Thousands have gathered in Bosnia for the funeral of 409 newly identified victims of the 1995 Srebrenica genocide on the 18th anniversary of the atrocity in which about 8,000 Muslims were slaughtered.
Among the victims are 43 teenage boys and a baby that was born during the ordeal. They were laid to rest on Thursday at a special cemetery near Srebrenica where victims are buried as their remains are gradually found in mass graves around the country.
As delegations arrived to lay a wreath at the Srebrenica memorial, families of the victims were paying their last respects at the coffins displayed in the cemetery of Potocari, outside Srebrenica.
“This year we are going to bury the youngest victim of the genocide, the Muhic family’s baby,” Kenan Karavdic, the official in charge of the burial ceremony, said.
The baby girl died shortly after birth in July 1995 at the UN base in Potocari. She was buried next to the grave of her father Hajrudin, also a victim of the genocide.
Srebrenica was a former UN “safe haven” that fell to Bosnian-Serb forces under wartime commander Ratko Mladic. The victims were rounded up, executed and bulldozed into pits over five days in July 1995.
This year’s commemorations bring the total of identified victims to 6,066. Another 2,306 remain missing a decade after Bosnia began the process of identifying victims of the genocide through DNA testing.
Their remains were found in more than 300 mass graves in the area, according to Amor Masovic, head of Bosnia’s Institute for Missing Persons. But officials say that many bodies are still unidentified.
Columns of wooden coffins, covered with green cloth, lined the hall at the memorial centre, where relatives have spent the last few days walking among them to find their loved ones.
About 100,000 people were killed during Bosnia’s 1992-95 war, when Mladic’s forces seized vast tracts of land and drove out non-Serbs. Fighting between Serb, Croat and Muslim forces tore the country apart.
The discovery of more bodies brings to fore the magnitude of the crime committed in Bosnia as judges at the United Nations’ Yugoslav war crimes tribunal in The Netherlands have reinstated a genocide charge against Radovan Karadzic linked to a campaign of killing and mistreating non-Serbs during Bosnia’s bloody war.
The decision on Thursday reversed the former Bosnian Serb leader’s acquittal last year on one of the two genocide charges he faces.