SREBRENICA, Bosnia (Reuters) - Tens of thousands of grieving Bosnian Muslims gathered Sunday to bury the remains of 775 newly identified victims killed when Bosnian Serbs overran the eastern town of Srebrenica exactly 15 years ago.
An army led by Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic seized Srebrenica on July 11, 1995, and went on a week-long killing spree as U.N. troops protecting the town stepped aside.
Around 8,000 Muslims were killed in what is now seen as Europe’s worst atrocity since World War Two. Those who tried to escape were hunted down and killed. Mladic remains at large.
Sunday, men passed green-draped coffins from hand to hand toward freshly dug graves. Sobbing women murmured prayers as they kneeled among rows of white marble gravestones.
“I have nothing left to lose,” Hatidza Mehmedovic, 58, said through tears. She came to bury her husband and two sons, killed when they were aged 18 and 21.
“Now I can only fight for justice to be served.”
A Bosnian Croat man, Rudolf Hren, shared the fate of thousands of his non-Serb neighbors when he was killed in 1995. At the funeral Sunday, Hren was the only victim who had a Roman Catholic burial ceremony.
“Rudolf is buried among the friends he stayed with until the last day,” said his mother Barbara Hren, whose other son was also killed in Srebrenica.
The U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague has indicted Mladic and his political chief Radovan Karadzic for genocide in Srebrenica. Karadzic is on trial but denies all counts of the indictment, including Srebrenica.
Mladic is believed to be hiding in Serbia. Failure to arrest him has hindered Serbia’s progress toward EU membership.
“We have Karadzic on trial and it is important the trial is completed and justice is done but it is of even greater importance that commander of the forces responsible for these murders is brought to justice,” said Stephen Rapp, the United States Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues.
After the massacre, Serbs dumped the victims’ bodies into mass graves. They were later dug out with bulldozers and moved to smaller graves in an attempt to cover up the crime.
More than 3,700 victims have been buried in the special memorial graveyard after being unearthed from hundreds of mass graves and identified.
Authorities are still finding human remains in unmarked graves, such as the one located in June in the nearby Zalazje village, where forensic experts have so far found the remains of six victims.
The massacre continues to weigh heavily on Bosnia, divided emotionally and politically into Serb and Muslim-Croat halves. Its Muslims are bitter the world had done nothing to prevent it.
Above the cemetery, survivors, helped by German non-governmental group Center for Political Beauty, put up a placard reading the “U.N. Pillar of Shame,” the site of a future monument designed to highlight the U.N.’s role in the events.
The monument, spelling out “U.N.” in huge letters, will stand eight meters tall and be made of more than 16,000 shoes, representing the victims, and will be pierced by bullet holes.
The German NGO’s spokeswoman, Merima Spahic, said it will serve “as a metaphor of the immense betrayal of the U.N. in Bosnia for failing to protect the victims.”
Editing by Zoran Radosavljevic and Maria Golovnina