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Bill Clinton in Srebrenica

"We remember this terrible crime because we dare not forget, because we must pay tribute to the innocent lives, many of them children, snuffed out in what must be called genocidal madness." ( Bill Clinton )

Mr. Clinton told thousands of victims' relatives at the Srebrenica genocide memorial. Widows of those who died wanted Clinton to be the person to open the new memorial site, with one telling the BBC: "He is the only man with the moral authority to do so."

"Among all the world leaders, Clinton has the biggest moral right to open this memorial center," said Amor Masovic, the head of the Federal Commission for Missing Persons. Clinton was president when over 8,000 Bosnian boys and men were massacred in the so-called U.N. protected enclave of Srebrenica in July 1995 after Serb forces overran the area. It was the single biggest atrocity of the war and Europe's worst genocide since World War II. The ceremony opened with the Bosnian anthem and the raising of the Bosnian flag followed by a choir singing a specially written song that envisions the victims talking to the survivors. Women in the crowd wept as they heard the sorrowful song. Clinton criticized those in power who talked of "religious and ethnic superiority."

"People who quest for power killed those good people simply because of who they were," he said. "They sought power through genocide, but Srebrenica was the beginning of the end to genocide in Europe."

Mr. Clinton called for those who carried out the massacre to be apprehended: "Those most responsible for the atrocities (Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic), the leaders, have not been apprehended. The search for them must continue until they are," Clinton said. The two men have been charged with genocide by the U.N. war-crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, and are believed to be hiding in Bosnia or Serbia.

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Bill Clinton in Srebrenica, Bosnia

"The search for them must continue," Clinton said."We owe it to the men and boys buried in this hallowed ground. We owe it to those who survived them. And we owe it to the Bosnians not yet born to see that it is done. I hope and prey that Srebrenica will be for all the world a sombre reminder to the world of common humanity."

Srebrenica survivor Advija Ibrahimovic, 22, described the scene for the audience. "Frightened children, sad women and broken old men stood next to me, and all of us watched the hatred killing human beings. I still remember the moment when they took my father away, and his last glance cast at my interrupted childhood," she said.

Biba Delic, 37, with her two children, wept as the body of her husband Aziz was brought in for burial alongside his two brothers and father."Today I am burying my husband and with him I am burying hope. The day we identified him, my hope that I might see him ever again died," she said weeping and hugging her son and daughter. "I wish I could still hope."

Biba Delic, 37, with her two children, wept as the body of her husband Aziz was brought in for burial alongside his two brothers and father."Today I am burying my husband and with him I am burying hope. The day we identified him, my hope that I might see him ever again died," she said weeping and hugging her son and daughter. "I wish I could still hope."

In some places several members of one family were to be buried together, including Selim Delic to be laid to rest with his three sons - Aziz, Azem and Eniz, who were 33, 25 and 20 years old respectively when they were killed. "It is hard for me to explain how I feel. It is so sad, but it is better to have found them late rather than never," Hazim Delic, 31, the fourth brother who survived the massacre along with his mother.

Clinton said he hoped Srebrenica would be a reminder for "every child in the world that pride in our own religious or ethnic heritage does not require or permit us to dehumanize or kill those who are different." He asked the victims to find strength to forgive, but also called for justice for those responsible for the massacre and other war crimes. Clinton also took a walk through downtown Sarajevo and visited historic Bascarsija street. Sarajevo's residents greeted Bill Clinton with joy: "Bill Clinton, you are the best!"

In Srebrenica, the healing is happening only slowly. Srebrenica's pre-war population of 36,000, overwhelmingly Bosnians, has dwindled to 9,000. Most of the Bosnians who survived have not been able to return. Bosnia is still trying to account for all its dead. Mass graves are still being found and exhumed years after the war ended. According to the Red Cross, more than 200,000 people were killed during the war. Eva Klonovski, who is helping in the dig, said: "Also it is another thing about this grave because we have had here the remains of women and children and it is the biggest concentration of women and children found in one grave."


Meantime at the War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague, Slobodan Milosevic, the former leader of Yugoslavia, is charged with a host of war crimes including genocide. The principal perpetrators accused of the massacre are still at large, including former Serb leaders Radovan Karadzic and Gen. Ratko Mladic.

On August 2, 2001, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia delivered its first genocide conviction, for crimes committed in the wake of the 1995 capture of Srebrenica by the Serb Army. Serb Gen. Radislav Krstic was sentenced to 46 years in jail. On December 02. 2003, Serb Captain Momir Nikolic was sentenced to 27 years in prison for taking part in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre. On December 10. 2003, Serb Captain Dragan Obrenovic was sentenced to 17 years in jail for his role in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre.

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Sarajevska Princeza
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14/05/2005 13:19