Factbox: What happened at Srebrenica?

A forensic expert examines a mass grave near Srebrenica

The Srebrenica massacre refers to the July 1995 killing of 7,000 to 8,000 Bosnian Muslims in the town of Srebrenica in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the Bosnia War.

The Srebrenica massacre refers to the July 1995 killing of 7,000 to 8,000 Bosnian Muslims in the town of Srebrenica in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the Bosnia War.

In March 2010, Serbia's parliament passed a landmark resolution condemning the massacre of some 7,000 to 8,000 Bosnian Muslims in 1995.

The name of the town came to be synonymous with the brutality of the conflict in the Balkans: Srebrenica.

The Bosnian War involved Bosnia, Serbia and Montenegro (then known as the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia), and Croatia.

Numerous factions from different ethnic groups - with Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims), Serbs and Croats laying claims to the land by use of proxy forces- fought from 1992 to 1995. NATO joined UN peacekeepers late on - only becoming involved towards the end, partly due to the massacre in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica.

In the summer of 1995, Srebrenica had been a UN Safe Area for two years.

It had been held by the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and its Bosnian Muslim civilians – Bosniaks - found themselves protected from Bosnian Serbs by Dutch forces.

But the Dutch, numbering only in their hundreds, were lightly armed. When Bosnian Serb forces advanced on the town, Bosniak fighters who had surrendered their weapons to foreign
peacekeepers found that their requests to have their weapons returned, were refused.

The audacity of the Bosnian-Serb forces – allies of then Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic - shocked many observers when some Dutch soldiers were taken hostage, with UN positions targeted.

As Bosniaks surrounded Dutch positions in fear, the Dutch called in support from NATO planes, but, reports later suggested, fumbling and inaction delayed the attacks on Serbian fighters when requests for air support were delayed after they were submitted on the wrong form.


When Dutch planes finally bombed Serb positions around Srebrenica, threats were received from Serb forces that the Dutch peacekeepers in captivity would be executed, suspending the continuation of air strikes.

What followed over the next few days involved Serb forces entering the town, demanding that
Bosnian Muslims hand over their weapons.

Men and women were separated in an apparent attempt to root out fighters. Accounts suggest over 23,000 women and children were deported. Escaping fighters were shelled.

According to the BBC, Dutch forces handed over around 5,000 Muslims in exchange for the release of Dutch peacekeepers.

It was a chain of events that would shock Europe, a continent which saw massacres as things which didn't occur on its territory, certainly not in the late 20th century.

With the Dutch retreating from the town, Bosnian Serb forces were free to commit the killings.

Over 7,000 Muslim men and boys were estimated killed.

Many were killed before or during the walk to Muslim-held territory, many took place in warehouses around the town and across the countryside.

A BBC Report from 1995 shows some of the first evidence of the killings emerging, before the full extent was known to the outside world.


Serbian lawmakers have left themselves open to criticism by not going as far as some hoped and labeling the killings 'genocide' as the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia have done , although wider backing was sought by doing so.

Many Serbian nationalists still condemned the idea, with some calling on further denouncements of crimes committed by Croats and Bosniaks alike.

In the end, the pro-Western government just slipped the resolution through, offering "condolences and an apology to the families of the victims because not everything was done to prevent the tragedy".

A UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague has found a number of Bosnian Serbs convicted of participation in the killings.

Ravodan Karadzic, leader of the Bosnian Serbs during the war, is on trial. Ratko Mladic – a general accused of leading the operation, has not been apprehended.

Attempts to hold the UN partly responsible were rejected at The Hague Appeals court.

Source SBS

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