Thousands demonstrate in Bosnia in memory of the Srebrenica massacre

NEZUK, Bosnia and Herzegovina (AP) — Thousands of people joined a peace march Friday through the forests of eastern Bosnia in memory of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, the only recognized genocide in Europe since the Second World War.

The 100-kilometre (60-mile) march traces a route taken by men and boys of the Bosnian ethnic group, made up mainly of Muslims, as they attempted to flee Srebrenica after it was captured by Bosnian Serb forces in recent days . of the country’s inter-ethnic war in the 1990s.

“I came here with my two sons and 50 other people from my hometown to pay respect to the victims, to remember their fate,” said Ademir Mesic from the town of Bosanska Krupa in northwestern Bosnia. .

“At certain times, in certain places where we passed, I felt my skin slipping,” said Mirce Malic from the northeastern city of Tuzla. “It’s hard to think about what the victims (of the massacre) went through, walking here and not knowing what awaits them around the corner.”

In July 1995, at least 8,000 Bosnian men were separated by Serb troops from their wives, mothers and sisters, driven through the woods around Srebrenica and killed by these forces.

Bosnian Serb soldiers threw the bodies of the victims into numerous mass graves scattered around the eastern town in an attempt to hide evidence of the crime.

Newly identified victims are reburied each year on July 11 – the anniversary of the day the massacre began in 1995 – in the sprawling, expanding memorial cemetery outside Srebrenica.

So far, the remains of more than 6,600 people have been recovered and buried at the cemetery. The remains of 50 other victims, recently found in mass graves and identified by DNA analysis, will be buried there on Monday. On Friday, people lined the main street of Sarajevo as a huge truck passed by carrying their coffins en route to Srebrenica.

The truck stopped in front of the Bosnian presidency where people paying their respects slipped flowers into its canvas. Among them was Fatima Aljic, whose son, husband and brother were killed in the massacre. Aljic is still looking for their remains.

“Every year I come to say goodbye to the victims and it’s difficult – it’s very hard,” Aljic said before tearing up. “It would be hard even to witness what happened to us to someone else, let alone experience it yourself.”

The Srebrenica killings were the bloody crescendo of the war in Bosnia, which took place after the breakup of Yugoslavia sparked nationalist passions and territorial ambitions that pitted Bosnian Serbs against the other two main ethnic factions of the countries, Croats and Bosnians.

The massacre has been declared a genocide by international and domestic courts, but Serb leaders in Bosnia and neighboring Serbia continue to downplay or even deny it despite overwhelming evidence of what happened.

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