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UN Rights Chief Criticizes Bosnian Serb Rejection of Report on 1995 Massacre

A woman visits a grave of her family members in the memorial center Potocari near Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina, after the court proceedings of former Bosnian Serb general Ratko Mladic, Nov. 22, 2017.
UN Rights Chief Criticizes Bosnian Serb Rejection of Report on 1995 Massacre
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The parliament of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s self-governing Serb Republic has voted to reject a 2004 report on the Srebrenica massacre.

The United Nations human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein has publicly criticized the decision. He said it will likely harm efforts to improve relations between Serbians in Bosnia and Muslim Bosnians, or Bosniaks.

The two groups fought a war against each other that lasted from 1992 to 1995. The war divided the country into two ethnically-based regions, the Serb Republic and the Bosniak-Croat Federation.

Relations between the two regions have been tense since the war ended. This tension has created barriers to Bosnia and Herzegovina joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union.

Ravina Shamdasani is a representative for the U.N. human rights office. On Friday she announced the chief’s warning that rejecting the Srebrenica report would only create greater division in the country ahead of its general election in October.

The report describes the events in the weeks after the Bosnian Serbs captured the formerly U.N.-protected town of Srebrenica in July 1995. The report found that the Serbs killed as many as 8,000 Muslim Bosniaks during that time.

Two war crimes courts, The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and the International Court of Justice, ruled that the killings qualified as genocide. But Serbs in Bosnia and neighboring Serbia reject the rulings.

The Serb Republic’s parliament had accepted the findings after the report was released in 2004. But members of the governing body voted to revoke that earlier decision on Tuesday. An official rejection of the report is expected in the coming days.

Serb Republic President Milorad Dodik helped start the move in parliament to reject the report. Some experts say it is the latest issue Serb ruling parties have used to gain support among voters before elections on October 7.

Ravina Shamdasani said that Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein is asking the Serb Republic to reconsider its decision.

“The High Commissioner fears that tensions, divisions and mistrust already perpetuated by some public and political officials and media organizations in Bosnia could be aggravated by this decision,” she said.

On Wednesday, the United States Department of State called the vote “a step in the wrong direction.”

I’m Pete Musto.

The Reuters news service reported this story. Pete Musto adapted it for VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter was the editor.

We want to hear from you. What effect do you think the lawmakers’ decision will have? Write to us in the Comments Section or on our Facebook page.


Words in This Story

massacren. the violent killing of many people

region(s) – n. a part of a country or of the world that is different or separate from other parts in some way

qualified asv. had all the necessary qualities to be thought of or described in a particular way

revokev. to officially cancel the power or effect of something

perpetuate(d) – v. to cause something that should be stopped, such as a mistaken idea or a bad situation, to continue

aggravate(d) – v. to make an injury or problem more serious or severe