Bosnian Serbs admit massacre of 8,000 Muslims - nine years on

Posted in Europe | 13-Jun-04 | Author: Samir Krilic| Source: The Independent

Coffins of 600 Bosnian Muslims in a factory before burial near Srebrenica in March 2003.

Bosnian Serb officials have acknowledged, for the first time, that their security forces carried out the massacre of up to 8,000 Muslims at Srebrenica, according to the findings of an investigative report.

Until now they had refused publicly to recognise their responsibility for the 1995 massacre, the largest of civilians on European soil since the Second World War.

"This is a step forward and this work can serve as an example for establishing the truth throughout Bosnia," said Goran Radivojac, a Bosnian Serb government spokesman. "The report obviously shows that individuals breached human rights, and they will be punished."

At the height of the war, Serb troops overran a UN-declared safe zone in Srebrenica and slaughtered up to 8,000 Muslim men and boys in what the UN war crimes tribunal has declared an act of genocide. The report, by an official commission examining the massacre, "established participation of (Bosnian Serb) military and police units, including special (police) units" in the deaths, according to Vedran Persic, the spokesman for Lord Ashdown, Bosnia's international administrator. He said it makes it clear that the operation "had three planned phases: the attack on Srebrenica, the separation of women and children, and the execution of males."

Lord Ashdown formed the Srebrenica Commission last year to investigate who was involved in the massacre and where victims' bodies are buried.

The commission's president, Milan Bogdanic, has said he hoped the report will "have a historic impact". "It is finally time that we face ourselves," he said.

The report shows that the perpetrators "undertook measures to cover up the crime by moving the bodies" to other locations. UN experts have found the remains of about 5,000 of the Srebrenica victims in mass graves across eastern Bosnia, and more bodies are discovered every month. The fate of the others is still unknown. Nearly 1,200 Srebrenica victims have been identified through DNA analysis.

"The Serbs ... have to be prepared now to accept the truth and acknowledge that they have committed these crimes," said Hatidza Mehmedovic, who heads the "Srebrenica Mothers" group. She has called on the commission to name the perpetrators of the attack. "We want to know who committed the crime, who ordered it, who killed who and who transported, hid and buried the bodies," she said.