Srebrenica genocide: Mothers send warning to future generations, urging never again

Srebrenica genocide: Mothers send warning to future generations, urging never again

The incident was the largest massacre in Europe since the Holocaust during World War Two.

It left deep emotional scars on the survivors, families of victims and society of Bosnia and Herzegovina overall, following the wars and ethnic cleansing that marked the breakup of the former Yugoslavia which began in 1992.  

Among those who bore witness to the terrible events in Srebrenica was Kada Hotić, who lost her husband, son and fifty other family members.

A “Mother of Srebrenica” – a member of the advocacy group that represents about 6,000 survivors, she has devoted herself to building a new future for Bosnia and Herzegovina where people can live in peace regardless of their ethnicity.

Teach our children

Ms. Hotić was at UN Headquarters, in New York. She spoke to UN News, stressing the importance of commemorating the genocide in Srebrenica and reflecting on what happened.

It serves as a warning to the future generations so that it never happens again to anyone,” she said.

“The children learn so that they know what’s good and what’s evil, and what kind of evil dirty wars like these bring…we don’t need wars, we need to vote for life and not for suffering in life.”

Kada Hotić at the UN Headquarters.

The International Day

This year’s commemoration follows the General Assembly’s formal designation of 11 July as the International Day of Reflection and Commemoration of the 1995 Genocide in Srebrenica.

In May, the General Assembly adopted a resolution of the same title – with 84 votes in favour, 19 against and 68 abstentions – calling on Member States to preserve the established facts, including through education, aimed at preventing denial and distortion or any future occurrence of genocide.  

Key among the negative votes, was that of Serbia, whose President termed the text of the resolution “highly politicized” arguing that it would “open a Pandora’s box”.

“This is not about reconciliation, not about memories, this is something that will just open an old wound and create complete political havoc. Not only in our region, but even here, in this hall”, he said.

Shoes recovered from a mass grave where those killed in Srebrenica were buried.

The massacre in Srebrenica

The massacre in Srebrenica marked one of the darkest chapters of the war that erupted after the breakup of former Yugoslavia.

In July 1995, the Bosnian Serb army overran Srebrenica – previously declared a safe haven by the Security Council – and brutally murdered thousands of men and teenagers there, expelling 20,000 people from the town.

A small and lightly armed unit of Dutch peacekeepers under the UN flag were unable to resist the Bosnian Serb force.

The brutal killings of Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica by the army of Republika Srpska was recognized as an act of genocide by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) as well as the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

Always remain vigilant

Speaking at Thursday’s high-level commemorative event, Dennis Francis, President of the General Assembly, emphasized that that “the lessons of Srebrenica are clear.”

Intolerance and bigotry – when allowed to flourish – culminate in atrocities beyond comprehension,” he stressed.

We must always remain vigilant and guard against rhetoric that dehumanizes, degrades, and discriminates against a particular group … because such rhetoric is always rooted in hate, and – left unchecked – always leads to unspeakable evil,” he urged.

Assembly President Francis also underscored the continued relevance of the commemoration, with divisive rhetoric running “wider, louder, and deeper than ever before”.

“Let us use this new International Day to honour those lost, educate [future] generations, unite communities, and combat hate in all its forms – I repeat – in all its forms. This is essential to ensure that everyone – regardless of race, faith, or nationality – feels safe in their communities.”

The commemorative event was organized by the Permanent Mission of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the UN, cosponsored by about 22 other nations, including Rwanda.

Barbed wire around a camp for some 25,000 people displaced from Srebrenica. The fence was there to keep people from wandering into the surrounding fields that may have been mined. (1995 photo)

Barbed wire around a camp for some 25,000 people displaced from Srebrenica. The fence was there to keep people from wandering into the surrounding fields that may have been mined. (1995 photo)

Combat denial

Also at the event, Alice Wairimu Nderitu, UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, read out a message from Secretary-General António Guterres.

“29 years ago, the United Nations and the world failed the people of Srebrenica … today, we honour the memory of the victims and stand in solidarity with the survivors,” she said.

Ms. Nderitu underscored the UN’s support for the families of those killed, in their efforts to seek justice and establish truth, adding that “we must combat denial and revisionism and pursue efforts to identify every victim and bring every perpetrator to account.”

She underscored that that the genocide in Srebrenica stands as a “harrowing testament” to the consequences of inaction in the face of hatred.  

We must fight against division and intolerance, stand up for human rights, and promote mutual understanding and reconciliation,” she said.

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