the date of your birth,” he said, calling the constitutional court’s decision “senseless.”

Opposition leaders have dismissed the idea of a new conflict, saying the Bosnian Serb ruling party scheduled the referendum a week before a local election to divert campaign topics from corruption to nationalism.

The Bosnian Serb member of the country’s presidency and one of the opposition leaders in Republika Srpska, Mladen Ivanic, said he doesn’t understand the “circus” about the referendum. “Who wants to celebrate it should and who doesn’t does not have to,” he said.

But the Bosniak member called for prosecutors to act, saying Bosnian Serbs have been pushing the limits for decades. “Now they reached a new level of spitefulness, exceeding all limits,” Bakir Izetbegovic said.

“These people pull the rope until it snaps and then, of course, they land on their back.”

July 11, 2016

SREBRENICA, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — Tens of thousands of people on Monday marked the 21st anniversary of Europe’s worst mass murder since the Holocaust and attended the funeral of 127 newly-found victims.

Family members sobbed as they hugged the coffins for the last time before their loved ones were laid to rest at a cemetery next to 6,337 other victims found previously in mass graves. The youngest victim buried this year was 14, the oldest 77.

Fatima Duric, 52, buried her husband whom she last saw when Serbs overran the eastern Bosnian enclave at the end of Bosnia’s 1992-95 war. The United Nations had declared Srebrenica a safe haven for civilians, but that didn’t prevent Serb soldiers from attacking the town they besieged for years. As they advanced on July 11, 1995, most of the town’s Muslim population rushed to the nearby U.N. compound in hopes the Dutch peacekeepers would protect them.

But the outnumbered and outgunned peacekeepers watched helplessly as Muslim men and boys were separated for execution and the women and girls were sent to Bosnian government-held territory. Nearly 15,000 residents tried to flee through the woods, but were hunted down and also killed.

International courts defined the massacre of more than 8,000 people as an act of genocide committed with the intent to exterminate the Muslim Bosniak population in the area. The victims were buried in mass graves, which were dug up by the perpetrators shortly after the war and relocated in order to hide the crime. During the process, the half-decomposed remains were ripped apart by bulldozers so that body parts are still being found in more than 100 different mass graves and are being put together and identified through DNA analysis.

Victims are buried each year at the memorial center across the road from the former U.N. base where most of them were last seen alive. Duric lost her husband as they fled with their two children through the woods and walked for days toward government-held territory.

“After all these years, his body was found. In fact, just a few bones. I am burying them today,” Duric said. What hurts the survivors the most is the constant denial of the nature of the crime by Serbia and the Bosnian Serbs.

Last year, Serbia’s prime minister Aleksandar Vucic — a former radical Serb nationalist who openly supported Serb forces in Bosnia during the war — was chased away by stone-throwing protesters from the burial ceremony mostly because he refused to acknowledge the genocide.

This year, victims’ families demanded that those who deny the nature of the crime should not come so nobody from official Belgrade or the Serb half of now ethnically divided Bosnia, where Srebrenica is located, came. The president of the Bosnian Serb part, Milorad Dodik, told media on Monday that Serbs will never acknowledge the massacre as genocide.

However, the leader of the Serbian opposition Liberal Democratic Party, Cedomir Jovanovic, who never avoided the word, was greeted by the victims’ family members with applause as he laid flowers at the memorial center. Like every year, the non-governmental group from Belgrade “Women in Black” stood quietly holding a large banner that read “Responsibility,” demanding Serbia acknowledges its role in the crimes in Bosnia.

“We will never stop paying tribute to the victims of genocide,” said Stasa Zajevic, the head of the group. The former president of the United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Theodor Meron, as well as the current president, Carmel Agius insisted in speeches that the Srebrenica massacre “must be called by its real name: genocide.” The tribunal has convicted six people for involvement in the Srebrenica genocide, including wartime Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, sentenced this year to 40 years in prison.

President Bakir Izetbegovic said in order for a crime to be put into the past, it first has to face punishment. “The answer is in our readiness to learn from history and to turn those lessons into a vision of peace, understanding and tolerance,” Izetbegovic said.

“The dream of exterminating others will always end with defeat and self-destruction,” he warned those who still deny the genocide in Srebrenica. “Accepting and acknowledging the truth is the first step toward reconciliation.”

The Srebrenica funerals are unique among Muslims because they are attended by women which otherwise is not customary. But mostly male residents were killed in Srebrenica and the town’s women never even considered sticking to the tradition.

May 14, 2016

BANJA LUKA, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — Tens of thousands of people rallied Saturday in separate demonstrations for and against the regional Bosnian Serb government in the northern city of Banja Luka, kept apart by police and barricades to prevent violence.

The pro-EU Alliance for Changes is accusing the Bosnian Serb government of corruption and its leader Milorad Dodik of dictatorship, saying he has brought the region to the brink of financial collapse. The Alliance claims Bosnian Serbs would be much better off cooperating with others in the country on reforms to improve people’s lives and get Bosnia into the 28-nation European Union.

Dodik’s camp accuses the opposition of betraying Bosnian Serb national interests, which according to him lie in seceding from Bosnia and creating a new Serb country with close ties to Russia. Bosnian Serbs fought in a 1992-95 war for secession and annexation to neighboring Serbia but the conflict ended with 100,000 dead with a peace agreement that left Bosnia’s the external borders intact but divided the country into two regions — Republika Srpska and the Federation of Bosniaks and Croats. Each have their own state-like institutions and are linked by a joint government, a three-member presidency and a parliament.

International officials have repeatedly told Dodik the dissolution of the country is impossible but his obstructions to the functioning of the state have left Bosnia lagging on the road toward the EU. His opponents claim he wants a separate country so he can control the courts and hide his financial embezzlements that have enriched him and his allies but impoverished the people.

Both sides brought thousands by bus Saturday to Banja Luka. Opposition supporters held banners saying “You will all go to jail,” and demanded an early general election while Dodik’s supporters carried pictures of him and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“If we do not have a country, we will be killed,” Dodik told his supporters. “Republika Srpska is a country and we are defending it.” He then sang a folk song with the lyrics “nobody can do us any harm, we are stronger than destiny.”

A few hundred meters (yards) away, opposition supporters called for his resignation and chanted “Thief! Thief!” The Alliance for Changes a year ago began revealing evidence of corruption Dodik and his allies were allegedly involved in as well as economic data showing how Bosnian living standards have eroded during his reign.

One after the other, speakers at the opposition rally complained about the bad living conditions, how their retirements are the lowest in Europe and how the children of officials in Dodik’s government own property abroad while theirs don’t even have jobs.

“Is this in the Bosnian Serb national interest?” asked Milana Karanovic-Miljevic, who came from Drvar, one of Bosnia’s poorest towns. At both rallies, former soldiers who fought for Republika Srpska competed in patriotic speeches claiming their respective camp was the real keeper of the ideas of wartime leaders Radovan Karadzic and general Ratko Mladic. Both men are jailed by the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands. One is convicted of war crimes and the other is on trial for genocide and crimes against humanity, committed while creating Republika Srpska.

Adding to the confusion, Mladic’s son appeared on the stage of the pro-government rally to greet Dodik’s supporters, while Karadzic’s daughter spoke on the other stage, greeting opposition backers. Both said they spoke on behalf of their fathers.

The rallies ended peacefully.

February 07, 2016

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — When Mirzana Coralic asked the primary school in her Sarajevo neighborhood whether they would enroll her deaf son, teacher Sanela Ljumanovic volunteered without thinking much about it.

Then September came and 6-year-old Zejd was there, silently sitting on one of the school’s benches, his eyes wide open. At the time, no one at the school, not even Zejd, knew sign language. “We have to come up with something here,” Ljumanovic remembers thinking.

She tried to develop her own tricks and signs to communicate with Zejd but a parent had another idea, proposing that the whole class learn sign language with him. Three months later, the first-graders of class 1-2 at Osman Nakas primary school in Sarajevo have mastered the basics of sign language to communicate with their classmate.

“Zejd,” said Uma Nadarevic, 6, crossing her arms to sign his name. “Please,” she then put her palms together as if she would be praying. “Can … you …show …me …our …homework …in … math?” Uma waved the signs with her little arms as she slowly pronounced each word.

Zejd grabbed his notebook out of a bag and showed her the circles and squares he drew at home. Uma signed “Thank you” and Zejd bowed a “you are welcome.” In 2003, Bosnia adopted laws that allow children with disabilities to be fully integrated into society, including schools. Children with special needs are supposed to have professional assistants who sit with them in class, translating or otherwise helping them participate. But in practice, impoverished Bosnia barely has enough money to keep normal schools functioning and children with disabilities are left to the care and imagination of their parents and the good will of school staff.

Zejd was lucky — and his teachers say the effort being put in by all is boosting his self-esteem. “He looks forward to going to school,” said his mother, who tried to learn the sign language with him before school started but says he was not very interested in it. “Now he is happy and motivated.”

Still, Zejd is an exception in Bosnian society, said Anisa Setkic-Sendic, the sign language teacher who teaches the class. “When he sees how much others insist on communicating with him, it is motivating,” she added. “This should be normal.”

His classmates are embracing the challenge of a new language. “I like to learn Zejd’s language so I can talk to him and to other deaf people,” said Tarik Sijaric, one of Zejd’s best friends. “It is fun.”

“I like this language and I also think it will be useful when I grow up,” added student Anesa Susic. Zejd is fitting in now and the new language is spreading beyond the classroom, said Ljumanovic. Children are teaching their parents at home.

“We are all happy as we are learning a new language,” she said. “The goal, however, is also to teach Zejd to read lips … he is a good kid, a smart kid.” Ljumanovic said she would introduce sign language into the curriculum not only to enable communication but because it helps children become more sensitive toward those with disabilities.

Setkic-Sendic said she should be paid for her work by the Ministry of Education but there are simply no funds right now. Instead, she is being paid by contributions from the parents of children in the class. Not all can financially participate. Only Ljumanovic knows who can’t pay, who does and how much. And she won’t tell anyone — that’s the deal.

“We are finding ways,” said Setkic-Sendic. “The children are growing, we can’t wait for better times to come.”

July 12, 2015

SREBRENICA, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — A crowd of furious Bosnian Muslims jumped over fences and attacked Serbia’s prime minister with stones and water bottles on Saturday, marring the 20th anniversary commemorations of the Srebrenica massacre.

Aleksandar Vucic, a former ultranationalist during the Balkan wars but who is now a moderate with a pro-Western stance, escaped serious injury. He said he was hit in the face with a rock as the crowds chanted “Kill, Kill” and “Allahu akbar,” the Arabic phrase for “God is great.”

The scenes overshadowed what was supposed to be a day of reflection and remembrance for the 8,000 Muslim men and boys slaughtered at the hands of Serb forces in the eastern Bosnian town of Srebrenica. Two U.N. courts ruled that the killings constituted genocide.

Vucic is among the most hated individuals for Bosnian Muslims, with some viewing him in worse terms than late strongman Slobodan Milosevic. During the 1992-95 Bosnian war, Vucic was an ultranationalist politician in opposition to Milosevic, criticizing the Serb leader of leniency toward Bosnian Muslims.

Many Bosnian Muslims also still remember Vucic’s incendiary statement during the Balkan wars that for every dead Serb, 100 Muslims should be killed. Some in the crowd held a banner with the quote to remind him of his past.

Vucic’s security detail rushed him away, trying to protect him with bags, umbrellas and their raised arms from the projectiles raining down. His guards shoved through the angry crowd before pushing the prime minister inside an armored vehicle.

“We were attacked from all sides. It was well organized and prepared,” a visibly shaken Vucic said upon his quick return to Serbia. He blamed hooligan soccer groups from Serbia and Bosnia for initiating the attack.

“I heard Muslim people telling the attackers ‘why are you attacking him? It is not his fault. He had not done anything here.'” He added: “Except for my glasses, I’m missing nothing else.” Vucic, who came to represent Serbia at the commemoration in an apparent gesture of reconciliation, said after the attack that, “Today we are talking more about a bunch of fools rather than about the innocent victims of Srebrenica.” He added that his “arms of reconciliation remain stretched toward the Bosniaks.”

Serbia’s foreign ministry sent a protest note to Bosnia, saying the attack was a murder attempt against Vucic and urged that the culprits be caught. Although the crowd booed Vucic’s arrival, Srebrenica widows and mothers welcomed his presence.

“Only on truth we can build a future. You cannot deny the truth,” Kada Hotic, who lost her son and husband in the massacre, told Vucic before the ceremony. The Muslim Bosniak mayor of Srebrenica, Camil Durakovic, apologized to Vucic, saying he was “deeply disappointed” about the attack.

Tens of thousands of people came to the commemorations marking two decades since Europe’s worst massacre since the Holocaust. Foreign dignitaries urged the international community not to allow such atrocities to happen again and to call the crime “genocide.”

Serbia and Bosnian Serbs deny the killings were genocide, and claim that the death toll has been exaggerated. Dozens of foreign dignitaries — including former U.S. President Bill Clinton, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, Britain’s Princess Anne and Jordan’s Queen Noor.

“I grieve that it took us so long to unify … to stop this violence,” said Clinton, who was in office at the time of the massacre and whose administration led the NATO airstrikes against Serb positions. This ended the Bosnian war and the U.S. brokered a peace agreement.

Clinton said before the attack on Vucic: “I want to thank the prime minister of Serbia for having the courage to come here today and I think it is important that we acknowledge that.” U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson, who witnessed the attack, condemned the “deplorable acts of violence” against Vucic. He said it was “far removed from the spirit I felt at this dignified and solemn commemoration.”

It wasn’t the first time that top Serbian officials visited Srebrenica for commemorations. The former pro-democratic president, Boris Tadic, was there twice, including on the 10th anniversary of the massacre, and there were no major incidents.

During the war, the United Nations declared Srebrenica a safe haven for civilians. But on July 11, 1995, Serb troops overran the Muslim enclave. Some 15,000 men tried to flee through the woods toward government-held territory while others joined the town’s women and children in seeking refuge at the base of the Dutch U.N. troops.

The outnumbered Dutch troops could only watch as Serb soldiers rounded up about 2,000 men for killing and later hunted down and killed another 6,000 men in the woods. The United Nations admitted its failure to protect the town’s people and on Saturday, Bert Koenders, foreign minister of Netherland said that “the Dutch government shares responsibility” and that the U.N. must strengthen United Nations missions in the future.

“Nobody can undo what happened here but we mourn with you,” Koenders added. The 1992-95 war in Bosnia, pitting Christian Orthodox Serbs against Bosnian Muslims and Croatian Catholics, left more than 100,000 people dead and millions homeless. The Serbs, who wanted to remain in the Serb-led Yugoslavia, fought against the secession of Bosnia and Croatia from the former federation.

So far, remains of some 7,000 victims have been excavated from 93 graves or collected from 314 surface locations and identified through DNA technology. At the end of the ceremony Saturday, families laid the incomplete remains of 136 victims recently found in mass graves, including 19 teenagers.

“Most of the boys I played with are in these graves or in yet undiscovered mass graves,” the mayor, Durakovic, said. “With them lies my own childhood.”

AP writers Jovana Gec and Dusan Stojanovic contributed from Belgrade, Serbia.

July 11, 2015

SREBRENICA, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — Tens of thousands of people are pouring into Srebrenica to mark the 20th anniversary of Europe’s worst massacre since the Holocaust and to attend the funeral of 136 newly found victims.

Dozens of foreign dignitaries — including former U.S. President Bill Clinton, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, Britain’s Princess Anne and Jordan’s Queen Noor — will join Saturday’s ceremony mourning the 8,000 Muslim men and boys killed in the eastern Bosnian town of Srebrenica after Bosnian Serb troops overran the U.N. protected enclave in July 1995. The crime was later defined as an act of genocide by two international courts.

Families will lay the remains of 136 victims to rest at a memorial center next to the graves of over 6,000 previously found in mass graves.

July 10, 2015

SREBRENICA, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — A look back at the 1995 Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia.

THE TOWN AND ITS PEOPLE

Near the Serbian border, Srebrenica, or silver town, is named after the ore mined by the Romans. Its prewar population, with surrounding villages, was 36,666 — 27,572 Bosnian Muslims, the rest Bosnian Serbs and Croats. Now, most of the 10,000 people in the region are Serbs. They are mostly shunned by the 1,000 Muslim returnees.

SERB SIEGE OF SREBRENICA

Serb forces besieged the town at the start of the 1992-95 Bosnian war, shelling it and preventing U.N. food convoys from reaching it. The U.N. Security Council declared the town a safe haven protected by U.N. troops in April 1993, but the Serbs increased the pressure in July 1995. Muslim Bosnian fighters asked the 600 Dutch peacekeepers to give back weapons they had turned in, but were refused. Serb troops overran U.N. posts around the city and took about 30 peacekeepers hostage. The Dutch commander’s repeated requests for NATO airstrikes were either rejected or not acted upon.

SERBS TAKE SREBRENICA

Serb troops entered Srebrenica on July 11, 1995. After they raised their flag over the town, Dutch F-16 warplanes dropped two bombs on Serb positions. Further strikes were suspended after the Serbs threatened to kill their Dutch hostages and shell the refugees. By then, more than 20,000 Muslim Bosnians, mostly women, children and the elderly, had fled to the main Dutch base at Potocari, a Srebrenica suburb. Some 15,000 men and boys fled into the woods, trying to reach government-held territory.

On July 12, Serb troops moved into the U.N. compound and separated from the crowd about 2,000 men to be killed. The women were taken by buses and trucks to government-held territory. Dressed in U.N. uniforms and driving U.N. vehicles, Serb soldiers then hunted down about 6,000 Muslim men and boys in the woods and put them in front of firing squads.

KILLING BEGINS AT SREBRENICA

Captured Muslim Bosnian men and boys were brought to sites around Srebrenica and on July 13, 1995, Serb forces began killing them. One of the major massacre sites was the warehouse in the nearby village of Kravica, where Serbs killed 1,000 people in one night. Serb forces let the Dutch peacekeepers leave Srebrenica, but kept their weapons.

U.N. COUNTS THE SREBRENICA DEAD

The International Committee on Missing Persons listed around 8,000 Srebrenica residents — most of them males — as missing. The U.N. war crimes court considers them victims of the killing spree, labeling the crime as genocide. This qualification was confirmed by the International Court of Justice. So far, forensic experts have found and identified 6,930 bodies in 93 mass graves and on 314 on-surface locations in the area. The identification was done through DNA analysis. Of these, 6,241 have been buried at the Potocari Memorial Center for victims and another 136 will be laid to rest there on Saturday.

NATO AIRSTRIKES/PEACE DEAL

As news of the Srebrenica killings spread, NATO launched massive airstrikes against Serb military positions across the country in September 1995, forcing Serbs to negotiate a peace deal. The peace agreement brokered in Dayton, Ohio, in November 1995 recognized the territorial integrity of Bosnia, but divided it in two mini-states along ethnic lines.

July 09, 2015

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — Thousands lined Sarajevo’s main street on Thursday as a huge truck bearing 136 coffins passed on its way to Srebrenica, where newly identified victims of Europe’s worst massacre since World War II will be buried on the 20th anniversary of the crime.

As the truck covered with a huge Bosnian flag and with hundreds of flowers tucked into the canvas rolled down the street covered with white rose petals, the sobbing of mothers, sisters and wives of the victims broke the silence.

It stopped in front of Bosnia’s presidency where the weeping crowd tucked more flowers into the canvas or simply approached it to touch it or caress the canvas that was hiding the remains of the victims found in mass graves and identified through DNA analysis.

On July 11, 1995, Serb troops overran the eastern Bosnian Muslim enclave of Srebrenica and executed some 8,000 Muslim men and boys. International courts labeled the crime an act of genocide. The remains of Srebrenica victims are still being found in mass graves. So far some 7,000 victims have been excavated from 93 graves or collected from 314 on-surface locations and identified through DNA technology.

Edin Nuhic, who lost numerous male relatives in the massacre, has not yet found the remains of all of them. “All we can do is to think about them, to remember them and to hope that one day this country will find a way to move on,” he said.

Among the 136 victims to be laid to rest on Saturday are 18 minors. The oldest victim, Jusuf Smajlovic, was 75 when he was executed and he will be laid to rest together with his 29-year-old grandson, Hebib.

The truck also carried the coffins of father Ismet Mehmedovic and his three sons Fikret, 20, Rifet, 18, and Salih, 16. Dozens of people walked next to the truck that was slowly passing through the capital, with more and more people tucking flowers in the canvas, the wheels and anywhere else they could reach.

In Srebrenica, organizers expect some 50,000 people to attend the funeral along with international delegations. The United States, which led the military intervention and brokered Bosnia’s peace agreement that ended the country’s war after it claimed 100,000 victims, will be represented by a delegation led by former President Bill Clinton.