Serb leader has to flee Srebrenica commemoration
Two decades ago, columns of men and boys were shot in cold blood along dirt roads and in forested valleys around the Bosnian town of Srebrenica. Yesterday, thousands filed along the same roads, mournful and silent, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the worst atrocity on European soil since World War Two.
So raw were their emotional wounds that some mourners hurled stones and bottles at Aleksandar Vucic, the Serbian prime minister, forcing him to flee the ceremony along with his entire delegation.
The occasion was held to remember four blood-soaked days in July 1995 when almost 8,000 Muslim men and boys were murdered by Bosnian Serb forces. After Srebrenica fell into Serb hands, the women and children were forcibly separated from sons and husbands. The men and boys were then led away by armed escorts, before being lined up and shot in the countryside nearby. The corpses of the victims were either heaped into mass graves or left scattered among the pine trees.
Still in Srebrenica, month after month, more human remains are being found and identified by their DNA. So far, 6,974 victims of the massacre have been named, including 136 as yesterday's ceremony began. The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia has placed the final death toll at 7,826.
Saturday's commemoration was as tense as it was sorrowful. In the face of great domestic controversy, Mr Vucic chose to attend as a gesture of reconciliation.
Before the ceremony, the Serbian prime minister wrote an open letter saying: "There are no words to express regret and pain for the victims as well as anger and bitterness towards those who committed that monstrous crime."
"Serbia clearly and unambiguously condemns this horrible crime and is disgusted with all those who took part in it and will continue to bring them to justice," he added.
On this sensitive subject, Mr Vucic chose his words with the utmost care. But survivors noted that he did not use the word "genocide" to describe Srebrenica's tragedy.
When the Serbian leader appeared for the ceremony, an angry crowd stoned his delegation, causing them to run to their cars. Mr Vucic's foreign minister said the incident was an attack on Serbia.