Survivors of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre have hailed life sentences handed down by the UN court against two Bosnian Serbs found guilty of genocide were crucial for Bosnia’s future.
“We are satisfied that they have been jailed for life for genocide,” Zumra Sehomerovic of the Mothers of Srebrenica, an association of massacre survivors, told AFP.
She said the ruling was essential to survivors of the massacre because, “in Bosnia the Srebrenica genocide has been denied.”
Many Bosnian Serbs including leading politicians have sought to minimise the killing of some 8,000 Muslim men and boys, after Bosnian Serb forces overran the eastern town on July 11, 1995, and deny that it constituted a genocide.
“The crimes committed in Srebrenica have to be punished for (Bosnia’s) future and co-existence,” between its ethnic communities, Sehomerovic added.
The two genocide sentences prove that the massacre was systematically organised, the head of an association of Bosnia’s wartime detainees was quoted as saying by FENA news agency.
“This once again confirms that a genocide has really occurred in Srebrenica, the worst crime on European soil since World War II,” Murat Tahirovic said.
The Hague-based UN court earlier on Thursday sentenced Bosnian Serb officers Vujadin Popovic, 53, and Ljubisa Beara, 70 to life imprisonment.
The court ruled that the men played a leading role in the massacre committed by Bosnian Serb forces in the final stages of Bosnia’s 1992-1995 war.
But victims’ relatives complained that the sentences were too mild for the five other defendants in the case.
The four military officers and a police official, found guilty of related offences, received jail terms of between five and 35 years.
“We cannot be satisfied completely since justice has been only partially served,” said Hajra Catic, the head of the Women of Srebrenica association.
“We feel a bit bitter because of these rulings since we know that they (the convicts) took part in the crime,” Catic, who lost her husband and three sons in the massacre, told AFP.
Sehomerovic’s husband was also among those killed and his remains were laid to rest last year after being recovered from several mass graves.
So far more than 6,400 victims exhumed from various mass graves around the town have been identified by DNA analysis.
Meanwhile, Bosnian Serbs slammed the verdicts, accusing the International Criminal tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) of bias against ethnic Serbs.
“It’s shameful! Why are the crimes committed by Muslims are not being punished?” Sreten, a 24-year-old student from the northern town of Banja Luka, told AFP.
“I don’t understand why Srebrenica is being underlined as if other war crimes did not happen,” said 67-year-old pensioner Ivana.
The Srebrenica massacre is the only episode of Bosnia’s war to have been classed as genocide by two international courts — the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the ICTY.