Srebrenica Massacre Twenty Years Later

During the early 1990s, due to a series of conflicts and political upheavals, the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia split up into six independent countries. The break up resulted in the Yugoslav Wars. The countries of Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina were the primary sites of conflict. There were three main aggressors in the war were the armies of the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovia and the self-proclaimed Bosnian-Croat and Bosnian-Serb forces. The war raged across Bosnia from 1992-1995.

In July of 1995, the small town of Srebrenica in eastern Bosnia became the site of the wars most atrocious act. Over a few days in July 1995, Bosnian-Serb forces massacred 8,000 boys and men aged fourteen to eighty. The event became known internationally as the Srebrenica Massacre. In 2004, a United Nations International Crimes Tribunal found 161 Bosnian-Serb politicians and soldiers guilty of crimes against humanity. The tribunal found that the crimes were committed in the name of ethnic cleaning or genocide—the attempt to eradicate all Muslims from the area. The Srebrenica Massacre was the first genocide in Europe since World War II. In July 2002, Bosnia-Herzegovina established the Srebrenica Memorial in the town of Potocari. Annual memorial services draw thousands of visitors each year.

In July 2015, leaders from around the world will gather at the Srebrenica Memorial to remember the victims of the Srebrenica Massacre as well as support efforts to prevent anything like it from every happening again. However, even though it has been twenty years since Srebrenica and the end of the Bosnian War, the ethnic divisions that led to the horror of Srebrenica remain in the small country of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The United States brokered a peace deal between the Bosnian-Croat, Bosnian-Serb, and Republic of Bosnia forces in 1995 at Wright Patt Air Force Base in Dayton, OH. The agreement became known as the Dayton Peace Accord. While the Peace Accord ended hostilities, its division of Bosnia-Herzegovina into two municipalities—a Bosnian-Muslim and Bosnian-Croat alliance known as the Republic of Bosnia and a Bosnian-Serb municipality known as Republika Srpska—was meant only as a temporary solution to end the fighting. Yet, twenty years later, the division remains with no real hope that it will end anytime in the near future. In fact, many Bosnians argue that the two groups are farther away from any reconciliatory unity than they were when the war ended in 1995. Recently, Pope Francis visited the Bosnian capital city of Sarajevo to urge continued reconciliation between the three ethnic groups. As the twenty anniversary of the Srebrenica Massacre nears, Bosnians and non-Bosnians alike hope for the same.

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