Serbs admit scale of 95 massacre

Bosnian Serb authorities have admitted for the first time that Serb forces slaughtered more than 7000 Muslims in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, Europe's worst atrocity since the second world war.

    At least 7000 Muslims were killed in the massacre

    "I am confirming that the number [of victims] is higher than 7000. I cannot reveal the exact figures. It is up to the government to do it," an official from a special investigative commission said on condition of anonymity on Thursday. 

    In 2002, Bosnian Serb officials issued a report which lowered the number of victims, triggering outrage among survivors and the international community. 

    In June, the Bosnian Serb government admitted that Serb forces had committed the massacre and tried to cover up the crime, but it avoided giving a definite figure on the number of victims. 

    New report

    The figure of more than 7000 victims - a number which conforms to most independent assessments - is contained in a new report the investigative commission presented to the government on Thursday. 

    The war crimes tribunal has called
    the killings at Srebrenica genocide

    "I think that the commission made the most objective and the most correct list of those killed in Srebrenica," commission member Djordje Stojakovic said. 

    "We had more than 30 sources of information but the list is not final. I'm not sure that there will be a final list ever." 

    Srebrenica is the first episode in the bloody break-up of the former Yugoslavia that the UN war crimes tribunal at The Hague considered genocide. 

    Bosnian Serb forces overran the enclave, which was supposed to be under UN protection, in July 1995. 

    Women and children were allowed to flee but Muslim men and boys were rounded up. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) estimates that more than 7000 of them were subsequently killed. 

    Denial

    Most Bosnian Serbs deny the massacre and continue to regard their political leaders during the country's 1992-95 war, Radovan Karadzic, and his military commander, Ratko Mladic, as heroes. 

    Forensic experts have been at
    exhuming corpses since 1996

    Both men have been indicted by the UN tribunal at The Hague for war crimes and genocide for their alleged roles in the atrocity, but remain at large somewhere in the former Yugoslavia. 

    The genocide is also the basis of key charges laid against former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic, who has been on trial at The Hague for more than two years. 

    Massacre survivors said it was about time the Serbs admitted the scale of the slaughter, but warned that more information was needed on the whereabouts of the culprits and the locations of hidden mass graves. 

    "Considering the scale of the crime, it is a success that after nine years the number of victims is being confirmed," the head of the Srebrenica mothers association, Munira Subasic, told reporters. 

    "But we also want to find out from the report who the perpetrators are. Who were those who took away our kids? We would also like to know where they were buried." 

    Mass graves

    More than 6000 bodies have been exhumed from mass graves near the town. On Thursday, forensic experts said they had found the remains of more Srebrenica victims in three mass graves in eastern Bosnia. 

    More than 1000 bodies have
    already been identified by DNA

    "The three sites, all located in the village of Bljeceva in eastern Bosnia, are secondary mass graves as the bodies were initially buried somewhere else and then moved there," Commission for Missing People member Murat Hurtic said. 

    The remains of some 1327 Srebrenica victims have been identified using DNA analysis since 1995 and reburied at a Srebrenica memorial site. Another 5000 bodies are yet to be identified. 

    Post-war Bosnia consists of two semi-independent entities - the Serb-run Republika Srpska, which includes Srebrenica, and the Muslim-Croat Federation. 

    Bosnia's war claimed some 200,000 lives and more than two million people, over half the country's population, were forced to flee their homes.

    SOURCE: AFP


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