Srebrenica, an open wound

The massacre of 10 thousand Muslim Bosnians is commemorated July 11. A dark page in European history. The testimony of Msgr. Topic

In the memorial cemetery of Potocari are buried over 6 thousand people, all Muslim Bosnians except for one: Hren (Aleksandar) Rudolf, as recites the marble stele with a cross in memory of this youth who stood to defend Srebrenica from the aggression of his Serbian-Bosnian compatriots. Hren, Serbian Catholic, migrated to Srebenica for employment purposes with his brother (killed at the outbreak of the siege), stayed on to fight with his Muslim fellow citizens with whom he had lived side by side until then. The family agreed to the interment of the remains in the Potocari cemetery, to remember his sacrifice along with that of other innocent civilians. This story that once again debunks the theories of those who believe that the Srebrenica genocide and the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina sparked off on ethnic and religious grounds. Probably Aleksandar Rudolf Hren was killed between 11 and 16 July 1995 when in the heart of Europe was perpetrated the first genocide in history since the Second World War. Never forget. Next Saturday, July 11, in the memorial cemetery of Potocari a ceremony will take place in memory of the victims, marking 20 years since that massacre. Tens of thousands of people including family members, citizens, heads of government and State, international leaders, will attend the event. Monsignor Franjo Topic, university teacher, president of Napredak, cultural association that during the conflict distributed 400 thousand meals to the population of Sarajevo under siege, confirmed his participation. Msgr. Topic has always been appreciated for his openness to dialogue also by the Bosnians of Muslim faith, who wanted him as mayor of the city. “What happened in Srebrenica 20 years ago is a lesson we should learn from – Monsignor Topic said to SIR Europe -. The celebrations are an occasion to remember a tragic event whose burdensome consequences are felt still today. It’s important to remember and it’s also important to bear in mind that those who don’t respect the dead don’t respect the living. This memory should have a positive aspect, not to renew or open new wounds but to heal especially those of the mothers and the women who lost their dear ones”. The facts. In Srebrenica, Muslim enclave in Serb-Orthodox majority territory, in July 1995 more than 10 thousand Bosnian Muslims (12 to 75 years) were killed and their corpses placed in mass graves and in the forest nearby, surrounded by the Bosnian Serb army commanded by Ratko Mladic and by Serbian paramilitaries. The international community failed to provide adequate protection to civilians despite Srebrenica had been declared a “protected area” with the UN resolution 819 of April 1993. In July 11 1995 the men decided to flee across the woods to reach the free area of Tuzla. It was a march of death, which only a few of them survived. Again, a column of about 25 thousand displaced people (women, children, wounded) fled towards the Dutch base at Potocari. The UN troops under the command of Colonel Tom Karremans opened the doors of their compound but only 5 thousand found refuge. The others camped nearby at the mercy of the Serbian soldiers and paramilitaries. They were the victims of raids, rapes, and mass executions. The same fate befell also the 5 thousand sheltered in the compound. The situation is still tense. Many crimes go unpunished and it is not uncommon to see the executioners hold public office. The political responsibility for failing to protect the population adds to that in terms of war reparations. Little has been done to bring to justice the criminals. “Srebrenica is still an open wound because justice has not been done completely – Topic said -. In his recent trip to Sarajevo the Pope said, “peace is the fruit of justice”. Justice also means to have a State that works and is no longer divided on ethnic grounds. “The situation in Srebrenica is difficult because the Dayton peace agreements are not good. How can the wounds be healed with this structure? The two parts that make up Bosnia-Herzegovina seem to be independent States. There is no nation-State. I know there are no ideal governments, but Dayton has created something that isn’t normal. And the right things cannot be done without the right foundations”. Real risk of division in the Country. “The leader of the Republic Srpska, Milorad Dodik, said he doesn’t recognize what happened in Srebrenica and recently spoke against Britain’s Resolution in memory of the victims of the UN genocide. He also renewed his appeal for a referendum in support of secession. It would be important for the UN High Commissioner to retain his post and exercise his powers to change our Constitution, since in his current dispositions, it doesn’t work”.

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