12 Jul 2009

Bosnia buries Srebrenica massacre victims

8:14 am on 12 July 2009

Tens of thousands of grieving Bosnian Muslims attended a sombre burial ceremony on Saturday for 534 newly identified victims of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre.

In one of the bloodiest events in the 1992-95 Bosnia war, Bosnian Serb forces led by General Ratko Mladic seized Srebrenica and slaughtered more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys in July 1995.

Every year thousands of Bosnians gather on the 11 July anniversary of the attack for burials, family reunions, and to remember their relatives and friends lying beneath the thousands of white tombstones in the special memorial cemetery.

More than 3,200 massacre victims have so far been buried in the cemetery after being unearthed from hundreds of mass graves over many years and identified. More than half the victims have yet to be given formal burial.

For Fata Mehmedovic, sitting on the grass at a muddy grave where her youngest son was to be buried next to his brother and father, the massacre brought family life to a shattering end, though it was years before the bodies were found.

In 2006, her husband's remains were found in a mass grave, and since then she has buried two sons in successive years. Her third son was killed before the massacre and buried in a village near Srebrenica where she now lives alone.

"At every mealtime, I cannot eat or drink without thinking of my children," she told Reuters, staring sadly ahead.

Local and foreign dignitaries joined the bereaved to pay their respects to the dead on Saturday. Only Bosnian Serb leaders were absent, reflecting their denial that the massacre was an act of genocide.