SREBRENICA, Bosnia-Hercegovina: Bosnia buried 409 victims of the Srebrenica massacre on Thursday, including a newborn baby, on the 18th anniversary of the worst slaughter in post-war Europe.
More than 15,000 people travelled to Potocari, near Srebrenica to attend the mass funeral of victims whose remains were found in mass graves and only identified almost two decades after the 1995 killing.
“This year we are going to bury the youngest victim of the genocide, the Muhic family’s baby,” Kenan Karavdic, a government official in charge of the burial ceremony told AFP.
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 massacre in which 8,000 men and boys were executed by Serb forces after they overran the UN-protected town.
Her tiny casket was covered with a modest green cloth with a white rose wreath on top and placed in a grave with a sign that read only: “The Muhic newborn.”
The baby’s mother, her head covered with a red veil, held the coffin as she murmured a Muslim prayer through sobs.
Many of those present lined up in front of the coffins praying, their hands turned towards the sky, amid drizzling rain.
Among the 409 victims laid to rest, 44 were aged between 14 and 18, officials said.
Dzemka Oric, 60, buried her son Avdija who was 15 at the time of the slaughter.
His remains were placed next to the graves of brother Avdo, 21, and father Omer.
Kneeling before the grave, in a blue dress and scarf around her head, Oric crumbled wet soil as she sobbed while praying, her jaw trembling.
“If I could glance at him once more, if I could hear him calling me ‘Mother’ once again,” she murmured through tears.
The sombre ceremony fell on the same day as the UN Yugoslav war crimes court was set to rule on an appeal to drop a charge of genocide against Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic, who is accused of masterminding the Srebrenica massacre.
Srebrenica was a UN-protected Muslim enclave until July 11, 1995, when it was overrun by Bosnian Serb forces.
Dutch peacekeepers in the so-called “safe area”, where thousands of Muslims from surrounding villages had gathered for protection, helplessly looked on as the massacre unfolded.
The Serbs loaded thousands of men and boys on to trucks, executed them and then threw their bodies into mass graves.
The remains of 5,657 victims, identified through DNA tests, have already been buried in the memorial centre in Potocari since the process started a decade ago.
Their remains — often only a handful of bones — were found in dozens of mass graves scattered in the area, said Amor Masovic, head of the Bosnia’s Institute for Missing Persons.
But many victims remain unidentified and more are yet to be found.
Munira Subasic laid to rest her son Nermin — who was 17 at the time of the massacre — while the remains of her husband, also killed in Srebrenica, are yet to be found.
“Eighteen years later, I have found only two bones belonging to my son,” she said solemnly.
Zumra Krdzic lost her husband, son and “many cousins”.
“A book would not be enough to list the names of everyone I have lost,” Krdzic said.
The Srebrenica massacre has been judged an act of genocide by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Court of Justice.
After escaping justice for years, both Karadzic and Bosnian Serb army chief Ratko Mladic are now being tried by the ICTY for war crimes and genocide.
Mladic was arrested in Serbia in 2011, while Karadzic was held in 2008.
So far, 38 former Bosnian Serb military or police officials have been convicted, including some for genocide, for their role in the Srebrenica killings, both by the ICTY and Bosnia’s own war crimes court.