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Fifteen years on, Serbia apologises for Srebrenica massacre

Members of the Serbian parliament debate the landmark bill condemning the 1995 massacre in Srebrenica.
Members of the Serbian parliament debate the landmark bill condemning the 1995 massacre in Srebrenica. Reuters

The Serbian parliament passed a landmark resolution on Wednesday condemning the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of some 8,000 Bosnian Muslims, but stopped short of labelling the killings a genocide. The adoption of the text ends years of denial by Serbian politicians about the scale of the killings.

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The text was adopted with a majority of 127 of the 173 lawmakers present, after 13 hours of debate.

"The parliament of Serbia strongly condemns the crime committed against the Bosnian Muslim population of Srebrenica in July 1995, as determined by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling," the text says.

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In their ruling, ICJ judges cleared Serbia of responsibility for the actual killings themselves but said Belgrade was responsible for doing nothing to avoid the massacre.

The Serbian lawmakers formally extended "their condolences and an apology to the families of the victims because not everything possible was done to prevent the tragedy".

Although the Srebrenica massacre has been ruled to be genocide by both the International Criminal Court for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the ICJ, the resolution avoids using the term, which would have cost it support in parliament.

But the parliament did vow to continue its cooperation with the and stressed the importance of "the discovery and arrest of Ratko Mladic so that he might stand trial before the ICTY".

Mladic, the UN war crimes court's most wanted fugitive, was in charge of the Bosnian Serb troops who overran the UN-protected enclave in July 1995. He is believed to be hiding in Serbia.

The historic declaration coincides with Serbia's push to join the European Union, with Belgrade hoping to achieve candidate status next year. The EU has made full cooperation with the ICTY a prerequisite for being allowed to join the bloc.

Srebrenica was one of Europe's worst atrocities since World War II. After separating the men from the women, Bosnian Serb troops led by Mladic summarily executed some 8,000 Muslim men and boys and buried the bodies in various mass graves.

But some Serbs, notably ex-Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, have insisted on downplaying the killings.

Misha Gavrilovic of the Serbian Information Office in London told RFI he felt it was "a highly conflicting situation."

"Many people see it as a pressure which has been put on Serbia by the United States - via the European Union - to effectively self-indict itself and self-criminalise itself over an issue over which the highest legal body in the world, the International Court of Justice, had in fact proclaimed Serbia to be innocent."

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