Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Serbia apologises for Srebrenica massacre

The parliament of Serbia strongly condemns the crime committed against the Bosnian Muslim population of Srebrenica in July 1995, as determined by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling ... (and offers its) condolences and an apology to the families of the victims because not everything possible was done to prevent the tragedy.

Last night the Serbian Narodna skupština, after intense debate, passed a landmark resolution expressing regret and condemning the 1995 Srebrenica massacre and offering "their condolences and an apology to the families of the victims because not everything possible was done to prevent the tragedy." Proposed by the ruling coalition of pro-Western President Boris Tadic, the resolution was adopted by 127 of the 173 parliamentarians present in the room, after 13 hours of debate, this constitutes a sea change for Serbia, a country still deeply divided over the role of the Milošević regime in the bitter and bloody conflict and the popular backing this received. The resolution was not an easy one to reach and its wording has been carefully crafted to ensure that the majority of the Skupština subscribed to it. "We wanted a completely different resolution but apparently that is not possible," said Cedomir Jovanovic, of the Liberal opposition, according to Reuters, while, astonishingly, Branko Ruzic, of the Socialist party, led at the time led by Slobodan Milosevic said "We are taking a civilised step as politically responsible people, based on political conviction, for the war crime that happened in Srebrenica."

Although the resolution might not satisfy the victims of this act as it avoids the term "genocide", it is important to note that it ends years of denial about the killings and that it is a sign of political maturity across the political spectrum of Serbian politics. It constitutes a highly symbolic act of the determination of Serbia's political class to move on and break away from the hold of the Milosevic era.

Whereas a number of MPs criticised the bill for failing to condemn what they called similar crimes against Serbs carried out by neighbouring Croatia during the war, the Skupština successfully decoupled the Srebrenica massacre and the moral culpability of the Serbian state from a potentially endles and counterproductive spiral of recrimination.

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