Europe

Srebrenica 'genocide' vote to take place at UN

Bosnian pathologist Rifat Kesetovic examines skulls of victims taken from mass graves and in wooded areas following the 1995 massacre Image copyright Reuters
Image caption A pathologist examines skulls of victims taken from mass graves and wooded areas at Srebrenica

The UN Security Council will vote on a controversial UK-drafted resolution on Tuesday that refers to the 1995 Srebrenica massacre as genocide.

The resolution - tabled ahead of the 20th anniversary of the massacre - has angered Serbia, which rejects the term.

The killing of 8,000 Muslim men and boys by Bosnian Serb troops at Srebrenica was the worst massacre in Europe since World War Two.

Western nations disagree with Russia on whether it should be called genocide.

The draft resolution says that "acceptance of the tragic events at Srebrenica as genocide is a prerequisite for reconciliation".

But Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik accused the UK of making "false declarations... that a genocide was committed against Muslims".

'Divisive'

Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic wrote to Russian President Vladimir Putin requesting that Russia veto the resolution, according to Serbian media.

Serbia does not have its own seat on the UN Security Council and so will rely on Russia to object to the language of the draft.

Last week, Russia's deputy ambassador to the UN, Petr Iliichev, called the UK draft "divisive" and said it focused too heavily on the Srebrenica massacre.

"It focuses on only one aspect," said Mr Iliichev. "It was only one part of the conflict."

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption About 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed in the massacre

Russia, which has close ties to Serbia, circulated a rival draft resolution described by Mr Iliichev as "more general, more reconciling", which does not use the word genocide.

But it was not clear ahead of the vote on Tuesday whether Russia would veto the draft resolution or simply abstain from the vote.

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said on Monday that the UK draft would have an impact on his country regardless of the outcome of the vote.

"If the resolution is not passed, that will be good news for Serbia and the region. If it wins a majority of votes, this will be tough news," he said.

In a letter to Mladen Ivanic, the Serb chairman of the Bosnian presidency, UK permanent representative to the UN Matthew Rycroft said: "Genocide is a crime, and those who committed it are criminals who should be punished as such."

"To say so is not 'anti-Serbian', as some have alleged."

'We can give dignity'

The UN vote will foreshadow sombre national commemorations in Bosnia on Saturday to mark the 20th anniversary of the massacre.

Bakir Izetbegovic, the president of Bosnia-Herzegovina, has praised the UK for "leading the way" in commemorating Srebrenica.

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Media captionMore that 8,000 men and boys died at Srebrenica, as Bridget Kendall reports

The atrocity came amid the bloody break-up of Yugoslavia into independent states. Serbia backed Bosnian Serb forces fighting the Muslim-led Bosnian government during the conflict.

A few months before the end of the war, 20,000 refugees fled to Srebrenica, an enclave protected by UN Dutch soldiers. The enclave was overrun by paramilitary troops led by the Bosnian Serb commander, Ratko Mladic, in July 1995.

The soldiers rounded up and killed the men and boys and buried them in mass graves.

The UK-drafted resolution condemns the massacre and calls for better prevention of genocide. Speaking at a memorial service in London on Monday, Prime Minister David Cameron said: "We must reaffirm our determination to act to prevent genocide in the future."

Gen Mladic, who was in charge of the Bosnian Serb troops at the time of the massacre, was on the run for 16 years before being arrested in 2011 in northern Serbia.

He is still on trial for war crimes at the UN tribunal in The Hague.

The international tribunal at The Hague has already convicted numerous people of genocide in relation to the Srebrenica killings.

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