Today marks the seventeenth anniversary of the fall of the United Nations “safe area” of Srebrenica, which led to the most serious war crime in Europe since World War II. In what has become an annual ritual, 520 more coffins were brought to the memorial complex outside the U.N. base at Potocari with the newly identified remains of Muslim men and boys executed by Bosnian Serb forces commanded by Ratko Mladic. (See photograph above.)
There is a simple — and horrifying — explanation for why it has taken so long to identify the dead. In a belated attempt to cover up the crime, Mladic’s men dug up mass graves containing the remains of the victims and scattered the bones all over north-east Bosnia. It took a massive international effort involving hundreds of investigators, forensic scientists, and DNA specialists to establish what happened. In some cases, remains were found in twenty different locations before being returned to loved ones.
It would be good if Bosnians of all ethnicities could remember this tragedy, pay their respects to the victims, and move on, as happened in Germany after World War II. Unfortunately, despite a wealth of corroborative evidence that around 7,000 prisoners were systematically executed, there are still many people who deny the basic facts of what happened at Srebrenica. As I showed in a previous post, this denial industry is being financed in part by the highest authorities of the Bosnian Serb statelet known as Republika Srpska.
To read the full blog post on Foreign Policy, click here.