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6.12.2004

A first step towards healing? 

Serbian leaders are facing up to crimes they have committed in the past:


LJUBLJANA, Slovenia, June 11 — Nearly nine years after the event, Bosnia's Serbian leadership has admitted responsibility for the massacre of at least 7,000 Muslim men and boys in the town of Srebrenica.

A 42-page report, commissioned by Bosnia's Serb Republic and made public Friday, admits for the first time that police and army units under the government's control "participated" in the massacre, which took place in July 1995.

The killings, viewed as the worst atrocity committed in Europe since World War II, were part of a final push by Bosnia's Serb leadership to create an "ethnically pure" Serbian state. The massacre provoked international revulsion and ultimately helped prompt United States and European leaders to intervene and bring an end to the three-year-long conflict.

Until recently, Bosnia's Serbian leadership has refused to acknowledge the extent of the killings. In 2002, another inquiry by the same government sought to minimize the number of people killed.

The latest report, commissioned in January under strong international pressure, concludes that from July 10 to July 19, 1995, "several thousand" Bosnian Muslims "were liquidated in a manner which represents a heavy violation of international human rights." It also states that "the executioner undertook all measures to hide the crime by removing bodies."

The report includes the locations of 32 mass graves, 28 of which were "secondary," containing bodies that had been removed from other sites in order to hide them from international investigators.

International officials in the province say 11 of the sites have never been disclosed before.

In one of the clearest statements of contrition by Serbian officials since the end of the war, the report's conclusion states that the fact should be faced "that some members of the Serb people have committed a crime in Srebrenica in July 1995." This in turn, it said, might help to bring perpetrators of other war crimes in Bosnia to justice.



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