Politicians in Serbia divided over Srebrenica

Wed, Mar 31, 2010, 01:00

LIBERALS AND nationalists in Serbia’s parliament were last night locked in debate over whether to ratify a declaration condemning the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of some 8,000 Bosnian Muslims by Bosnian Serbs and Serb paramilitaries.

Pro-western members of the ruling coalition argued that the resolution would show the world that Serbia had moved on from its bloody recent past, while nationalist opposition parties decried it as a “shameful” and “unjust” betrayal of the nation.

“The National Assembly of Serbia harshly condemns the crime committed against the Bosniak residents of Srebrenica in July 1995 . . . expressing condolences and apology to the victims’ families because not all was done to prevent this tragedy,” the proposed declaration read.

The statement is in line with a ruling from the International Court of Justice that while Serbia was not responsible for the massacre, it failed to do enough to prevent Europe’s worst atrocity since the second World War.

Serbia’s government hopes the declaration would aid its push toward European Union membership, although accession is deeply unlikely before the capture of Ratko Mladic, the leader of Bosnian Serb forces during the country’s 1992-95 war. He was in charge of the troops that overran the United Nations “safe haven” of Srebrenica and has been a fugitive for some 15 years.

“What we should do with this declaration is provide peace and respect to those killed, to provide peace and condolences to those who survived,” said Nada Kolundzija of the governing alliance.

“Let us close the door of the tragic past and open the door to the future . . . We need to say that Serbia does not stand behind those who committed those crimes,” she added, calling the declaration a potential “milestone on Serbia’s road to the construction of a modern European society”.

“Today we are taking responsibility for lifting the heavy burden off the shoulders of future generations.”

Ahead of a vote that was expected to take place late last night, nationalists denounced the proposed resolution for failing to mention atrocities committed by Muslim and ethnic-Croat fighters during the Bosnian war.

They also argued that many facts about Srebrenica were still disputed. Many Serbs believe Muslim and Croat forces exaggerated and even faked apparent atrocities against their own civilians to win international sympathy.

At his trial for genocide and crimes against humanity at the UN court in The Hague, wartime Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic has called the Srebrenica massacre a “myth”.

“Serbia will sign its own guilt with this declaration,” said nationalist MP Slobodan Samardzic.