Bosnia on Tuesday will mark the 22nd anniversary of the 1995 Srebrenica genocide by burying 71 recently identified victims in a collective funeral.
Every year on July 11 newly identified victims of the genocide — which claimed the lives of over 8,000 people — are buried in a memorial cemetery in Potocari, eastern Bosnia. Thousands of visitors from different countries will attend the funeral service and burials.
Among this year’s guests will be Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey Numan Kurtulmus plus Serbian politicians Cedomir Jovanovic and Sasa Jankovic.
Jovanovic and Jankovic were candidates in Serbia’s presidential election in April which was eventually won by Aleksandar Vucic.
After this year’s funeral the number of burials in the cemetery will rise to 6,575.
Damir Suljic, who was 15 when he was killed, will be the youngest victim to be buried this year. Alija Salihovic, the oldest, was 72.
The remains of the 71 genocide victims were loaded on a truck in the Bosnian city of Visoko on Sunday morning for their final journey to Potocari.
The coffins will be unloaded at the cemetery on Monday for Tuesday’s service.
At this year’s ceremony, Mustafa Imamovic will bury his two sons, who were aged 19 and 21 when they were killed.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Imamovic said they took a forest road to reach a Bosnian-government safe zone after the fall of Srebrenica in 1995.
“We were together but we lost each other in the forest. My brother is still missing,” he said.
Although 22 years have passed since the genocide, families still continue to bury their children, wives, fathers and siblings. More than a thousand genocide victims’ bodies remain unfound.
Srebrenica was besieged by Serb forces who were trying to wrest territory from Bosnian Muslims and Croats to form their own state.
The UN Security Council had declared Srebrenica a “safe area” in the spring of 1993. However, Serb troops led by General Ratko Mladic — who now faces genocide charges at The Hague — overran the UN zone despite the presence of around 450 Dutch soldiers tasked with protecting innocent civilians as UN peacekeepers.
The Dutch troops failed to act as Serb forces occupied the area, killing about 2,000 men and boys on July 11 alone. Some 15,000 Srebrenica people fled into the surrounding mountains but Serb troops hunted down and killed 6,000 of them in the forests.