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Srebrenica mother pleas for dignity for victims' remains

10 July 2015


Supplicant: Munira Subašic speaks at the service in Westminster Abbey, on Monday, to mark the 20th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide

Supplicant: Munira Subašic speaks at the service in Westminster Abbey, on Monday, to mark the 20th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide

A MOTHER, Munira Subašić, who lost 22 members of her family during the genocide in Srebrenica, made a plea for help "to find the bones of our children", at Westminster Abbey on Monday.

Ms Subašić buried the remains of her youngest son — two small bones — last year. At a memorial to mark the 20th anniversary of the first act of genocide in Europe since the Second World War, she called for justice. "Our children were systematically murdered 20 years ago, but we still cannot bury them with dignity," she said. "Help us find the bones of our children."

A bidding prayer by the Dean of Westminster, the Very Revd John Hall, spoke of looking for signs of hope, forgiveness, and reconciliation.

But Lord Ashdown, who became International High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina after lobbying for military intervention in Yugoslavia in the 1990s, and who spoke at the service, said: "Nothing can diminish the culpability of those who perpetrated this genocide. But, in condemning this evil, it is also right to acknowledge our passive complicity, as members of the international community, for what happened.

"We could have prevented this horror. We chose not to act, whether through error, misjudgement, an inability to comprehend, or just inattention. We stood aside when we should not have done."

The President of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bakir Izetbegović, praised the UK for "leading the way" in the commemoration of the genocide. The Prime Minister has announced an extra £1.2 million for the charity Remembering Srebrenica, which has organised more than 250 local memorial events since 2013.

Mr Izetbegović also praised a UN Security Council resolution, sponsored by the UK, which states that "Acceptance of the tragic events at Srebrenica as genocide is a prerequisite for reconciliation." The Bosnian Serb leader, Milorad Dodik, has accused the UK of making "false declarations . . . that a genocide was committed against Muslims".

The measure failed to pass after the Russian Federation voted against it. The UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said on Tuesday that prevention of genocide had become "an imperative" but that peacekeepers still faced obstacles including “paralysing divisions among member states and a lack of political and material support".

While the "overwhelming majority" in Bosnia sought peace, reconciliation was difficult, Mr Izetbegović said, because of the remnants of the ideology that led to the genocide, and the immunity enjoyed by perpetrators.

"Remembrance must not be the handmaiden of revenge or despair, but the spur to justice, reconciliation and hope," the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Greg Clark, said.

In his address he paid tribute to the work of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, which has has convicted 14 individuals for crimes committed in Srebrenica.

Joining the EU would be the best way for Bosnia to achieve "lasting prosperity and stability", he said.

Mr Izetbegović warned that the international community had "chosen to repeat the policies that failed in Bosnia", by failing to stop the slaughter of civilians. "Why do we have to learn the lessons again?"

A book by the French journalist Florence Hartmann, The Srebrenica Affair: The blood of realpolitik (Don Quichotte), was published this week. It contains new findings about the failure of the UK and the United States to protect the residents of Srebrenica.

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