Avoid Bosnia tragedy, UN chief says of Syria

Avoid Bosnia tragedy, UN chief says of Syria

SREBRENICA / JERUSALEM
Avoid Bosnia tragedy, UN chief says of Syria

The Syrian army and rebels send reinforcements to Aleppo to join the raging battle for the country’s second city, as UN chief Ban urges the world ‘to stop the slaughter.’ AFP Photo

U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon honored the victims of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre yesterday while calling on the world to learn from the Bosnian slaughter and stop the bloodshed in Syria.

“We have to do all to protect civilians and to stop bloodshed, particularly in Syria now, when we have learned the message of Srebrenica,” Ban said. “I do not want to see any of my successors after 20 years visiting Syria [and] apologizing for what we could have done now to protect the civilians in Syria which we are not doing,” he said, according to Agence France-Presse.

After being asked whether the U.N. was going to take action to stop the violence in Syria, Ban said “a political dialogue over a military intervention has not taken place, so I think it is not right to make a comment on this.” He also called for a political dialogue to stop the violence in Syria. Ban was speaking during his visit to the site of the Srebrenica massacre, Europe’s worst single atrocity since World War II, Anatolia News Agency reported. “Never [again] Srebrenica, nowhere, to no-one,” he said.

Ban is the first U.N. secretary-general to visit Srebrenica since the 1995 massacre, in which Bosnian Serb troops killed around 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the days after they captured the U.N.-protected enclave on July 11, 1995. The Bosnian Serbs brushed aside lightly armed Dutch peacekeepers in the U.N. “safe area” where thousands of Muslims from surrounding villages had gathered for protection.

Srebrenica was perhaps the most difficult, the most painful place for him to visit as secretary-general, he said.

Ban acknowledges mistakes in Srebrenica

“The international community failed to provide the necessary protection to many people who were killed at the time, when they needed our support,” he said.

 Ban was speaking after meeting survivors at the Potocari cemetery near Srebrenica, where more than 6,500 victims are buried. “Srebrenica is holy ground for the families and the victims and also for the Family of Nations,” Ban told the victims. News of his forthcoming visit had received a mixed reaction.While some victims praised it, saying they hoped it would keep the U.N. from looking on as genocide is carried out in the future, others dismissed it as too little, too late.

“The fact that Ban is coming today doesn’t really say much because the U.N. did nothing when the Srebrenica massacre happened,” Hajra Catic, who lost her husband and son in the slaughter, told journalists earlier. “There will be no justice as long as ... the U.N. hides behind its immunity,” she said. “The people who delivered my family to the [Bosnian] Serb forces were [U.N.] blue helmets,” said Hasan Nuhanovic, a former interpreter for the Dutch U.N. battalion in Srebrenica who lost both parents and his brother in the massacre. “There is no organization which is more responsible for what happened in Srebrenica than the U.N.,” he said, but added that Ban’s visit was important “because the U.N. must take a position ... [and] recognize its responsibility” for Srebrenica. Nuhanovic is one of the claimants in a lawsuit trying to hold the Dutch state responsible for the deaths of three Srebrenica victims, including his father and brother. In 2012 an appeals court found the Dutch state responsible, marking the first time the Dutch state was held accountable for the actions of its U.N. peacekeeping battalion by a judge. But the Dutch government announced last month that it would appeal the ruling.
The Srebrenica massacre has been ruled a genocide by two international courts. The two men accused of masterminding the slaughter, former Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic and his army chief, Ratko Mladic, are on trial at the U.N.’s Yugoslav war crimes tribunal in The Hague after years on the run.

Balkans, Srebrenica, Ban Ki Moon