War Crimes: Is Serbia's Srebrenica Apology Genuine?

Article excerpt

In what is regarded as one of Europe's biggest war crimes since World War II, more than 7,000 Bosnian Muslims were massacred at Srebrenica in 1995 by Serb forces. Serbia's apology for Srebrenica has met with polarized response in a country still divided over its role in the massacre.

A resolution of apology by the Serbian parliament yesterday for the 1995 Srebrenica civilian massacre is seen by many in Belgrade as a landmark in the Balkan nation's often bitter attempt to deal with the worst mass murder in Europe since World War II.

But outside Serbia, the apology-resolution, which passed by two votes, was seen by several Balkan analysts as too little too late, and more of a sop to the European Union in hopes of speeding up Serbia's integration with Europe at a time of financial woes.

The resolution stopped short of calling the murder of more than 7,000 Bosnian Muslims who were fleeing a "UN safe area" a genocide, saying, "The parliament of Serbia strongly condemns the crime committed against the Bosnian Muslim population of Srebrenica in July 1995," and extends "condolences and an apology to the families of the victims because not everything was done to prevent the tragedy."

Belgrade has long been divided over confronting the role it played in Srebrenica - with often-abject denials from Serb officials and mainstream media outlets, even as evidence mounted at The Hague Yugoslav tribunal of the significant assistance given to Bosnian Serb generals and paramilitary groups by Belgrade, including an incriminating video showing executions, which was made public five years ago.

At the same time, many liberal Serb intellectuals and peace groups fought to establish the facts; on the 10th anniversary of the massacre, current Serb Prime Minister Boris Tadic visited the grave site.

Yet as recently as early March, Radovan Karadzic, the former president of Bosnian Serbs, essentially denied the massacre took place in his opening statements at The Hague, where he is on trial for genocide and crimes against humanity.

"This is a landmark decision from the parliament of Serbia, which is the highest legislative branch of the state," says Ivan Vejvoda of the nongovernmental organization Balkan Trust for Democracy. "It marks a turn, even though a lot of work had already been done by intellectuals to confront this, and it comes ahead of the 10th anniversary of the peaceful overthrow of Slobodan Milosevic. …