EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and EU enlargement commissioner Johannes Hahn on Tuesday commemorated the 22nd anniversary of the massacre in Srebrenica and pointed to EU accession talks as the path toward reconciliation in the Balkans.
In July 1995, more than 8,000 Muslim Bosniaks were killed in the town of Srebrenica in Bosnia and Herzegovina amid the 1990s Yugoslav Wars.
The efforts to restore respect for human dignity were the key part of the Western Balkan countries’ EU integration process, Mogherini and Hahn noted.
“The values so dramatically violated 22 years ago – such as respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality – are now at the core of our engagement with Bosnia and Herzegovina and its citizens on the country’s EU integration path… The EU accession process is there to accompany the entire region towards reconciliation, justice and cooperation,” the document reads.
“As we commemorate the 22nd anniversary of the genocide in Srebrenica, our hearts and our thoughts are with victims and their surviving families and friends. Today, we honor the victims,” the joint statement on the EU External Action website said.
Two years after the attack on then Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, Serbia had no official representative at the commemoration.
Last year, after a new round of arguments and tensions between Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH) a message came from Srebrenica that top Serbian state officials were no longer desirable at the Memorial Center.
Belgrade said that it “understands the message”.
The Appellate Chamber of a Dutch Court confirmed last month the Netherlands was in part liable for the death of 300 Muslims in Srebrenica.
At the same time, Dutch members of the former UN peacekeeping mission in BiH have filed a lawsuit against their state. They demand a total of 4.5 million euros in compensation for sending them to Srebrenica in 1995, “although it was then clear that it was an impossible mission.”
In a report by Dutch experts published on April 10, 2002, which presented the results of an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the fall of Srebrenica during the war in BiH, it was estimated that the Dutch government and the UN bear partial responsibility for the 1995 massacre of Muslims.
After that, the Dutch government and the Chief of Staff of the Dutch Army resigned.
In April 2013, the Dutch Defense Ministry announced that the Dutch state would pay 20,000 euros in damages to the relatives of three Muslims who were thrown out of their camp by Dutch officers, and who were then killed in 1995 in Srebrenica.
This verdict was the first time that a state was declared responsible for the activities of its soldiers working under the auspices of a UN mandate.
The International Court of Justice in The Hague in 2007 issued a verdict that qualified the Srebrenica massacre as an act of genocide. Resolutions on Srebrenica confirming this judgment were then passed by parliaments of EU countries, Canada, the United States and Australia.
A British draft resolution on Srebrenica failed in the United Nations Security Council in 2015, after Russia vetoed it. However, in the days after that, a resolution stating that a genocide occurred was adopted by the US Congress, and then by the European Parliament.
At the beginning of July 2006, the Serbian government condemned all war crimes committed during the Yugoslav wars, among which were particularly mentioned the crimes against Muslims in Srebrenica, and against Serbs in nearby Bratunac, eastern Bosnia.
A report by the government commission for Srebrenica stated that during the offensive of the Serb forces in the then “protected zone” in July 1995, 7,800 Bosniaks were killed.
The number of victims is to this day a point of dispute between the two sides.
By the decision of the European Parliament, in January 2009, July 11 was proclaimed Day of Remembrance of the “Genocide in Srebrenica”. Of the countries in the Western Balkans, this decision was accepted by Montenegro, Croatia and Macedonia.
The State Parliament of BiH declared July 11 a day of memory in the Federation of BiH, the Muslim-Croat entity in Bosnia, but not in the territory of the entire state, because of the opposition of the RS (Serb Republic) deputies.