Serbs not ready to face the truth, says Bosnia’s president

Serbs are not facing the truth about the Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia that left over 8 000 Muslims dead, Bakir Izetbegovic, the Muslim member of Bosnia’s presidency, said on Sunday.

“The Serb people are not ready to face the truth because they have not yet had any cathartic moments,” Izetbegovic said in Srebrenica on the eve of a commemoration service on the 16th anniversary of the killings.

Bosnian Serb troops killed almost 8 000 Muslim men and boys from Srebrenica in the days after they overran the United Nations protected enclave on July 11 1995.

The massacre is the worst single atrocity on European soil since World War II and the only episode of the 1992-1995 Bosnian war that international courts have called a genocide.

Tens of thousands of people are expected at the remembrance ceremony on Monday when the remains of 613 people will be buried in the vast cemetery at Potocari near Srebrenica joining 4 524 massacre victims already laid to rest there.

‘Still celebrated as heroes’
Izetbegovic, whose father Alija was Bosnia’s wartime Muslim leader, told Agence France-Presse that the wartime Bosnian Serb leaders Radovan Karadzic and his military chief Ratko Mladic as well as late Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic — widely seen as the architects of the Bosnian war — were still “celebrated as heroes” by a large number of Serbs.

“Time is needed for these things to heal and to find their place,” he explained.

“It takes too long for things to improve. We still face provocations from people who consider Ratko Mladic a hero,” he said.

Mladic was arrested in Serbia in late May after 16 years on the run. Izetbegovic said his arrest was “a small step towards justice [but] insufficient and too late”.

“Hundreds of other direct perpetrators are still at large,” he said.

In Serbia, President Boris Tadic paid his respects to the Srebrenica victims in comments to the Beta news agency.

“Tomorrow [Monday] is the anniversary of the horrible crime in Srebrenica. It is a day when we turn our attention and respect towards the innocent victims in Srebrenica and think of the other victims” of the 1992-95 war in Bosnia, Tadic said.

He stressed that all those suspected of war crimes should be caught so that “the guilt can be removed” from the peoples or ethnic groups and the inhabitants of the republics that made up the former Yugoslavia can live together.

Tadic attended the special commemoration service at the memorial centre and cemetery in Potocari near Srebrenica in Bosnia in 2005 and 2010 but this year no Serbian official has yet confirmed he would attend the ceremony on Monday.

Serbian authorities arrested Mladic after immense international and European Union pressure. He is now in custody of the UN war crimes court in The Hague awaiting trial on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Karadzic, arrested in Serbia in 2008, is already on trial on similar charges. – AFP

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