This week marks the tenth anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia. In July 1995, nearly eight-thousand unarmed Muslim men and boys were slaughtered by Serb forces in Srebrenica -- the worst atrocity in Europe since six-million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust in the Second World War.
After the breakup of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, war broke out in the region. During that time, Bosnian Serbs took control of most of eastern Bosnia and conducted a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Bosnian Muslims. Elvir Mujic was seventeen at the time of the massacre in Srebrenica:
"Obviously in Serbs' minds those forces that have entered Srebrenica, I believe their intention was to ethnically clear the city. Nobody else can live in that city but Serbs. Which before was seventy-five percent in that city were Bosniaks [Bosnian Muslims] religious Muslims."
In a statement, President George W. Bush said the U.S. applauds "the strength and courage of those who have returned to Srebrenica to rebuild their lives. We also remain committed to ensuring that those responsible for these crimes face justice.”
The two men most responsible for the Srebrenica massacre, former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and his military commander Ratko Mladic, are still at large. The U.S. has made it clear that it will not support Serbia and Montenegro's aspirations to join NATO's Partnership for Peace until Mr. Mladic is handed over to the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague.
As the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues, Pierre-Richard Prosper said, “There can be no mistake. These men are not heroes and do not represent the interests of [Bosnia]. They are stealing [Bosnia’s] future. The elected leaders of the region must find the courage to act firmly, aggressively and overtly to apprehend them, or convince them to turn themselves in.” For their part, the Bosnian Serbs will not be able to put the past behind them until they find and extradite Mr. Karadzic to The Hague.
Many observers say that the real work of reconciliation in Srebrenica has yet to begin. Perhaps that process will start with the thousands of people who gathered this week to pay their respects to the Muslim victims of the massacre. Bodies of Muslims discovered in mass graves were laid to rest at a memorial cemetery on the outskirts of Srebrenica. In the words of U.S. Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns, "the Balkans cannot return to normality until the stain of Srebrenica is wiped away."
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.