Published On: Sat, Jul 11th, 2015

Serb PM Attacked at Srebrenica Ceremony

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Anger boiled over at a mass burial marking the 20th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre Saturday when a crowd of mourners chased Serbia’s prime minister from the cemetery.

Tens of thousands of people gathered at a cemetery near the Bosnian city to mark the 20th anniversary of the worst mass atrocity in Europe since World War Two.

The ceremony took place ahead of the burial of 136 newly identified victims alongside more than 6,000 victims already buried at the Potocari memorial cemetery, just outside Srebrenica.

Prime Minister Alexander Vucic of Serbia also entered the cemetery to lay flowers, but thousands booed and whistled. Others threw hard objects at him.

Forced to flee

Vucic, a hardline nationalist during the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s, and his guards were forced to run through a crowd that rushed them, with guards trying to protect the prime minister with bags, umbrellas and their raised arms. He returned to Serbia soon afterward.

An aide said the prime minister was hit in the face with a rock.

The Muslim Bosniak mayor of Srebrenica, Camil Durakovic, said he was “deeply disappointed and I truly apologize to Prime Minister Vucic for what he experienced.”

Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland condemned the attack.

The ceremony in Potocari “should have been a place for reflection, reconciliation, not violence,” Jagland said.

On July 11, 1995, Bosnian Serb troops overran the United Nation enclave of Srebrenica, protected by Dutch troops and went on a killing spree. Serbs dumped the bodies of their victims in mass graves around Srebrenica in an effort to hide the magnitude of their crime.

Two international courts have called the Bosnian Serb slaughter of 8,000 Muslim men and boys genocide. Many Serbs dispute the term.

On Saturday, former U.S. President Bill Clinton and other world dignitaries, including Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, Britain’s Princess Anne and Jordan’s Queen Noor, were in attendance at the commemoration ceremonies and laid flowers at the memorial.

“I grieve that it took us so long to unify … to stop this violence,” said Clinton, who was in office at the time of the massacre.

Clinton said before the attack on Vuvic: “I want to thank the prime minister of Serbia for having the courage to come here today and I think it is important that we acknowledge that.”

Pain of victims’ families

U.S. President Barack Obama said in a statement Saturday: “We can offer no solace that fully addresses the pain borne by the victims’ families. But we must look back at Srebrenica with clear eyes, commemorate the tragedy, and learn from it.

“Only by fully acknowledging the past can we achieve a future of true and lasting reconciliation,” Obama said. “Only by holding the perpetrators of the genocide to account can we offer some measure of justice to help heal their loved ones. And only by calling evil by its name can we find the strength to overcome it.”

Clinton’s administration led the NATO airstrikes against Serb positions. His administration also brokered the Dayton Accords that ended the overall conflict, which lasted from 1992 to 1995 and killed an estimated 100,000 people.

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