Stephanie van den Berg
Belgrade. Serbian lawmakers issued an apology on Wednesday to the Bosnian Muslim victims of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, ending years of denial in a move seen as an important step on Belgrade’s road to Europe.
In the early hours of Wednesday a small majority of Serbian lawmakers — 127 out of 250 seats in the House — voted in favor of text condemning the massacre of some 8,000 people and issuing an apology to the victims.
The resolution stopped short of using the word “genocide,” although it referred to an International Court of Justice decision that does use the term.
“The parliament of Serbia strongly condemns the crime committed against the Bosnian Muslim population of Srebrenica in July 1995, as determined by the International Court of Justice ruling,” the text says.
The lawmakers also formally extended their “condolences and an apology to the families of the victims because not everything possible was done to prevent the tragedy.”
Human-rights activists and observers hailed the apology, which ends years of denial by Serbian politicians about the scale of the killings, but in Bosnia itself, survivors slammed it as meaningless because it avoids the word “genocide.”
“This resolution means nothing to us and we will not accept it,” Sabra Kolenovic, of the survivors group Mothers of Srebrenica, said from Sarajevo.
She dismissed the vote as a “political game” by Belgrade.
The timing of the declaration coincides with Serbia’s push to join the European Union, with Belgrade hoping to achieve candidate status next year.
In the text, the National Assembly of Serbia also vowed to continue its cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and stressed the importance of “the discovery and arrest of Ratko Mladic so that he might stand trial before the ICTY.”
Mladic, the United Nations war-crimes court’s most wanted fugitive, was in charge of the Bosnian Serb troops who overran the UN-protected enclave in July 1995. He is believed to be hiding in Serbia.
The massacre is the only episode in Bosnia’s bloody 1992-95 war to have been ruled genocide by the international courts. In their ruling, ICJ judges cleared Serbia of responsibility for the actual killings but said Belgrade was responsible for doing nothing to prevent the massacre.
After separating the men from the women, Bosnian Serb troops led by Mladic summarily executed about 8,000 Muslim men and boys and buried the bodies in mass graves.