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Memorial held for Srebrenica

26 July 2013


Sharing his story: a speaker at the Srebrenica Memorial Day on 11 July

Sharing his story: a speaker at the Srebrenica Memorial Day on 11 July

ON 11 JULY 1995, Hasan Nuhanović's parents and brother arrived at the UN military base in Potocari, a village outside Srebrenica, where he was working as a translator. They were fleeing the shelling of Srebrenica, a supposed UN "safe area", by the Bosnian Serb Army of Republika Srpska.

Instead of providing sanctuary, however, the Dutch peace-keepers expelled them. Mr Nuhanović found the remains of his mother and brother 15 years after their deaths; the body of his father was discovered in a mass grave.

Earlier this month, on 11 July, Mr Nuhanović, an author, addressed the Srebrenica genocide memorial event held at Lancaster House, in London - the first time Srebrenica Memorial Day has been commemorated outside the former Yugoslavia.

The Foreign Secretary, William Hague, led the tributes: "This must be the lasting tribute to Srebrenica and its victims. . . Let us honour their memory, and reaffirm the conviction that this, one of the starkest and most tragic chapters in human history, and most certainly European history, must never be forgotten."

The Srebrenica massacre, during which more than 8000 Bosnian Muslims were killed, was described by the former UN secretary-general, Kofi Annan, as the worst crime on European soil since the Second World War. In 1999, he acknowledged that the UN had made "serious errors of judgement, rooted in a philosophy of impartiality and non-violence", and concluded that "the tragedy of Srebrenica will haunt our history forever."

In 2004, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, located in The Hague, ruled that the massacre constituted genocide.

Mr Nuhanović has since brought a civil case against the Dutch state at The Hague. In July, the Court of Appeal ruled that the State of the Netherlands had acted unlawfully, and was liable for evicting Bosnian nationals. The State of the Netherlands has appealed against this decision.

On Friday, Mr Nuhanović expressed gratitude for the memorial in London, but said: "It is my duty, my obligation as survivor, to point my finger once again at the UK, at some of the errors that the UK officials made . . . during the critical days of July 1995.

"I wanted to remind the people in the UK about the fact that when the town of Srebrenica was being attacked, and while people were being murdered, the commander of all UN peacekeepers in Bosnia and Herzegovina was the UK General, Rupert Smith. We will not forget that. We do not think as survivors that he did his job properly."

Bringing those responsible for the massacre to justice was "the most important thing", in addition to the identification and reburial of those killed, he said.

"There is a certain aspect, definitely, where some sort of collective responsibility should be formulated, something similar to the Holocaust. That kind of thing never happened."

Asked whether the UN had learned lessons from Srebrenica, he said: "When I speak to some UN people, right now, some of them do not even know the Srebrenica word. So there is no institutional memory in the UN, and that is really, really scary."

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