Six hundred and 10 coffins were interred during the ceremony at
Srebrenica, a town whose name became synonymous with horror during Bosnia’s 1992-95 war.
Mourner Fatima Budic huddled over the coffin of her 14-year-old
“They killed my entire life and the only thing I want now is to see the guilty ones pay for it,” sobbed Budic, next to the coffin of her son Velija.
Budic’s husband and Velija’s 16-year-old brother have never been found.
After a religious service, the caskets were passed in a long line from hand to hand toward the grave pits and buried.
The sound of dirt banging against the coffins and the weeping of women competed with a female voice reading out the names of the victims.
Even as the ceremony was taking place, more remains were being exhumed from a mass grave discovered nearby last week, thought to contain at least another 100 unidentified victims.
Much as they did at the 10th anniversary of Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, foreign officials wrung their hands in regret at the world’s failure to stop the slaughter and promised it would never happen again.
“It is to the shame of the international community that this evil took place under our noses and we did nothing like enough,” British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told the gathering. “I bitterly regret this and I am deeply sorry for it.”
The Bosnian conflict ended later in 1995 and the country’s bitterly divided ethnic groups – Croats, Muslims and Serbs – laid down their arms.
But ethnic hatreds simmer on in almost every village and town in the mountainous former Yugoslav republic.
Most ethnic Serbs still deny the Srebrenica massacre took place.
In Belgrade, the Serbian parliament failed to mention Srebrenica when it held a minute of silence to honour the victims of the Balkan wars as well as those of last week’s bomb attacks in London.
The United States marked the anniversary by renewing its call for the arrest of two top war crimes suspects as “long overdue.”
Serbia has failed to capture former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic, who have been at large for a decade.
Tom Casey, a State Department spokesman, said the United States remained committed to bringing Bosnian war criminals to justice, particularly Karadzic and Mladic. “It’s long overdue,” he said.
Meanwhile a Serb general has told the war crimes court in The Hague that the killing of Muslims in Srebenica was not genocide, the Dutch news agency ANP said.
Bozidar Delic was testifying to the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY) on behalf of former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic, who faces charges of genocide over the Srebrenica killings as well as other charges.
“I accept that 2,000 to 3,000 Serbs were killed at Srebrenica, along with several thousand Muslims, but most of them were killed in combat,” he was quoted as saying by ANP.
“There is a unilateral approach because everyone talks about the victims of one section of the population, but nobody mentions the Serb villages around Srebrenica which were destroyed,” he said.
The figure of 3,000 Serb victims in the Srebrenica region between 1992 and 1995, mentioned by General Delic, has been quoted in the Serbian media in recent days.
But a spokeswoman for the prosecution at the court Florence Hartmann said last Wednesday it “did not correspond to reality”.
According to figures for war crimes sent to the prosecutor’s office by the commission of the Republika Srpska (RS), the Serb entity in Bosnia, “the number of Serb victims in the region around Srebrenica is close to 990 people,” she said.
In a report published in 2004, the RS government admitted that nearly 8,000 Muslims had been killed at Srebrenica by Bosnian Serb forces.