Bosnia Remembers Srebrenica, With Masterminds On Trial


Bosnia remembers the Srebrenica massacre on Wednesday with the two alleged masterminds, Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic, finally on trial.

But for many of the survivors and relatives of the thousands of victims of the mass killings -- Europe's worst single atrocity since World War II -- the pursuit of justice is just too little, too late.

Muniba Cakar's husband is among the 520 victims to be buried at a special memorial center in Potocari near Srebrenica on the 17th anniversary of the fall of the town to Bosnian Serb forces on July 11, 1995.

His remains will join those of 5,137 victims already laid to rest in the vast cemetery.

"It hurts me to watch broadcasts of the trials... it does not comfort me. (Karadzic and Mladic) plead not guilty, they say this was not genocide," the 63-year-old told Agence France Presse.


"It should be enough to come here and see the thousands of graves. If that is not proof, we should drop everything," Cakar said bitterly.

The trial of Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb army commander who led the attack on Srebrenica, restarted in The Hague this week with the first witnesses, a little over a year since his arrest in Serbia.

Bosnian Serb wartime political leader Radovan Karadzic is also being tried at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), and due to start presenting his defense case in October.

Both men face genocide charges for masterminding the massacre of close to 8,000 Muslim men and boys from the eastern Bosnian town over the course of a few days. They have pleaded not guilty.

For 30-year-old Mujo Salihovic, who lost his father and two brothers in Srebrenica, the trials in The Hague come too late.

"Justice could have been done if Karadzic and Mladic were convicted right after the (1992-95) war," he said. "This can hardly be called justice."

Many victims fear the trials will be so drawn out that the men in the dock will be dead before the cases conclude.

"They will drag the trials out for years. In the end, those two savages will die, like Slobodan Milosevic", the Serb strongman who perished in a U.N. cell in 2006 while on trial before the ICTY.

Some 30,000 people are expected to attend the ceremony in Potocari.

On Tuesday 7,000 people arrived in Srebrenica after a march retracing the steps of the over 10,000 men who tried to flee through the woods to Muslim-held territory after the fall of the enclave.

Mirsad Sinanovic, 42, fell to his knees between two freshly dug graves where his brothers, recently found in mass graves, will be buried Wednesday.

"I marched for them and for all those who were killed in the massacre," he said.

Seventeen years after the massacre, which has been deemed a genocide by two international courts, the remains of 6,800 Srebrenica victims have been identified, but the search continues.

The Bosnian Serbs went to great lengths to hide the scale of the killings and went back months later to dig up bodies from mass graves and dump them in at least 28 so-called secondary grave sites.

The excavations continue to this day.

Not all identified remains have been buried as some families are waiting to lay to rest their relatives together.

Others, whose loved ones were identified on the basis of just a few bones, hope that more remains will be recovered for burial.

The people who can bury their dead are the envy of those still waiting for a phone call from Bosnia's Institute for Missing Persons that confirms that their husbands, sons, fathers or brothers have been found.

"If only I could find a single bone from my son to bury, to finally have a place for his grave, to put an end to this nightmare," Suhra Ahmetovic, 60, told AFP.

"I live from day to day, waiting for that phone call," she said, clutching a blue t-shirt that belonged to her son Semir who was 17 when she last saw him in Srebrenica.

"I can still smell his child's scent, the smell of his soul," she murmured in tears.

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