Srebrenica

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Srebrenica

Srebrenica (srĕbrĕnēt´sä), town, E central Bosnia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, in the Serb Republic of Bosnia Herzegovina. Lead has been mined here and nearby since Roman times, and silver and mercury deposits are in the vicinity. A health spa is on the outskirts of the town and contributes to its economy. Founded in 1387, Srebrenica was a trade center in the 15th cent., largely dealing in ore from the silver mines that dotted the area. Merchants from Ragusa and miners from Germany formed significant segments of the population. The town was taken by the Ottoman Empire in 1440, and its Franciscan monastery turned into a mosque; the population slowly converted to Islam.

During the 1990s Bosnian civil war, Srebrenica, the population of which was roughly two thirds Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) and one third Serb, was isolated from the main area controlled by the Bosnian government. In 1993, it and surrounding territory was designated (1993) a "safe area" by the United Nations, and several hundred Dutch UN peacekeeping forces were dispatched to secure the area; Bosniaks there remained armed while the United Nations sought to demilitarize both sides. In 1995, Serb forces shelled and besieged the safe area, which the outnumbered and poorly supported Dutch forces failed to defend, and it was taken by the Serbs. After the siege, roughly 5,000 Bosniaks were expelled from the Dutch base, 15,000 Bosniak soldiers and other men attempted to flee through the mountains (many were hunted down and killed), and some 23,000 Bosniak women and children were deported while the remaining men and older boys were separated out, held, and mostly later killed. In all, some 8,000 men and boys were murdered by Serb troops and buried in mass graves, and many women were raped. The Srebrenica massacre is believed to be Europe's worst mass murder since the Holocaust.

In 2001 the UN-sponsored International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia termed the attack genocide, and indicted and tried a number of Serb leaders. Slobodan Milošević died (2006) while on trial, but other former high-ranking Bosnian Serbs were convicted in 2010, 2011, and 2012 for their roles in the massacre. That year the Serbian parliament officially condemned (and apologized for failing to prevent) the killings of Bosnians in Srebrenica, but did not admit to genocide. In 2002 the Dutch government took partial responsibility for the massacre because of the role played by Dutch peacekeepers. The Dutch state was later (2014) found liable in the deaths of some 300 men who were taken from the Dutch forces compound in the town, but not for the vast majority of those massacred, who were killed after they had fled.

See J. W. Honig and N. Both, Srebrenica: Record of a War Crime and D. Rohde, Endgame: The Betrayal and Fall of Srebrenica (both: 1997).

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