Hope for justice, 16 years on, as Srebrenica buries its dead

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The Independent Online

Thousands of grieving Bosnian Muslims yesterday buried hundreds of newly-identified victims of a notorious Balkan war massacre and expressed hope justice would finally be done now that Serb commander Ratko Mladic is on trial.

Survivors and relatives of the dead wept in scorching heat at the scene of the Srebrenica atrocity, where the remains of 613 Muslim men and boys shot and bulldozed into the earth by Bosnian Serb forces 16 years ago were being buried. The bodies were only recently identified from mass graves.

"Having him (General Mladic) behind bars brings some comfort, but the true relief will come only once I find the body of my 18-year-old son who was sent to his death by Mladic," said Munira Subasic, a member of the Mothers of Srebrenica group.

Serb troops overran the Srebrenica, declared a United Nations safe haven, on 11 July, 1995 and went on a week-long killing spree in nearby woods as a lightly-armed Dutch UN battalion protecting the town stepped aside.

General Mladic was arrested in Serbia in May, after years in hiding, and handed over to the UN war crimes tribunal. He and his political master, Radovan Karadzic, are on trial for genocide over Srebrenica and the 43-month siege of Sarajevo. Both have denied all charges.

Mrs Subasic said she had begged General Mladic to spare her son as his soldiers separated men from women, children and the elderly.

"He promised he would but did not keep the promise. I wish him a long life in prison to pay for this," she said.