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Last Updated:  Monday, 31 March, 2003, 13:38 GMT 14:38 UK
Srebrenica finally buries its dead
Mourner weeping at graveside
This is the first of many mass funerals
Thousands of people have attended a mass funeral in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica for the victims of one of Europe's worst massacres.

It is nearly eight years since Bosnian Serb forces overran the UN-designated "safe area" and killed 8,000 Muslim men and boys.

The 600 buried on Monday are the first to be identified from remains gathered from more than 60 mass graves.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said the UN's failure to prevent the atrocity would "haunt our history forever".

Day of mourning

The international community's top envoy in Bosnia, Paddy Ashdown, read Mr Annan's letter and helped lower the coffins into the ground.

Ramo Smajic
I can't understand the one who took my father's life... May every day of his life be like this day for me
Ramo Smajic, aged 14
Shaped like the petals of a flower, the cemetery has been built next to the former UN compound on the outskirts of Srebrenica.

The victims had sought protection in the compound, but the outnumbered and lightly armed Dutch peacekeepers in charge were no match for the Serb forces.

Many of the mourners on Monday were women and children who were separated from their men folk at a site close to the cemetery.

"It means a lot to me that I will finally know where my brother's grave is," said Sabaheta Garajevic, aged 44.

She is still searching for a husband and two sons.

The victims buried were aged between 15 and 80.

Three brothers from the Mujic family and a cousin were buried next to each other.

So were Hasima Spiovic and Semsuddin Jugovic, a couple killed while holding each other close - their bones had been found intertwined in a grave.

Call for justice

The Bosnian Serb Government questions whether a massacre took place, but flags were flying at half mast outside the municipal buildings in Srebrenica.

SREBRENICA FACTS
Muslim enclave in Serb-held territory
In 1991 the town was 75% Muslim, 25% Serb
Declared UN "safe area" in April 1993
UN general Philippe Morillon said: "I will never abandon you"
Bosnian Serb forces massed near the town in April 1995
Europe's worst atrocity since World War II
Nearly 2,000 Bosnian Serb police under the supervision of 10 European Union police officers and Nato peacekeepers were deployed to prevent clashes.

Nato helicopters patrolled overhead.

The ceremony was conducted by Bosnia's top Muslim cleric, Reis Mustafa Ceric, who called for justice, but urged the victim's families not to seek revenge.

Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic and his military commander Ratko Mladic have been indicted by the UN war crimes tribunal for genocide at Srebrenica.

General Mladic's deputy, Radislav Krstic, became the first person to be convicted of genocide in Bosnia for helping to organise the Srebrenica executions.

Hunt for graves

Only a small part of the town's pre-war Muslim population of 27,000 now lives there.

"They come, they do what they want to do and leave. Maybe it means something to them, to us it means nothing," said Milan, a 25-year-old Serb.

Mass graves are still being found in the surrounding countryside.

Advances in DNA technology have made identification easier, but thousands of people still remain unaccounted for.

Forensic experts say the bodies exhumed so far may account for more than 5,000 people.

The count is complicated by the fact that many bodies were left incomplete, after being moved from one mass grave to another.


SEE ALSO:
Srebrenica timeline
20 Feb 03  |  Europe
'Largest' Bosnian grave found
28 Mar 03  |  Europe


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