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Lessons to Learn on Srebrenica Anniversary

A woman cries beside a truck carrying 136 coffins of newly identified victims of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, in front of the presidential building in Sarajevo July 9, 2015. The bodies will be on July 11, the anniversary of the massacre. (REUTERS/Dado Ruvic)
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This Saturday, Bosnia will mark the 20th anniversary of the worst mass killing in Europe since World War Two. It is known as the massacre of Srebrenica. During an 11-day period in July 1995, around 8,000 Muslim men and boys were murdered during the Bosnian war.

Today families of the victims still feel the pain. But some experts say the events of 20 years ago should make nations work harder at preventing future conflicts.

For those who lost husbands and sons 20 years ago during the Srebrenica massacre, the wounds are still fresh.

Not long ago, medical examiners identified the remains of 136 victims. During ceremonies on Saturday, those remains will finally be laid to rest.

One woman lost her husband and both sons at Srebrenica. “We have been sentenced without a trial,” she says. “Our children were sentenced to death and expulsion, and we survivors were sentenced to stay living in hell.”

During the Bosnian war, the United Nations declared the town of Srenbrenica a “safe area” and under UN protection. Twenty years ago, Serbian General Ratko Mladic and his troops raided the area while Dutch peacekeeping forces were on guard. Thousands of Bosnian men and boys were killed.

Stephen Rapp is the United States’ Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues. He says the international community must take greater steps to intervene to help reduce ethnic tensions in Bosnia and other places. He spoke recently at a conference in Washington.

“I think part of what we need to work for is for greater integration within the region, both within Europe and internally, recognizing the common interests of people in Bosnia for a prosperous future and a future where people can live together whatever their ethnicity, whatever religion they follow.”

Tanya Domi is a professor at Columbia University in New York. She says a lasting result of the war in Bosnia is its troubled economy.

The World Bank reports that formal unemployment is 40 percent, she says. With the addition of Bosnian young people, the number is almost 60 percent. She says conditions like these are not good for Bosnia’s citizens and people have started leaving the country.

The International Criminal Court at The Hague approved orders for the arrest of Ratko Mladic on war crimes charges. The court also announced charges against former Bosnian Serb President Radovan Karadzic and former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic.

Mr. Milosevic died in prison in 2006. Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic are still facing war crimes charges. The court found three others, including two Bosnian Serbs, guilty of genocide.

Ambassador Rapp says that even if justice is slow in coming for the crimes of Srebrenica, it will come. In his words, “The day will come when persons who target the innocent, who attempt to destroy whole groups, on whatever motivation, that those people will face justice. And I think that out of Srebrenica the world has gained powerful lessons that all of us need to implement every day.”

Even in the face of those lessons, there are still people who still deny the act of mass killing. On Wednesday, Russia vetoed a proposed UN resolution in the Security Council. The resolution would have condemned the massacre in Srebrenica as genocide.

I’m Jim Tedder.

VOA’s Robert Raffaele reported on this story. Triwik Kurniasari adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


Words in This Story

massacren. the killing of many people

expulsion n. the act of forcing someone to leave a place

integration n. bringing different kinds of groups together

prosperous adj. successful in economy; profitable

implement v. to make something happen; to carry out