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Last Updated: Friday, 11 July, 2003, 20:56 GMT 21:56 UK
Srebrenica massacre marked
Woman clutches coffin of dead brother
Thousands of women paid their final respects to their menfolk
The prime minister of the Bosnian Serb republic has taken part for the first time in special ceremonies to commemorate the Srebrenica massacre of Bosnian Muslims.

Dragan Mikerevic told the 20,000 people who gathered to mark the atrocity's eighth anniversary that it was time to talk about the past.

In the past the Bosnian Serb government has questioned whether the Srebrenica massacre ever took place.

The time has come to talk about everything that happened in this area
Dragan Mikerevic
Bosnian Serb prime minister
Burial services for nearly 300 victims were held on Friday as part of the commemorative events.

Mourners wept and touched the coffins containing the remains of their loved ones, which have been brought back to Srebrenica from mass graves across the region.

The massacre was the worst in Europe since World War II.

Some 8,000 Muslims, mainly men and boys, were slaughtered by Bosnian Serb soldiers who in 1995 overran the town in eastern Bosnia, which was supposed to have been under United Nations protection.

Coffins to be buried on Friday

The victims' bodies were dumped in mass graves throughout the region.

Friday's ceremonies took place in a field on the edge of town where the women and children were separated from the men and boys by the Serb forces.

"The time has come to talk about everything that happened in this area," Mr Mikerevic told the crowd.

"I am here to pay tribute to the victims," he added.

"I felt that as the premier of Republika Srpska I had an obligation to be here today."

In a separate development, some relatives of victims have been angered by a decision of Bosnia's top human rights court to dismiss more than 1,800 claims for compensation.

The Mothers of Srebrenica association described the decision as humiliating.

The grave in Srebrenica will be the only thing I have left from my son
Husein Pitarevic
In March this year, the court ordered the Bosnian Serb authorities to pay $2m to 49 relatives, and the remainder had also expected their cases to be considered.

However, the court has now said that the original cases should be seen to represent all, and none of the others will receive any money.

Relatives argue that the cases should all be treated differently.

Refrigerated trucks

The cemetery where Friday's ceremonies took place was opened earlier this year, when 600 people whose remains have been positively identified were buried there.

The 282 new bodies were brought in refrigerated trucks from a mortuary in the central town of Visoko.

"The grave in Srebrenica will be the only thing I have left from my son," Husein Pitarevic, who lost his 14-year-old son Adnan in the massacre, told AFP news agency

So far, around 5,000 bodies have been exhumed, and about 1,600 identified.

Only a small fraction of the town 27,000 Muslims have returned since the war, and these are said have been subjected to verbal harassment by Serbs.

The massacre is one of the main charges brought against Bosnian Serb wartime leaders Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, who are still at large.


SEE ALSO:
In pictures: Srebrenica anniversary
11 Jul 03  |  Photo Gallery
Serb radical denies war crimes
25 Mar 03  |  Europe
Mass grave found near Srebrenica
23 Jul 02  |  Europe
Q&A: Srebrenica massacre
02 Aug 01  |  Europe


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