Muslim Survivors Mark Massacre
SREBRENICA, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ Amid tight security, thousands of Bosnian Muslims who survived one of the worst massacres in recent history tearfully returned to the scene Wednesday to remember the slaughter of up to 8,000 of their loved ones.
Survivors gathered for the unveiling of a monument erected in memory of those who were killed when Serb forces overran the United Nations ``safe zone″ of Srebrenica in July 1995, expelled the entire Muslim population and systematically executed the men and boys.
Because of recent Serb violence against Muslims in Bosnia, nearly 1,300 local policemen lined the road into town as a convoy of 105 buses carried some 5,000 Muslims back to the scene.
Among the survivors was Zineta Mujic, 50, who lost her son and 13 other family members.
``Slobodan Milosevic is the biggest butcher in the world, and he is responsible for what happened to us,″ she said, referring to the former Yugoslav president now awaiting trial before the U.N. war crimes tribunal.
Although Milosevic was indicted for alleged crimes against humanity in Kosovo, the tribunal has said it is building a case against him for atrocities committed in Bosnia and Croatia during the wars that followed the breakup of Yugoslavia.
``His string puppets, Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, are also responsible and must pay for what they did here,″ Mujic added.
Karadzic, the wartime leader of the Bosnian Serbs, and his military chief, Gen. Mladic, top the tribunal’s most-wanted list. They have been indicted for genocide stemming from atrocities their forces committed during the 1992-95 Bosnian war.
Five widows who also lost sons unveiled the memorial in a brief ceremony at the site, about 45 miles northeast of Sarajevo
The 3-ton marker with the simple inscription: ``Srebrenica, July 1995″ stands in a cornfield that will be turned into a cemetery for the reburial of massacre victims. Britain paid its $4,900 cost.
``Dear God, we come here not to indict, but we come here not to free from guilt either,″ prayed Mustafa Efendi Ceric, the head of Bosnia’s Islamic community. He said survivors wanted to make ``clear that we will not give up justice.″
``We pray for sorrow to become hope, for revenge to become justice, and for a mother’s tears to become a reminder so that Srebrenica will never happen again to anyone, anywhere,″ he said.
Hana Ademovic, 48, now a refugee in northern Bosnia, lost her husband, father and other relatives. She said Wednesday’s ceremony was ``the hardest day in my entire life.″
``They are giving us a stone here instead of helping us back to our homes and helping us find our dearest,″ she said bitterly.
Since the end of the war, tribunal experts and the Muslim Commission for Missing Persons have exhumed the remains of about 4,800 victims, of whom only about 100 have been identified.
``By the end of the year, we are planning to exhume 1,000 more bodies,″ said Amor Masovic, head of the commission. ``Now, with DNA analysis, we will be able to identify 200 Srebrenica victims per month, but we will need a long time to complete the process and give them a proper burial.″
International police units and hundreds of heavily armed U.S. peacekeepers with tanks and Humvees were deployed throughout the area. Several U.S. surveillance helicopters and Blackhawk choppers were patrolling the area, which is in the American sector of responsibility.
Officials were worried about a repeat of recent Bosnian Serb attacks on Muslims at groundbreaking ceremonies for the reconstruction of mosques destroyed during the war.
``I am not afraid of them because I don’t have anything else to lose,″ said Nura Mustafic, 53, whose husband and two sons were killed at Srebrenica.
``I survived everything, and I am sure I can survive this ceremony too,″ Nura said, wiping tears from her eyes. ``If we know nothing about our dearest, at least we can see their tombstones and imagine they are laying there.″