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Srebrenica: A massacre remembered

Srebrenica: A massacre remembered

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During the Bosnian War, on 11 July 1995 Bosnian Serb forces attacked UN-designated "safe haven" Srebrenica and systematically executed more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys in a chilling act of genocide

Touseful Islam

Publisted at 10:39 AM, Thu Jul 11th, 2024

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As the Bosnian War waged on, 11 July 1995 witnessed a horrific descent into barbarity in the heart of Europe since World War II. 

Overrun by Bosnian Serb forces under the command of General Ratko Mladić, acting on the orders of Radovan Karadžić, more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were systematically executed in a chilling act of genocide. 

Srebrenica, designated a UN "safe haven" for Bosnian Muslims during the Bosnian War, became a stage for a genocide that continues to cast a long shadow. 

Dutch UN peacekeepers, woefully undermanned and ill-equipped, were powerless to resist the Serb advance. 

Thousands of desperate civilians sought refuge at the UN compound, clinging to the threadbare hope of protection. 

Mladić, a figure of monstrous charisma, strolled into Srebrenica, his televised pronouncements dripping with venomous triumphalism. 

The promise of safety evaporated as Serb forces separated men and boys from women and girls.

The days that followed were a harrowing testament to man's capacity for cruelty. 

Men were herded like cattle, subjected to mock executions, and ultimately murdered in cold blood. Mass graves became the chilling signature of this atrocity. 

The international community, plagued by indecision and political manoeuvring, failed to act with the necessary force. Srebrenica became a byword for the impotence of peacekeeping in the face of overwhelming evil.

Prelude to pogrom

The Bosnian War was marked by ethnic strife and brutal violence, which set the stage for the massacre.

As the war raged from 1992 to 1995, Srebrenica, a small town in eastern Bosnia, was declared a “safe haven” by the United Nations in 1993.

This designation was intended to provide refuge for civilians amidst the chaos.

However, the town was inadequately protected by the lightly armed Dutch peacekeeping forces, leaving it vulnerable to the advancing Bosnian Serb army.

In early July 1995, the Bosnian Serb forces, commanded by Mladić, launched a fierce offensive against Srebrenica.

Despite desperate pleas for reinforcements and air support, the UN forces were overwhelmed.

On July 11, 1995, Srebrenica fell. What followed was a meticulously planned and executed massacre.

Monsters fell upon men

Separated from women and children, the men and boys of Srebrenica were taken to various locations in the surrounding areas.

Over the next several days, they were systematically executed and buried in mass graves.

Survivors recount harrowing tales of deception, brutality, and terror.

The exact number of victims remains disputed, but it is widely accepted that over 8,000 men and boys were killed.

Radovan Karadžić, the political leader of the Bosnian Serbs, played a pivotal role in orchestrating the genocide.

His vision of a Greater Serbia involved the ethnic cleansing of non-Serbs from Bosnian territory.

The fall of Srebrenica and the subsequent massacre were integral parts of this ruthless strategy. Karadžić's directives ensured that the operation was carried out with chilling efficiency.

A tepid international response

The international community was slow to respond to the unfolding tragedy.

Reports of the massacre trickled out, met with disbelief and horror.

It was only later, through the diligent work of journalists, survivors, and human rights organisations, that the full scale of the atrocity was revealed.

The Srebrenica massacre galvanised global efforts to address war crimes and led to the establishment of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

In the years following the massacre, several key figures were brought to justice.

Karadžić was arrested in 2008 and, in 2016, was convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity, receiving a 40-year prison sentence.

Mladić, captured in 2011, was also convicted of similar charges in 2017. These trials marked significant milestones in international justice, affirming that such heinous crimes would not go unpunished.

Shadow of Srebrenica

The massacre serves as a stark reminder of the depths of human cruelty and the dire consequences of ethnic hatred.

Survivors and families of the victims continue to seek closure and recognition.

Memorials and commemorations ensure that the world does not forget the atrocities of Srebrenica.

Srebrenica massacre remains a haunting chapter in modern history, a testament to the devastating effects of unchecked aggression and ethnic division.

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