SREBRENICA, Bosnia-Herzegovina – A look back at the 1995 Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia.
THE TOWN AND ITS PEOPLE
Near the Serbian border, Srebrenica, or silver town, is named after the ore mined by the Romans. Its prewar population, with surrounding villages, was 36,666 — 27,572 Bosnian Muslims, the rest Bosnian Serbs and Croats. Now, most of the 10,000 people in the region are Serbs. They are mostly shunned by the 1,000 Muslim returnees.
SERB SIEGE OF SREBRENICA
Serb forces besieged the town at the start of the 1992-95 Bosnian war, shelling it and preventing U.N. food convoys from reaching it. The U.N. Security Council declared the town a safe haven protected by U.N. troops in April 1993, but the Serbs increased the pressure in July 1995. Muslim Bosnian fighters asked the 600 Dutch peacekeepers to give back weapons they had turned in, but were refused. Serb troops overran U.N. posts around the city and took about 30 peacekeepers hostage. The Dutch commander's repeated requests for NATO airstrikes were either rejected or not acted upon.
SERBS TAKE SREBRENICA
Serb troops entered Srebrenica on July 11, 1995. After they raised their flag over the town, Dutch F-16 warplanes dropped two bombs on Serb positions. Further strikes were suspended after the Serbs threatened to kill their Dutch hostages and shell the refugees. By then, more than 20,000 Muslim Bosnians, mostly women, children and the elderly, had fled to the main Dutch base at Potocari, a Srebrenica suburb. Some 15,000 men and boys fled into the woods, trying to reach government-held territory.
On July 12, Serb troops moved into the U.N. compound and separated from the crowd about 2,000 men for execution. The women were taken by buses and trucks to government-held territory. Dressed in U.N. uniforms and driving U.N. vehicles, Serb soldiers then hunted down about 6,000 Muslim men and boys in the woods and put them in front of firing squads.
KILLING BEGINS AT SREBRENICA
Captured Muslim Bosnian men and boys were brought to sites around Srebrenica and on July 13, 1995, Serb forces began killing them. One of the major execution sites was the warehouse in the nearby village of Kravica, where Serbs killed 1,000 people in one night. Serb forces let the Dutch peacekeepers leave Srebrenica, but kept their weapons.
U.N. COUNTS THE SREBRENICA DEAD
The International Committee on Missing Persons listed around 8,000 Srebrenica residents — most of them males — as missing. The U.N. war crimes court considers them victims of the killing spree, labeling the crime as genocide. This qualification was confirmed by the International Court of Justice. So far, forensic experts have found and identified 6,930 bodies in 93 mass graves and on 314 on-surface locations in the area. The identification was done through DNA analysis. Of these, 6,241 have been buried at the Potocari Memorial Center for victims and another 136 will be laid to rest there on Saturday.
NATO AIRSTRIKES/PEACE DEAL
As news of the Srebrenica killings spread, NATO launched massive airstrikes against Serb military positions across the country in September 1995, forcing Serbs to negotiate a peace deal. The peace agreement brokered in Dayton, Ohio, in November 1995 recognized the territorial integrity of Bosnia, but divided it in two mini-states along ethnic lines.