|Bosnian Muslim women mourn over the casket of a victim of the Srebrenica massacre [EPA]|
More than 15,000 Bosnian Muslims have gathered to bury the remains of 613 people at Srebrenica to commemorate the 16th anniversary of the 1995 killings of thousands of Muslims in and around the town.
A special commemoration service was held on Monday at the vast cemetery and memorial centre in Potocari where 4,500 of the 8,000 victims of the massacre were already buried.
Families prayed over the graves of their loved ones, and some came to bury 613 people whose remains were identified just last year.
Al Jazeera’s Andrew Simmons, reporting from the memorial centre in Potocari, said during the “highly emotional ceremony” the “613 coffins snaked through the crowds to the graves”.
“During this, every single name was read out. It went on and on,” he said.
Worst single atrocity
The massacre is the worst single atrocity on European soil since World War II and the only episode of the 1992-95 Bosnian war that international courts have called a genocide.
The remains of the 613 victims, who were buried during Monday’s service in Potocari, were recovered from mass graves during the past year and identified through DNA tests.
Forensic experts painstakingly assembled complete skeletons and checked each bone against the DNA from blood samples of survivors of the massacre.
The dead were among more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys from the eastern enclave who were systematically killed after Serbian forces besieged the town on July 11, 1995, in the climax to the 1992-95 Bosnian war that claimed a total of 100,000 lives.
“The big issue here is the time it has taken to identify the bodies because the Serb army were meticulous in hiding away the evidence. They moved the remains of the bodies to various sites all over the mountains and villages of this area,” our correspondent said at the site of the burial.
Ahmed Sehic, who came to bury his father who was killed with two of Ahmed’s uncles while trying to flee through the woods to Muslim-held territory during the Bosnian war, said: “I hope it will be easier for me now, I will know where he is, where I can come to visit his grave.”
‘Celebrated as heroes’
A Muslim member of Bosnia’s presidency said on Sunday that many Serbs were not facing the truth about the Srebrenica massacre.
Bakir Izetbegovic, whose father Alija Izetbegovic was Bosnia’s wartime Muslim leader, said the wartime Bosnian Serb leaders Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic were still “celebrated as heroes” by a large number of Serbs.
“Time is needed for these things to heal and to find their place,” he said. “It takes too long for things to improve. We still face provocations from people who consider Ratko Mladic a hero.”
Mladic is being tried at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslovia (ICTY) on 11 war crime charges, including genocide, for allegedly masterminding atrocities during the Bosnian war.
Munira Subasic, who lost her husband, two brothers, and many men in her wider family in the 1995 massacre, said that though the arrest of Mladic had brought some comfort, “there is no justice that can make any mother happy”.
Al Jazeera’s Simmons said Monday’s commemorations were “an active way of perpetual grief, as the whole cemetary is emotionally charged because Ratko Mladic is now behind bars, now facing justice in a defiant fashion”.