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Srebrenica Remembered

Aired July 11, 2005 - 12:30   ET


ANNOUNCER: Ten years ago, a city under siege falls to the army of the Bosnian Serbs. The U.N. had declared Srebrenica a safe area. Instead, U.N. troops stood by as it turned into a slaughterhouse. Thousands of civilians were killed. A decade later, the Balkans are at peace, but nobody has forgotten Srebrenica.
Now, CNN's Christiane Amanpour.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to Srebrenica. I'm Christiane Amanpour on this anniversary, 10 years after the worst massacre in Europe since World War II. Nearly 8,000 people were killed, men and boys, and only 2,000 of them have been identified and buried so far. Today was a day for people to come and bury the remainder, the latest remains who have been identified. It was a day for dignitaries from all over the world to come and once again, remember, and to apologize, to beg forgiveness of these people for failing. As one official said, it was the greatest collective failure in Europe since the 1930s.

AMANPOUR: It started with the haunting sounds of the youth choir, who sang "the Srebrenica Inferno."


AMANPOUR: The Bosnian president addressed his people, and he said, that the was a day when not all their pain could be assuaged, but when the international community would at least try to put things right.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Dear families of the victims, I have no words of comfort for your pains and suffering. None can bring back and replace your loved ones either. The only thing we can do now is do our best in finding the missing and kill the ones who buried them with dignity, and to punish those who are responsible for the crime, particularly the most wanted war criminal, Karadzic (ph) and Mladic (ph).


AMANPOUR: Well, of course those most wanted are still at large. Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb commander, and Radovan Karadzic, the self-styled Bosnian Serb president who orchestrated this massacre and who had been indicted by the War Crimes Tribunal for genocide, are still at large, 10 years after they killed 8,000 people. The U.N. also has apologized, has conducted an exhaustive investigation, and has criticized itself for failing to protect the people of what was after all a U.N.-safe area. The U.N. secretary- general's representative also spoke today.


MARK MALLOCH BROWN, U.N. CHIEF OF STAFF: We can say, and it is true, that great nations failed to respond adequately. We can say, and it is also true, that there should have been stronger military forces in place, and a stronger will to use them. We can say, and it is undeniable, that blame lies first and foremost with those who planned and carried out the massacre, or who assisted them, or who harbored them, and are still harboring them today.


AMANPOUR: And after the speeches, after the speeches, the names of 610 victims of Srebrenica, boys and men, were read out, and their simple coffins draped in green fabric were passed from hand to hand and buried in this cemetery behind me, 610 more families who finally have closure, and there are another, at least 4,000 -- 6,000 families who still do not know where their loved ones are. Their remains are still waiting to be identified. Mass graves are still waiting to be exhumed. There is a long way to go before the people of Srebrenica finally find justice. And as you heard from the speakers, one of the key things that has to happen is the arrest of Ratko Mladic and the Bosnian Serb President Radovan Karadzic, who is still at large.

This is what happened 10 years ago today.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): It was a U.N.-safe area. But Mladic's forces easily overran the small contingent of peacekeepers, which had been given neither the authority nor the weapons to defend Srebrenica. Mladic and his man strutted through the town after it fell, telling terrified civilians not to worry, nobody was going to hurt them.

But in fact, over the next few day, General Mladic supervised the separation of men from women, and set his army on a killing campaign, that to this day, has left more than 7,000 Muslim men and boys missing. The International War Crimes Tribunal has indicted General Mladic for NEVILLE: e massacre at Srebrenica on 20 counts of genocide, crimes against humanity, and other breaches of the Geneva Convention that protects civilians in war.

The indictment charges that despite agreeing with the U.N. to treat Srebrenica's surrendering Muslims as prisoners of war, what ensued was an orgy of mass executions, looting and burning of homes and more refugees. Thousands of Srebrenica's women and children walked for days to reach the Muslim-held town of Tusla (ph).


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) AMANPOUR: Joining me now to discuss today's memorial are ambassador Pierre Prosper of the State Department War Crimes Department, and Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, the architect of the Dayton Peace Accords.

First of all, can I ask you, there are a lot of expressions of remorse, that this was a stain on the international community's conscience. How do you as an American feel? How does American feel about this?

PIERRE PROSPER, U.S. AMB. FOR WAR CRIMES: Well, we come here with deep regret as to what happened here. This is something that should have never actually taken place. The international community had a responsibility which it did not uphold. But at the same time, we look at the perpetrators, and recognize that they had the obviously, the fundamental responsibility that occurred here. So what we are doing here today is expressing our grief, our remorse, but also recommitting ourselves to getting the job done, which means also bringing Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic to justice.

AMANPOUR: Ambassador Holbrooke, you were in the administration when Srebrenica happened. President Clinton has said that this massacre actually meant the end of genocide in Europe. Do you -- what can you say to the people here who have, you know, got to still come to terms with what happened?

RICHARD HOLBROOKE, FMR. U.S. BALKAN ENVOY: What happened in Srebrenica 10 years ago today should never have happened. It was a result of Western collective failure and the United Nations failures, and it was, as President Clinton said, a wakeup call to the world, and especially to NATO, that we now faced only two choices, either get in to stop the massacres, the genocide, the ethnic cleansing, or we'd have to come in to help the U.N. forces leave. So President Clinton launched the diplomatic effort that led to Dayton, but we are here today to remember what happened, and try to learn from it.

AMANPOUR: Can I just say for the people who are here, they say that they need justice. There'll never been a resolution to this, until, a, they find the remains of all their loved ones, but, b, until the perpetrators, the chief architects are brought to justice. Under your administration, after Dayton, the U.S. forces blanketed this place, and they never went after them, and they're still not going after them, the E.U. forces who are here. Why not? Why haven't these two been brought to justice? First you.

HOLBROOKE: I think the failure to bring Karadzic and Mladic to justice is a massive failure, not of Dayton, but of implementing the Dayton agreement. I am outraged by it. I fought vigorously for more aggressive NATO action when I was in the State Department. And I know that Ambassador Prosper is doing the same thing now.

Now, having said that, the responsibility for bringing them to justice also rests with the Serbs. And let's be very clear on this, Christiane, Karadzic, the architect of this whole horror, is being sheltered by criminal gangs of Bosnian Serbs. My guess, if you want to guess, he's in a monastery somewhere with a long beard, and he shaved off that characteristic head of hair of his, and he is part of a support group that involves a criminal gang.

AMANPOUR: Well, what about Mladic, because we heard in the last few weeks that, you know, there was ongoing discussions, that perhaps he was going to be brought in for this 10th anniversary.

PROSPER: What we've done, and this larger portfolio, was back in 2001, President Bush took a look at this and decided to really make a strong push to bring these guys to justice. So we have two parts. One is what we are doing here in Bosnia with the NATO forces, where we actually surged and tried to find Karadzic. We still continue to try to do that today. The second element was dealing with the officials in Belgrade, to get them to accept their responsibility, and bring these people to justice.

Now there have been some movement in Belgrade in the past few months, and we are hopeful that there would be action on Mladic by today, because what we said to the officials in Belgrade, was that this was an ideal opportunity to address a past once and for all so that they could move forward. We had indication, we thought we were getting close, they were getting close, but unfortunately nothing has happened yet, and we're going to continue to press the government.


AMANPOUR: And, next, we'll examine the search for justice. And we'll talk to one of the Srebrenica survivors, after a break.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Evil is present in the world, but it is not absolute. The world in which we live today is not the best possible world. The world in which our children shall live might be the best possible world provided we all rise up against holocaust genocide and terror, which is now spreading all over the world. Our voice is that there is no revenge because revenge is not our religion. It is not our fate. The revenge is not the way -- Bosnian way of life.


AMANPOUR: It has taken a long time for the Serbs to come to terms with what's happened here, and not all of them have. The Serbian president came to pay tribute today. It's the first time ever a Serbian president has come to Srebrenica. And over the last few weeks, an extraordinary video has surfaced. It was brought to light by a Serbian human rights activist. It showed Serbian commandos executing Bosnian Muslim teenagers here in Srebrenica ten years ago. And that has focused attention. It has caused denial no longer to be an option.

CNN's Nic Robertson has this report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A Serb shoots, a Muslim falls dead. Serb Natasa Kandic watches as the explosive videotape she brought to the world's attention plays to a packed hall. It is the only video evidence of Europe's biggest post-World War II slaughter of civilians in Srebrenica, 1995. Watching the crime, watching the war crime, too much for the women of the Bosnian town. Kandic's aim, though, not to shock the victims so much as the perpetrators.

NATASA KANDIC, HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST: Because they didn't see any other way how to face Serbia and their Serbian politicians with what we did in the past.

ROBERTSON: A sociologist turned human rights activist, she has been campaigning for justice for victims since Yugoslavia began tearing itself apart 14 years ago. Her investigations into 1999 Serbian atrocities during the Kosovo conflict led her to discover the existence of the Srebrenica tape.

KANDIC: And they called government. Without any big explanation, asking him, they're actually asking him, do you have videotape? We don't (INAUDIBLE) what kind of videotape? And he was confused, telling me, I don't have videotape. I gave videotape immediately to the commander.

ROBERTSON: She didn't give up, arranging to meet the very soldiers she was investigating.

KANDIC: They started -- I'm not afraid to come, to ask, to talk.

ROBERTSON: She won their trust, and a few months later, they got her the tape. It showed their unit, the Scorpions, being blessed by an orthodox priest shortly before leaving Serbia to support the Srebrenica offensive across the border in Bosnia. A few weeks later, the same men appear in Bosnian/Serb police uniforms with six prisoners just arrived from the recently overrun Srebrenica. Next, they kill the captives, almost casually.

She gave the tape to tribunal prosecutors, and edited versions were quickly broadcast on Serbian television, immediately prompting Serb leaders to condemn the six killings. Not tough enough, though, for Kandic, who wants complete openness.

KANDIC: The problem is that probably the premier (INAUDIBLE) don't want to show that (INAUDIBLE) biggest war criminals. He will not take as the truth what's happened in Srebrenica. He will not -- he doesn't believe that Serbs committed the crimes.

ROBERTSON: But she knows she still has a long way to go.

KANDIC: I wanted to say, what is the truth? Truth is that the state created -- established Scorpions. The state used Scorpions for many criminal acts. But the main point of the videotape is involvement of the Serbian state in crimes in Bosnia.

ROBERTSON: High hopes from Kandic, but so far, she is making progress. Nic Robertson, CNN, Belgrade.


AMANPOUR: Reporter: And even though some consciousness is now being raised in Serbia and evidence is being put forward, the Serbian government still has not arrested and turned over Ratko Mladic and it is believed by many officials that he is in Serbia.

I am joined now be Hasan Nuhanovic, who was here in Srebrenica and who lived here for three-and-a-half years and helped the U.N. conduct its operations and its work here.

Hasan, first of all, what does today mean to you? Does it put any sense of closure or justice?

HASAN NUHANOVIC, FORMER U.N. TRANSLATOR: For some people, it probably does, but they haven't found the remains of my family, my parents and my younger brother. Ten years ago, they were together with me inside the U.N. Dutch battalion base, and they were handed over to the Serbs by the Dutch soldiers. And along with another 5,000, 6,000 people who were inside the base. So their mortal remains have not been found, so I couldn't bury any of my family members yet, ten years later.

AMANPOUR: You know, you worked for the U.N., and yet, your own relatives were handed over. I mean, did nobody know what was going to happen?

NUHANOVIC: They all knew. They all knew. I was just -- I just came back from the Hague, and there were court preliminary hearings in the Hague against the state of Netherlands, where several Dutch officers actually admitted in the court. It's in the court records that they did know that some people were already being killed outside of the base, but they still decided to hand over the people who were inside the base to the Serbs, who then killed them.

AMANPOUR: Can you describe for us the horror of that moment? I mean, you were there, you lived it. The Srebrenica had been overrun. Thousands of people came here, and then they were led off.

NUHANOVIC: Listen, at the moment, when my family was told by the soldiers to leave the base -- they were told, get out, you know, just get out -- I couldn't see the difference between the Serb troops and the U.N. Dutch peacekeepers.

AMANPOUR: Will you ever be able to forgive?

NUHANOVIC: Well, I don't think I will ever be able to forgive or to forget, but I can live -- I mean, I have to live with it. And I think, I have to see some justice done in court. And that's the only way in which justice can be done, I think. And the ICTY, the tribunal in the Hague, the international tribunal, covers the part of the story where the Serbs who killed those people, but I am not trying to have a court case against those U.N. peacekeepers or parts of this whole system that has contributed. I mean, that has basically assisted and helped the Serbs get hold of these people. AMANPOUR: Can I ask you about yourself and reconciliation? I mean, you are a person of this valley. You lived here for three and half years. Is it possible, after all that, to have reconciliation between Serbs and Muslims?

NUHANOVIC: Really, I don't think you should ask this kind of question of people like me. My whole family was killed. Maybe you should ask other people who have not suffered as much I have. And there's a great part of the population that has not been directly affected by this war. So, you know, this part of the population that have lost entire families, and our lives have been ruined completely, I don't think we are the ones who should be dragged into this kind of issue, you know, on reconciliation and things like that. I have already too many problems to deal with in my life. So, this is, you know, I have this mourning that is going on for 10 years now. There's no closure for me. My relatives have not been found. I couldn't bury them. Those who have done this have not been punished. So, I mean, how can I have closure?

AMANPOUR: Hasan, thank you for joining us. And we'll be back after a break.

NUHANOVIC: OK, thank you.


AMANPOUR: Welcome back.

You heard how raw the feelings of Mr. Nuhanovic is. During the break, he told me he doesn't want to seem like an obstruction to reconciliation, but the pain is so great, the pain of not knowing what's happened,not knowing where the remains are, and we found that today when we talked to other families of the victims here. Those who are burying their 610 at least had something that they could have forever, a grave to come and pray at, a place to come and think at and a place to remember.

Those who didn't, didn't want to talk to us. And what we found was that most of the families burying their dead here were women. Every other women in Srebrenica lost some male relative, and some of them lost several sons.


AMANPOUR: Here at the memorial to Srebrenica's dead, the first thing people do when they come in is search this wall. There were nearly 8,000 people killed. Look at Alech (ph). family, for instance. The number starts at 282. It goes all the way down here, all the way down here, all the way down to 509. That's 227 people of the same family.

(on camera): Which is his name? Alech? Muyo (ph) Alech, and that was your father.

(voice-over): When the family are finished looking at the names that are posted on those boards, they come here. This is now a memorial to the victims of the Srebrenica massacre. It used to be a corn field, and it stands right opposite where the Dutch battalion was, that handful of Dutch soldiers who the people of this village fled to for protection, only to find that there was no protection.

Ten years later, 600 more bodies or the remains of 600 more victims are being buried, all the able-bodied men and young boys. We've just run into a woman called Nazira (ph) who is here burying one of her relatives, but she has no news of the two sons that she lost.

(on camera): Who are you burying today?

(voice-over): She says she's burying her nephew. She just hopes that she can find the remains of at least one son before she dies. The last time Nazira saw her sons 10 years ago, they were being marched off with their hands tied behind their backs.

(on camera): But it wasn't just the able bodied and the young who were massacred; it was the old, too. Look, 1933, he was 62 years old when he was killed, along with the rest of the victims of this city.

(voice-over): Only July 11, 1995, some of the men managed to escape, a column of 15,000 of Srebrenica's men and boys left and started to walk through the mountains, trying to find safety in a Bosnian stronghold of Tusla, north of here. Many of them were killed on the way, ambushed, shelled, tricked into surrendering, and then executed. But many of them survived.

And in these anniversary commemorations, thousands of them have made the march back, reenacting their exhausting escape.

Ibro (ph) told us he and his friends marched for 37 days. When they set off, there was 1,000 of them. By the time they had walked to safety, only 30 remained.

(on camera): The grief at this cemetery is palpable. This is a memorial to great pain and profound shame. Even 10 years later, it's hard to imagine how this could have happened here.

(voice-over): A simple plaque here in the memorial says, "may revenge be turned into justice. May mother's tears be turned into prayers, that there should be no more Srebrenicas."


AMANPOUR: And 10 years after Srebrenica, things have changed. There's no more war. There is an uneasy peace. Four-thousand of Srebrenica's more than 30,000 Muslims have come back here, and some 22 criminals, war crime suspects, have been taken in, in this year alone. But the chief architects remain at large, and as one of the speakers said, there will be no closure until they are brought to justice, until the remains of all these people's families are found, and identified and given a decent burial.

I'm Christiane Amanpour in Srebrenica. Thank you for watching.



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