For Srebrenica survivors, accepting 'truth' is path to peace

2 min 17Approximate reading time

For the relatives of the Srebrenica massacre victims, forgiving feels impossible, nearly 30 years on.

But if Serbs in Bosnia and Belgrade stop denying and accept that the atrocity was an act of genocide, as states a draft UN resolution due to be put to the vote Thursday, that would enable finding peace, some survivors say.

"Those who led their people into this position (of genocide denial) must accept the truth, so that we can all find peace and move on with our lives", Kada Hotic told AFP.

The 79-year-old co-director of an association of Srebrenica mothers for nearly three decades, saw her entire male family including her son, husband and two brothers killed in the 1995 massacre.

Along with a handful of other women, she has fought to discover the remains of the victims dumped into dozens of mass graves and to construct a memorial centre just outside the ill-fated town.

The remains of 6,751 victims have been buried there to date.

On July 11, 1995, a few months before Bosnia's inter-ethnic war ended, Bosnian Serb forces captured the eastern town.

In the following days they killed more than 8,000 Bosnian men and boys in its vicinity.

The worst atrocity of Bosnia's 1992-1995 war, that claimed nearly 100,000 lives, was deemed an act of genocide by two international courts.

A UN court sentenced Bosnian Serb wartime political leader Radovan Karadzic and his army chief Ratko Mladic to life in prison for war crimes including the Srebrenica genocide.

But many Serbian political and religious leaders, as well as many ordinary Serbs, still refuse to call the massacre genocide.

They include Serbia's President Aleksandar Vucic, who has been fighting for weeks against the resolution to declare July 11 the "International Day of Reflection and Commemoration of the 1995 Genocide in Srebrenica" starting next year.

For Hotic the most difficult battle has always been against the genocide denial and she voiced hope that the resolution would set a "seal on the truth".

If the resolution is adopted it will be a satisfaction for Bosnian Muslims, she says, adding it should also be a source of satisfaction for Serbs.

"My child will never be alive again. I will never forgive the criminals.

"I have no right to, in the name of his life", she said sitting amidst the memorial centre's tall white tombstones.

But asking for forgiveness and the condemnation of war criminals "would be a remedy for us all", Hotic maintains.

- 'We are all losers' -

Sadeta Suljic, 57, who lost her brother and father in the massacre, also hopes that the UN resolution will put an end to "lies and denial".

"We're not accusing the whole (Serb) people. We want the guilty to be punished," said Suljic, who heads another association of victims' relatives.

"I don't understand that people. How can they deny it?

"They pass by, they see (the cemetery).

"If the resolution is passed, many of them will say 'Look, we have to stop, we have to say that it (genocide) happened'," she stressed.

Apart from the international importance of the resolution, which will establish a "day when people will reflect on the crime that was committed here", Almasa Salihovic hopes it will "change people's consciousness".

The 37-year-old employee at the memorial centre, whose brother Abdulah was killed in the massacre at the age of 18, wants to believe the resolution can be a turning point.

She sees the Serbian leaders' reaction as a final "attempt to prevent the civilised world from forcing them to accept that genocide was committed here".

For Hotic, the resolution should send a message to future generations.

"A crime never pays. In the crime that was committed here, we are all losers".