Srebrenica: Statements

Before I call the Minister, I wish to express my thanks to the members of the Business Committee for agreeing to my proposal to discuss this important issue in the Dáil today on the anniversary of the massacre in Srebrenica. I had the pleasure of meeting representatives of Remembering Srebrenica earlier this year and I am very pleased that the Dáil has an opportunity to discuss the matter today. I commend the work of the organisation, Remembering Srebrenica. I welcome representatives of the group and their friends to the Public Gallery.

The events in Srebrenica 22 years ago still leave scars on the consciousness of all right-thinking Europeans. What happened to the Bosnian Muslims in this tragic episode in our Continent's history must never be allowed to happen again and must never be forgotten. Actively remembering asserts our collective dignity and rejects the venom of racial and ethnic intolerance.

This time in Dáil Éireann, therefore, allows us to remember that cruel massacre in 1995 and to express our hope across all sides of the Chamber that such events will never happen again.

I am pleased to open statements remembering the 22nd anniversary of the genocide in Srebrenica this evening. The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Coveney, regrets that he cannot be here due to prior travel commitments in the Middle East.

I have just come from the Seanad where we discussed the issues raised by the Srebrenica genocide, including the appalling nature of the atrocity that took place, its lasting impact on individual human beings and on a country, and the road to reconciliation and to building a future based on tolerance, inclusivity, justice and peace.

I welcome to the Visitors Gallery members of the Remembering Srebrenica organisation, including those who have travelled from Northern Ireland and representatives from the Bosnian community in Ireland, many of whom arrived to this country in the wake of the appalling massacre at Srebrenica.

We remember the 8,000 men and boys who were murdered and think of their families and loved ones and the other survivors of that atrocity. We also acknowledge the tremendous legacy of this event and its effect on the people of the region as they work towards reconciliation in the wake of that time of war in the Balkans. Today, Srebrenica is synonymous with one of the worst atrocities of history. This took place in living memory and in Europe

We know well the shadows of conflict in Ireland and have been reminded of a sometimes uncomfortable past during this Decade of Commemorations. As we look at our own past, it is right that we remember the events elsewhere that have helped to shape our collective consciousness. Twenty years ago, Ireland welcomed some 500 people from Bosnia, and I am very pleased that those who made their home here will be part of our shared future.

As we commemorate the 8,000 men and boys who lost their lives, we remember also the impact this atrocity had on those left behind, in particular, the women, many of whom suffered sexual violence and mental trauma as well as bereavement. They were the mothers, grandmothers, sisters, girlfriends, neighbours and friends who picked up their own lives after such devastation and who, by their testimony, remind us of the human cost of Srebrenica, and the need to ensure that diversity and ethnic difference are celebrated rather than dismissed or, worse, persecuted. We honour those women, admire their courage and resilience and support their contribution to the rebuilding of a country still living with the consequences of hatred, just as we support the work they do to ensure that the lessons of Srebrenica will not be forgotten.

We all have a responsibility to ensure that every community within our society feels safe and protected. We cannot allow racial or ethnic discrimination to fester and we must be continually vigilant to ensure that our society is an open and inclusive one. We must redouble our efforts to promote tolerance and respect as fundamental values.

The European Union was founded on the principles of peace and justice, and Ireland remains committed to supporting a peaceful, secure and prosperous future for the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the wider region. We continue to encourage them on their European path and to help them overcome the legacy of recent conflicts. We firmly believe that the accession process is a transformative driver for peace and stability, and that by choosing to follow the path towards EU integration, Bosnia is making a positive and active choice about her future as a single, united and sovereign country. We, for our part, will assist in any way we can. Our peacekeepers are serving with the EU mission, Operation Althea, and we are also active within the European Union in encouraging progress across the enlargement dossier, in particular on fundamental freedoms and human rights, and in offering bilateral assistance where possible.

The entire western Balkans region continues to face enormous challenges, including a rise in inter-ethnic tensions and an increase in extreme nationalism. The international community is committed to working with the people of Bosnia to ensure that current tensions are not allowed to spill over. In this context, the reaffirmation by the EU of its commitment to the western Balkans is very welcome. Tomorrow, regional leaders will meet at the Trieste summit to discuss enhanced regional co-operation. This spirit of collaboration can only serve to bring tangible benefits to all of the citizens of the region, and to shape a more prosperous, peaceful future.

As I conclude, I ask the House to commemorate and honour the victims of Srebrenica, and to remember the victims and survivors of all wars. Srebrenica will always serve as a reminder of a dark period in Europe’s past. By learning the lessons of the past and by working together, I believe we will secure a more peaceful Bosnia, working in friendship with her neighbours and as a partner in the European Union.

It is an honour for me, on behalf of Fianna Fáil, to speak on this, the 22nd anniversary of when the Srebrenica massacre began. I remember that day and the reporting of those events when 8,000 Bosnian men and boys were murdered by Bosnian Serb forces under the command of former General Ratko Mladic. The barbaric slaughter of thousands of innocent civilians was compounded by the fact that this was supposed to be a UN safe zone under the protection of approximately 600 Dutch troops. The failure of the UN came at an horrific cost to innocent victims and still casts a dark shadow over the UN and the international community.

The Srebrenica victims were buried in mass graves. In an effort to conceal the war crime, the remains were removed to other sites, with bodies dismembered and dispersed. Last Tuesday, 71 of those people were finally laid to rest in a funeral ceremony. The youngest, Damir Suljic, was only 15 when he was killed. He was buried next to his father, grandfather and uncle. We can only imagine the hurt and loss to that poor man's family and community. It is an honour to have members of the Bosnian community with us in the Gallery.

The United Nations recognised the failure of the international community in responding to the crisis in the former Yugoslavia and, particularly, in Bosnia. We think of Sarajevo and Srebrenica especially. However, crimes were also committed in Croatia in that period. While it was pledged at the time that we would never again witness an atrocity such as Srebrenica - that was to be the lasting testament to the largest massacre of Europeans on European soil since the Second World War - unfortunately we have seen the lack of response from the international community to what has happened in Aleppo, the massacre of Yazidis at Mount Sinjar and the hundreds of thousands if not millions of Christians persecuted in the Middle East. I was shocked to read that the Christian population in Iraq has fallen from 1.4 million to 275,000 in less than ten years. All of us must condemn genocide and persecution of all minorities.

I remember watching events unfold in Srebrenica 22 years ago almost live on television. We keep wondering how the world can continue to let such things happen. If we keep hoping that someone else will do the right thing and if we continue to let history repeat itself, we will continue to fail the thousands who died in Srebrenica and in other genocides. The victims of the Srebrenica genocide and all other genocides deserve better. Therefore, all members of the United Nations and the European Union must not pay lip-service to the principles upon which these organisations were founded but must demonstrate their commitment to them by their actions and convictions.

In order to move on and have real peace and reconciliation, all sides need to acknowledge the extent of the crimes committed in Bosnia, specifically in Srebrenica. It is with regret that many in Republika Srpska and even the first Serb mayor of Srebrenica since this massacre have not been able to agree that this was actually a genocide.

There has to be recognition that this was a genocide, that this was murder perpetrated on the community of Bosniaks simply because they were Muslim. That acknowledgement needs to happen before there will be full reconciliation in the region. Twenty-two years later, we must look in an honest way to see how the European Union, the United Nations and the international community respond to current crises today and, as they occur, respond to genocide and those who perpetrate them and to protect innocent civilians. That will be the testament to those who were brutally murdered in Srebrenica.

This July marks the 22nd anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide. As 11 July is designated as the memorial day, I welcome that we are marking this day with statements in this House. I hope it will happen every year. I also call on the Government to create a national Srebrenica memorial day. That is something that happens in other countries and it would be beneficial if it happened here.

The appalling massacres have been recognised as genocide by the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, ICTY. It is very welcome that the Dáil is today formally remembering the more than 8,000 Muslim Bosnians, or Bosniaks, who were brutally executed by paramilitaries and units of the Bosnian Serb army, under the command of General Ratko Mladic.

I understand that the theme of the Srebrenica commemorations in 2017 is gender and genocide. In addition to those men and boys killed, thousands of women, children and elderly people were forcibly deported and a large number of women were raped and impregnated. Today, we must acknowledge the courage and strength of Bosnian women who have been at the forefront of efforts to ensure the world remembers Srebrenica, including Bosnian women now living in Ireland.

At the ICTY, 38 former members of the Bosnian Serb police force and army have been sentenced to a total of more than 400 years in prison for genocide and crimes against humanity in Srebrenica. The acts of genocide in Srebrenica and other crimes have also been laid out in Mladic's trial in the tribunal and a verdict is expected in November. Sadly, many more perpetrators of mass killings of Bosniaks in the area have not been prosecuted. The mass killings resulted in people desperately fleeing from Srebrenica to safety in Tuzla, a town which was under the control of the Bosnian army in July 1995. I met one such survivor here today.

The UN has called the Srebrenica genocide "the greatest atrocity on European soil since the Second World War". After the Holocaust and genocide carried out by the Nazis, Europe said never again, yet just 22 years ago that act of genocide occurred on European soil. Europe and the world failed the people of Srebrenica. When we say never again now, we must mean it. While we remember that appalling act of genocide we must also commit to continue to challenge and oppose any attempts to minimise or deny the genocide that took place at Srebrenica and oppose the glorification of war criminals. I do not think anyone has mentioned the fact that to this day, many look up to the war criminals. We must also recognise the fact that this genocide took place in a UN-designated safe area and that Dutch soldiers acting as UN peacekeepers failed to stop the capture of the town and the resulting genocide.

I commend Bronagh and Mirza atibuši who have continually raised Srebrenica and other issues with my office. They worked tirelessly, along with other members of the Bosnian community in Ireland, to ensure that Srebrenica was remembered and marked in Ireland over the years. Bronagh, Mirza, and other members of the Bosnian community in Ireland are in the Visitors Gallery tonight. I am sure it is an emotional day for all of them and for Bosnians throughout the world.

The Minister said Ireland accepted more than 500 refugees from Bosnia. I thought 1,000 Bosnian refugees were accepted through a resettlement programme established in response to the war in Bosnia in the 1990s. Many of those who came to Ireland had been ethnically cleansed from parts of eastern Bosnia, including Srebrenica. Some of them had survived the horrors of the Srebrenica genocide. Today, we remember all the loved ones of members of the Bosnian community in Ireland who were killed in the war. Their experience of surviving conflict and overcoming trauma and their successful integration is an inspiration today as Ireland again accepts refugees from war-torn countries such as Syria.

It is estimated that 1,000 people dumped in mass graves are still missing. International funding to identify the victims is not secure and Ireland needs to raise its voice in support of that important work. Perhaps the Minister of State, Deputy Cannon, would follow through on that work and securing the funding needed to support it.

Today, we remember all the victims and survivors of the Srebrenica genocide. In concluding, I refer to Article II of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. It defines genocide as:

...any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: (a) Killing members of the group; (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group, (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

That is genocide.

I welcome the opportunity to speak in this debate on behalf of the Labour Party. These statements are in keeping with the European Parliament resolution of 2009. That resolution called on the Council and the Commission to commemorate the anniversary of the genocide, and to support the recognition of 11 July across the European Union as a day of commemoration of the Srebrenica massacre. Two years ago, the Labour Party spokesperson on foreign affairs, Senator Bacik, organised a commemoration in Leinster House with representatives of the Bosnian Irish community. I am pleased that the Ceann Comhairle has built on that tradition, and has committed to ensuring we do not forget the horror that was visited on the people of Srebrenica not so long ago.

It is at the heart of our shared humanity that we do not forget such atrocities and that in honour of those who did not survive, we remember what was done to them. More than 8,000 Bosnian men and boys were brutally killed when the UN so-called safe area of Srebrenica fell to Serbian forces, led by Ratko Mladic on 11 July 1995. This massacre has been recognised as genocide by the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. It is the worst single atrocity to have been perpetrated on European soil since the end of the Second World War. As the horrific events of the Second World War fade out of living memory, it is even more important that we pause to remember that genocide has happened in Europe within our lifetime. As we in Ireland know all too well, peace is a fragile construct. It must be carefully tended, and never neglected. We see war continuing not far from our European borders even today. In Syria and Ukraine, we see the human cost.

I know the Bosnian community in Ireland has been active for many years in commemorating the awfulness of Srebrenica. Their actions are more than acts of commemoration. They still seek justice for the victims of the genocide and of other atrocities which occurred in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the 1990s. It is fitting that they have received cross-party political support in Ireland in that quest. The theme of the Srebrenica commemorations in 2017 is gender and genocide. It gives us an opportunity to recognise the courage and strength of Bosnian women, who have been at the forefront of efforts to ensure that the world never forgets Srebrenica. In Ireland, Bosnian women have played a key role in raising awareness about Bosnia and Herzegovina, through organising memorial events, informing Irish people about their country, and fostering intercultural understanding. Just over 20 years ago, Ireland established a resettlement programme in response to the war in Bosnia.

It is my understanding, too, that more than 1,000 Bosnians have arrived on our shores as a result of that programme. They came, scarred after experiencing appalling horrors. Many of those who came to this country had been victims of ethnic cleansing efforts, including at Srebrenica. As we commemorate the genocide that took place in Srebrenica, we remember all the loved ones of members of the Bosnian community in Ireland who were killed. We must remember, yet it is hard for us in this Chamber to begin to imagine the lived experience of those who survived that conflict and many did. Somehow, they overcame unimaginable trauma and successfully integrated into our community and into Irish society. They serve as an inspiration to us all, particularly as we once again seek to open our shores and doors to those fleeing newer conflicts.

The horror of the Srebrenica massacre in 1995 is totally unspeakable. Some 8,000 people were murdered. There were mass graves. Some 440 children were among the dead who have been identified, while more than 1,000 of the victims still have not been identified. It is an absolutely horrific moment in European history. It is right that we should commemorate it and learn the lessons in order that such things are not repeated. However, if we are not to repeat those horrors, it is very important that we are honest in our appraisal of what happened and how we failed. Otherwise we risk repeating the mistakes of the past. I would say that this is exactly what we are doing.

There is no question about the culpability of Milosevic, Karadzic and Mladic. There is no question that they were rotten, racist nationalists who stirred people up to the most foul actions. However, we are being one-sided if that is all we say. Let me read the following account from 1995:

Evidence of atrocities; an average of six corpses per day continues to emerge ... [T]he corpses; some fresh, some decomposed, are mainly of old men. Many have been shot in the back of the head or had throats slit, others have been mutilated. Isolated pockets of elderly civilians report people recently gone missing or detained [...] Endless [...] invitations for [people - I will tell Members who they were in a moment] to return, guarantees of citizens' rights and property rights etc., have gushed forth from all levels.

This is an account from a European Union report cited by Robert Fisk describing the ethnic cleansing of Krajina Serbs after Srebrenica. This was effectively condoned by the western powers and the NATO bombing, which intervened on one side of the conflict and essentially allowed the Croats, led by an equally rotten racist who was also, in the case of Franjo Tudjman, a fascist sympathiser. We said very little about his politics at the time because it suited the interests of the West. Indeed the Vance-Owen plan encouraged ethnic cleansing in that it mapped out in advance of all this the ethnic partition of the former Yugoslavia and encouraged the worst, most right-wing nationalist and racist elements on all sides. The consequences were disastrous for ordinary Croats and Muslims and many Serbs as well.

The reason it is important to balance what we are saying tonight and to acknowledge the culpability of the western powers is that a selective approach to horror, war and obscenity continues today. Rightly we condemn the Assad regime for its brutal suppression, with Russian support, of its own people. However, we remain silent when it is western allies that are encouraging similar obscenities and atrocities. We fail to speak up about how, for example, Israel, al-Qaeda and Turkey are manipulating the situation in Syria and are even threatening the safety of our troops in the buffer zone in the Golan Heights. We do not speak loudly about how Britain, the United States and France arm Saudi Arabia which in turn arms ISIS. These forces manipulate the situation, leading to the sort of horrific atrocities that we are seeing for ordinary people across Syria. When those refugees then seek to come to Europe, we allow 14,000 of them to drown in the Mediterranean - men, women and children. We deny them entry into the European Union or we lock them up in direct provision centres and treat them as subhuman.

In remembering Srebrenica, we have to remember those lessons and end the hypocrisy, double standards and cynical manipulations that allowed those horrors to take place in the first place.

The wars in the former Yugoslavia between 1991 and 1995 and again from 1998 to 2001 were profoundly shocking for Europe and the whole world. This time 22 years ago, in July 1995, we saw the appalling events of the breakdown of the Yugoslav federation. They were epitomised by the mass murder of more than 8,000 young Bosnian men and boys around the town of Srebrenica. I recall, as I am sure does the Leas-Cheann Comhairle, the sadness and anger felt in this House when Deputies first got a chance to raise those appalling events. I remember an especially important intervention by the former Minister and Deputy, Alan Shatter. It is right that this House should once again remember the tragic victims of genocide and resolve that such cruel and devastating crimes should never be allowed to happen.

As Deputy Boyd Barrett has said, accountability is very important. Those responsible for such crimes should always be held to account, as happened with some of the perpetrators of atrocities in the former Yugoslavia. Today, every day of the week we see events in places like Mosul, Aleppo, South Sudan and east Congo which also fill us with horror. There is a clear necessity to reform and restructure the United Nations, given the continued history of failure.

Both the European Union and the UN failed badly in addressing the rise of atavistic nationalism and racism which provoked the breakup of Yugoslavia and the manner in which the constituent regions separated. Germany and Austria, in particular, seemed to encourage the breakaway of Slovenia and later Croatia without any consideration for the fragile interethnic and intercultural tensions within the former Yugoslavia, where once the Croatian-born leader, Josip Broz Tito, made his federation a leading non-aligned state. I recall a number of refugees and families arriving in Dublin Bay North from Bosnia and Herzegovina. Many of the families who came here had connections in all three communities. Particularly sad were their memories of Orthodox Serbs, Muslim Bosnians and Croatian Catholics living very peacefully beside each other and socialising easily together before they were engulfed in this holocaust. The cost of the horrendous mayhem and murder in the former Yugoslavia remains a stain on Europe down to today.

Conservative estimates put the death toll at 140,000, with at least 100,000 people dying in Bosnia and Herzegovina, 14,000 of whom died during the siege of Sarajevo alone. These figures are truly appalling figures. A further 2 million people were displaced and there were 2.5 million refugees. The treatment of women and children during this conflict is an appalling stain on the recent history of Europe. Up to 50,000 women, most of whom were Bosnian Muslims, were raped.

The Srebrenica massacre of July 1995 stands out as a depraved crime of genocide comparable with some of the worst offences of the Second World War. The Srebrenica enclave was under intense attack from 1992 to 1993. Even though the Security Council declared it a safe area in 1993, the lawless and intense violence of the Bosnian Serb army intensified in early 1995. The failure of the UN Protection Force to protect the residents of Srebrenica and refugees in Potoari between 6 and 11 July 1995 and subsequently remains an indictment of the organisations and of the structure of the UN. Similarly, NATO was badly at fault. The massacre of more than 8,000 Bosnian men and boys was perpetuated by units of the Bosnian Serb army, known as the VRS, under the command of General Ratko Mladic. The former Serbian paramilitary group known as the Scorpions was also involved. The two Bosnian Serb leaders, Radovan Karadzic and Momilo Krajišnik, pressed on with the genocidal attack on Srebrenica. Deputy Boyd Barrett mentioned the former President of Croatia, Franjo Tudjman, who managed not to be indicted. It seems from the history of the appalling carnage in the former Yugoslavia that he should definitely have been indicted. It is entirely fitting that Radovan Karadzic, Ratko Mladic and - after his loss in the 2000 Serbian presidential election - Slobodan Milosevic, were all indicted for this crime of genocide. We need accountability for this appalling event, which nobody would have thought could have happened so recently in Europe. We should also remember the great suffering of the victims and their families. We have to ensure this kind of horrendous event never happens again in Europe or anywhere else on this planet.

Ar an gcéad dul síos, I congratulate and thank the Ceann Comhairle for asking for a debate on this issue to be arranged. This evening's short debate gives us an opportunity to recognise what happened in Srebrenica 22 years ago. I think that is a noble situation. In 2004, a unanimous ruling of the appeals chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, located in The Hague, ruled that the massacre of the enclave's male inhabitants constituted genocide, which is a crime under international law. This ruling was upheld by the International Court of Justice in 2007. The forcible transfer and abuse of between 25,000 and 30,000 Bosniak women, children and elderly people which accompanied the massacre was found to constitute genocide when accompanied with the killings and separation of the men.

In 2005, the then Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, described the mass murder at Srebrenica as the worst crime on European soil since the Second World War. We all know those remarks from that gentleman. We all saw on our televisions the horrors that went on. We thought we did not want to see them ever again but we are seeing them at present. I spent almost three years trying to get a debate in this House on the persecution of Christians in the Middle East. When the Minister, Deputy Flanagan, served as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, he met Deputy Grealish and me briefly to discuss the matter and I thank him for that. It was very appropriate that on the evening of Holy Thursday this year, just before Easter, this issue happened to be selected for limited debate as a Topical Issue. I sincerely thank the Ceann Comhairle for allowing Deputies Grealish, O'Keeffe and me to raise this subject over two time slots.

These massacres are going on. Thankfully, I was able to go to Lebanon three and a half years ago. I met many refugees, including old women and young children. There was no sign of the men. We have seen what has been going on since then. There has been no debate in this Parliament or in many other parliaments about the atrocities that are going on at this time. We have all the talk and we all attack President Trump, but his predecessor allowed all the bombings and the removal of all the dictators. There was a lot of hoo-ha about it, but these places are less stable now. Since those invasions, it has been a free-for-all. Minority Muslims, Yazidis and other tribes are being persecuted and obliterated. There are genocides and all kinds of issues. We are seeing the last days of Mosul - God help us - and what is going on there. I heard an excellent report on it on the radio on Saturday morning. This is going on under our watch as well. We are standing idly by. Now we have the results of it. Thousands of people are fleeing from Libya, Syria and elsewhere. We are having a short debate tomorrow about the gallant efforts of our Naval Service and the possibility of extending its powers in the rescue of so many people who are fleeing from horrors to safety. What must the horror be like to take the risk of losing their lives at sea by getting on these boats?

While we are consumed here talking about Brexit and other issues, we are not addressing the causes of the issues I am talking about, which will have long-term implications. It is quite frightening. We thought the Srebrenica massacre was horrific in 2004. Unfortunately, this is happening again, especially in the Middle East. We have certain environments and certain engagements. It is wonderful to have our peacekeepers and our Naval Service personnel doing what they are doing. We need to look at the real causes of these problems. We need to have a proper and meaningful debate about them in this Chamber. We should not wait until whoever is the Ceann Comhairle in 22 years' time decides to mark the anniversary of what is happening in real life now.

We need to engage in a more focused way with the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade. I note the presence in the Chamber of his predecessor, Deputy Flanagan, who met us and engaged with us. We need the current Minister to engage and talk. A proper debate is needed in this Parliament. It should not be hush-hush. When we are praising the Naval Service, we should not be hiding or suggesting that we have done our bit because we have not. We need to focus on problems like the migration of these people and what is left after them. The fear, terror, destruction, genocide and rape - God knows what else is being perpetrated on those unfortunate people - is happening under our watch now, in our lifetimes. We must not be afraid to debate these issues. We must have debates on them.

I support the marking of the anniversary of the genocide that took place in Srebrenica 22 years ago. It was one of the gravest atrocities of our times. As Deputies have noted, more than 8,000 people - mainly men and boys - were systematically massacred while thousands of others - mainly women, children and older people - were forced to flee the country. The horror stories of genocide, rape and terror still seem unimaginable today. The revulsion they engender has not dissipated with the passage of time. The genocide in Srebrenica was part of the loss of 100,000 lives in the Bosnian War. Some 7,000 people are still missing.

When we start talking about casualty numbers, we can often lose a real sense that each one of the people we are talking about was an individual person - part of an individual family with an individual story. For that reason, I would like to read from a very good article that was published in The Irish Times on the 20th anniversary of the Srebrenica atrocity. I cannot seem to find the name of the journalist who wrote it. I apologise for my pronunciation as I read from the piece in question. It tells the story of a woman, Hajra Catic, and her only son, Nino. She "watched in disbelief as the Bosnian Serbs took equipment and even uniforms from the Dutch, who proceeded to force the Bosniaks to leave the Potoari camp in the custody of Mladic's men".

The article continues:

"I thought the Serbs would put us in prison camps or make us work in mines. Then they began separating the men and boys from the women and smallest children, and saying they would be taken away for interrogation," Catic says. "But it was suspicious, because they took away boys as young as 10 and men who were 80 years old. Later we looked for them in the prisons and the mines. But there was no sign of them."

In the days that followed, in the fields and creeks of the verdant Srebrenica valley, in warehouses and barns and on the side of country lanes, more than 8,000 Bosniak men and boys were murdered.

As the Dutch battalion quietly withdrew – taking with it the world’s hollow promise to prevent a massacre – Mladic’s soldiers used guns, knives and grenades to conduct the worst massacre in Europe since the second World War.

I remember it playing out on the television and following it in the papers at the time. One can put oneself in the place of someone searching for someone's husband, son, brother or other relative. I have stood at various memorials with family members who suffered loss as a result of genocide and memorial days such as this are hugely important to remind us what happens when international eyes close to horrors beyond our own shores. The scale of the genocide and the swiftness of the horror should continue to act as a reminder to the international community that collective responsibility is vitally important. Post Second World War, there was a collective gnashing of teeth regarding what had been allowed to transpire in Nazi Germany, but what lessons have been learned? The same dearth of responsibility existed when Srebrenica occurred and when the Rwandan atrocities were perpetrated, and it continues to exist while Darfur rages and people flee Eritrea, while the images from Serbia continue to haunt our television screens on most nights. What happened in Srebrenica should never be repeated but saying it is not enough. The international community should take steps to ensure it cannot and does not happen again.

That concludes the statements on Srebrenica. We were saddened at the time by the deaths of the thousands of men and boys who were murdered. May they rest in peace. We think also of those left behind. Go ndéana Dia grásta orthu.