While the annual commemoration and funeral for the victims of the 1995 Srebrenica genocide was ongoing in Bosnia, activists in Belgrade demanded on Thursday that Serbia’s officials admit that the genocide took place.
“We marked the days of the crime with a demand that our officials admit that genocide was committed,” Natasa Kandic, the head of the Humanitarian Law Fund, told N1.
Organised by Serbia’s Youth Initiative for Human Rights (YIHR), citizens and the ambassadors of Albania, the US, Italy and Germany lit candles near the fountain in the park between the buildings of Serbia’s Presidency and Parliament to honour the Srebrenica genocide victims.
A counter protest emerged the other side of the park, according to YIHR’s Marko Milosavljevic, who said “the denial and relativisation of the Srebrenica genocide has caused yelling and an atmosphere of basic disrespect for human life and the dignity of the victims of the genocide.”
“Respect for human rights is tested on the worst possible event, which is genocide. Unfortunately, we can testify that our contry is the only one in the world responsible for not preventing it, while knowing that genocide would happen,” Milosavljevic told reporters in Belgrade on Thursday.
“Once again we call on the Government in Serbia to admit that a genocide took place in Srebrenica, most of all to recognize the dignity of those victims and the new face of this country that will arise from that,” he added.
Those who gathered carried a sign saying they are “too young to remember, decisive to never forget’.
But Kandic told N1 that “the shock of the day was the message of a SNS lawmaker who congratulated the day Srebrenica was liberated while congratulating Mladic for the brilliantly conducted operation.”
She referred to a tweet by Vladimir Djukanovic, a lawmaker from the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS).
Kandic said that this was a message “that came from someone who sits in the Parliament – someone who knows that his message could be attributed to Serbia, to Serbia’s President, to Serbia’s Government.”
She also spoke of Serbia’s Prime Minister, Ana Brnabic, who said she would not attend the Srebrenica commemoration event because she was not invited. Brnabic has previously denied that genocide took place in the eastern Bosnian town.
Brnabic again on Friday said that she follows a Declaration by Serbia's Parliament which did not use the term genocide for what happened in Srebrenica. She expressed her condolences to the families of the victims “of that crime,” but asked why there was no mention of the victims of Serb nationality, saying that in “Podrinje 3,267 Serbs were killed and no one was held responsible.”
“She gives her own estimates and statements on court rulings, which can hardly be accepted as smart words by someone who is serving such a high position. She was not invited, nor would anyone invite her following everything she said and commented during her mandate,” she said.
But Kandic said that civil society cannot be an example for the state of Serbia.
“We cannot replace state institutions, we can only create pressure,” she said, adding that civil society wants to see “a politician show up who will make the step and admit even more than what was confirmed in court rulings. That is that Serbia is not only guilty for helping it, but also knew that helping it would contribute to the execution of the committed crimes.”
There is a civil society in Serbia which is free and does not react to threats by some and is not afraid of extremists, right-wingers and radicals, she said, but expressed a wish to see those from the intellectual elite at such gatherings.
Meanwhile, in the Kolarac Endowment building in Belgrade, some 20 people wearing shirts with nationalist symbols interrupted on Thursday a performance named ‘Srebrenica. When we, the killed rise’, which was organised by the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights.
Those in the group began yelling that genocide did not take place in Srebrenica and that Ratko Mladic, one of the masterminds of the 1995 genocide, was a hero. They then began singing nationalist songs.
In the end, police escorted the group out without any serious incidents.