Tag Archives: genocide

In Srebrenica, digging for the dead and fighting denial 20 years later

A woman cries near coffin of her relatives who were victims of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, at the Memorial Centre in Potocari, Bosnia and Herzegovina July 10, 2015.  REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

A woman cries near coffin of her relatives who were victims of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, at the Memorial Centre in Potocari, Bosnia and Herzegovina July 10, 2015. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

By Daria Sito-Sucic and Maja Zuvela, Reuters
July, 2015

POTOCARI, Bosnia (Reuters) – Tens of thousands of people will gather at a cemetery near Srebrenica in Bosnia on July 11 to mark the 20th anniversary of Europe’s worst atrocity since World War Two, still tortured by voices of denial and a seemingly endless search for the dead.

Abandoned by their U.N. protectors toward the end of a 1992-95 war, 8,000 Muslim men and boys were executed by Bosnian Serb forces over five July days, their bodies dumped in pits then dug up months later and scattered in smaller graves in a systematic effort to conceal the crime.

More than 1,000 victims have yet to be found.

The bones of 136 newly identified victims will be interred beneath marble gravestones in the Potocari memorial cemetery in eastern Bosnia, in what has become annual ritual as the graves are discovered.

A U.N. court has ruled the massacre was genocide. Many Serbs dispute the term, the death toll and the official account of what went on – reflecting conflicting narratives of the Yugoslav wars that still feed political divisions and stifle progress toward integration with Western Europe.

Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik last month described Srebrenica as “the greatest deception of the 20th century”.

Serbia, which backed Bosnian Serb forces with men and money, is sending Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, fresh from enlisting ally Russia to veto a U.N. resolution last week that would have condemned the denial of Srebrenica as genocide.

A former disciple of the “Greater Serbia” ideology that fuelled much of the bloodshed of Yugoslavia’s demise, Vucic has rebranded himself as pro-Western, embracing Serbia’s ambitions of joining the European Union, which depend partly on the pursuit of regional reconciliation.

 

SAFE HAVEN

Russia called on July 10 for all people responsible for the massacre to be brought to justice.

“You cannot build reconciliation on the denial of genocide,” said Samantha Power, Washington’s ambassador to the United Nations who was a 24-year-old journalist in Bosnia at the time.

“It is important that he (Vucic) goes there and that he sees for himself the results and the destruction caused by the genocide in Srebrenica,” Power was quoted as saying on Thursday by the Bosnian daily Dnevni Avaz.

Bill Clinton, who was U.S. president at the time, is among those due to attend.

In Washington, President Barack Obama said the United States would mourn the loss of the victims of what he also called a genocide.

“On July 11, we join people of all faiths and nationalities in commemorating the Srebrenica genocide,” Obama said in a statement on Friday night. “Only by fully acknowledging the past can we achieve a future of true and lasting reconciliation.”

Ever since the massacre, the West has faced questions over how it allowed the fall of Srebrenica, a designated U.N. “safe haven” for Muslims Bosniaks displaced by the war.

Months later, NATO air strikes forced the Serbs to the negotiating table. A U.S.-brokered peace treaty ended the fighting and enshrined in Bosnia a complicated and unwieldy system of ethnic power-sharing that survives today.

The accused chief architects of the massacre – Bosnian Serb wartime political leader Radovan Karadzic and military commander Ratko Mladic – remain on trial at a U.N. court in The Hague, protesting their innocence.

“One cannot describe with words how I feel today,” said Zijada Hajdarevic as she escorted the remains of her brother on Thursday from the morgue to the cemetery, where her grandfather and other close relatives are all buried.

“We knew he was gone, but it will be easier now we know where we can visit his grave,” said Hajdarevic, who is still searching for her father.

Copyright Reuters 2015

(Additional reporting and writing by Matt Robinson; Editing by Alison Williams and Lisa Shumaker)

 

 

 

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Rwanda revisited 20 years later.

FAO-RWANDA-church-LOCKE

Ntarama, Rwanda. By Greg Locke © 1995
…click to enlarge

I could say it seems like just last year, but it’s been twenty years this month that the first journalists headed into Rwanda, on news that a mass slaughter of one ethnic group by another was taking place. A civil war turned genocidal and an estimated 800,000 would die in just 100 days in the small central Africa country. The mass killing ended when Paul Kagame’s forces swept in from neighbouring Uganda and took control of the country, but the ongoing conflict carried on across the border in eastern Congo, and continues to this day with various factions and proxy militias.

 

Associated Press photographers  Jean-Marc Bouju and David Guttenfelder relive their time in Rwanda in Revisiting the Rwandan Genocide: Origin Stories From The Associated Press, by Pamela Chen on the National Geographic website.

Bouju’s quote rang true for me and I’d guess everyone who has covered conflict, war and continuous refugee crisis.

 

“What I saw was a vision of hell,” Bouju describes, “A particular hell where you have daily life going on, people shopping, but meanwhile other people are butchering each other right there in the same street. The nonchalance of death was astonishing. And I cannot get that out of my mind. To this day, I don’t understand it. But I left a little bit of my soul there somewhere.” …Jean-Mac Bouju

 

The nonchalance of death is striking. But maybe only to those from the west, where life is supposed to be so precious and sacred, with urban violence only occasionally spilling over into middle and upper class suburbs. One thing for sure, it proved to me that the banality of evil is true. A year later, as I stood among the bones of thousands who died in the little church in Ntarama, Rwanda after a day-long orgy of murder, I could not help but think of the methodical and bureaucratic order of the slaughter. When the killers grew tired of using their machetes they herded everyone inside, and fired rocket propelled grenades into the church. The casualness of how one human being or group can dismiss, objectify, demonize and kill another is frightening and the lesson does not always have to be from a civil war in a far-off developing country.

— Greg Locke

Under a Malaria Moon is Greg Locke’s photo-essay, with field notes, from nearly a decade in Africa. (Subscription required)

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