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The BBC's Alix Kroeger
"The returnees had to brave angry Serbs"
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Hasan Nuhanovic, relative of Srebrenica victims
"The Dutch simply handed over all 6000 people"
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Dr Dick Leurdijk, Dutch International Relations Inst
"A choice between your own life and the lives of the people you are there to protect"
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Tuesday, 11 July, 2000, 19:23 GMT 20:23 UK
Bosnia remembers Srebrenica
Women praying near Srebrenica
Women pray for their dead five years after the massacre.
Thousands of relatives of those who died in the worst atrocity of the Bosnian conflict - the massacre at Srebrenica - have attended a commemoration ceremony in the area.

The tragedy of Srebrenica will forever haunt the history of the United Nations

Kofi Annan, UN Secretary-General

United Nations war crimes prosecutors say that Bosnian Serb units massacred about 8,000 Muslim men and boys after capturing the town - designated a UN "safe area" - on 11 July, 1995.

So far, more than 1,800 bodies have been recovered in what has been described as Europe's worst massacre since World War II.

Commemorations start at Potocari near Srebrenica
Some 40 buses, carrying about 2,000 people, left major towns in Bosnia's Muslim-Croat Federation for Potocari, outside Srebrenica, where a simple prayer service for the massacre victims took place.

No violent incidents were reported, but when the convoy passed through the town of Bratunac several hundred Serbs screamed insults and obscenities.

It was an emotional return. "It's so hard to talk about it, but we haven't stopped doing that for the past five years," Zineta Mujic told Reuters news agency.

Her 25-year-old son was taken away by Bosnian Serb forces after Srebrenica fell.

Mejra Hasanovic said: "I came here to visit this place where I've lost everything". Her father and three brothers are missing.

Srebrenica, situated close to the border with Serbia, was an isolated enclave controlled by Muslims after separatist Serbs swept across eastern Bosnia early in the 1992-95 war.

Security concerns

The West's top envoy in Bosnia, Wolfgang Petritsch, said that he hoped the ceremony would not reopen wounds.

The Nato-led Stabilisation Force, Sfor, deployed armoured vehicles in areas considered a security risk.

Bosnian Serb police mobilised some 750 policemen to monitor the convoy's route through Serb areas according to Bosnian Serb radio.

On Monday night arsonists attacked the house of a Bosnian Muslim in Srebrenica. It was the fourth such attack in the past six weeks.

Local Serb war veterans said last week they saw no need for such a large gathering to mark events they say never happened.

A handful of Bosnian Muslims, who call themselves Bosniacs, recently returned to their homes in Srebrenica.

Mr Petritsch said: "The real monument to the victims of Srebrenica will be a successful return, will be an eventually democratic and prosperous Bosnia and Herzegovina."

UN role

In 1993, Srebrenica was declared a United Nations "safe area".

A Dutch battalion of about 100 soldiers was deployed to oversee the demilitarisation of the enclave and help relief agencies ease humanitarian problems for some 40,000 people.

But after Muslim defences broke down, the Dutch soldiers allowed Serb General Ratko Mladic's forces to enter Srebrenica and separate the men from the women and children.

Marking the anniversary, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who is on a trip to Africa, admitted the UN should have done more to stop the massacre.

"This day commemorates a massacre on a scale unprecedented in Europe since World War II - a massacre of people who had been led to believe that the United Nations would ensure their safety."

War crimes

Bosnian Serb General Radislav Krstic is currently on trial for the massacre.

But the wartime Serb political leader, Radovan Karadzic, and his military commander, General Mladic, remain at large despite facing charges at the UN war crimes tribunal.

UN troops with refugees
UN soldiers offer help during the evacuation

Graham Blewitt, a deputy prosecutor at the UN war crimes tribunal at The Hague, said exhumations of mass graves in Srebrenica would resume on 13 July.

Tribunal experts expect to find another 2,500-3,900 bodies in 21 confirmed but unexhumed graves in Srebrenica.

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See also:

11 Jul 00 | Europe
Call for Dutch Srebrenica apology
12 Jan 00 | Talking Point
Should we pursue crimes of the past?
14 Mar 00 | Europe
Flashback: Srebrenica 1995
13 Mar 00 | Europe
Srebrenica: A survivor's tale
13 Mar 00 | Europe
Bosnian Serb accused of genocide
13 Mar 00 | Europe
Bosnia massacre trial opens
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