Shame of Srebrenica

TEN years ago this day, several hundreds of Bosnian men and boys were sent to their death in Srebrenica, a quiet town in Bosnia. They were killed in a so-called safe enclave under the United Nations. The killing went on for full five days. Over 600 men were found dead. Many more, over 8,000 people, went missing never to be found.

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Published: Mon 11 Jul 2005, 10:03 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 6:44 PM

Yet the world watched in silent indifference even as the tragedy across the Balkans unfolded. The then US president George Bush Senior dithered and failed to act which could have saved countless lives in Bosnia and elsewhere in the Balkans. It was not until Clinton took over that the US decided to assert itself to end the terrible humanitarian tragedy. The US action, it must be pointed out, saved the Bosnian Muslims from being completely wiped out.

Today, ten years after the worst genocide since the World War II, as the world remembers the victims of Srebrenica, we are nowhere near seeing justice being done to the perpetrators of the Balkan outrage. Bosnian Serb commander, Ratko Mladic, who sent these innocent men to death, remains at large. So is the more notorious Radovan Karadzic, the mastermind behind what has come to be euphemistically known as "ethnic cleansing".

In fact, most of the killers have managed to evade the long arm of the international law. Earlier last month, the world saw the horror of that July 1995 tragedy in a video showing the execution of six Bosnian men by the Scorpions, a Serbian paramilitary group. Those young, cowering men were just like us, looking into the camera dangling between hope and despair. One moment they were there, standing with their backs to camera, and the next moment they were down in a lifeless heap. It’s hard to believe this happened right before the eyes of UN peacekeepers. They were indeed "scenes from hell, written on the darkest pages of human history," as a shocked judge of the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia put it.

Today as the world revisits the shame of Srebrenica, it is easy to reaffirm that it will not be allowed to happen again. It is easy to dismiss the Balkan tragedy as a thing of the past — something unthinkable in our civilised times. Yet, the tragedy of Srebrenica and many before and after it go to prove that whenever the world community has failed to respond to its conscience call, it has suffered the outrages like Srebrenica.

We can do justice to the memory of Bosnian victims and others by bringing justice to their killers and preventing such tragedies from taking place again.

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