On the 24th Anniversary of the Srebrenica Massacre, Bosnian Muslims Continue to Bury Their Dead

A view of the Srebrenica-Potocari Memorial during the burial of recently identified remains of 33 victims of Srebrenica Genocide on the 24th anniversary of Srebrenica Genocide on July 11, 2019 in Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

A view of the Srebrenica-Potocari Memorial during the burial of recently identified remains of 33 victims of Srebrenica Genocide on the 24th anniversary of Srebrenica Genocide on July 11, 2019 in Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina. (Photo by Samir Yordamovic/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

July 11, 2019

Over two decades after the Srebrenica genocide, many Bosnian Muslims are still searching for the remains of their loved ones. On Thursday, which marks 24 years since Europe’s worst mass killing since World War II, more families buried their relatives — if only in pieces.

During Thursday’s 24th commemoration of the genocide, 33 newly identified victims were laid to rest at Srebrenica-Potocari Memorial Center in Bosnia and Herzegovina, alongside thousands of victims already buried there. Over 1,000 people are still considered missing after the July 1995 massacre, which claimed the lives of an estimated 7,000 Muslim men and boys.

As families gathered for the commemoration, Ratko Mladić, the general of the Bosnian Serb Army who masterminded the genocide, is serving out his second year of a life sentence in a prison in the Netherlands. FRONTLINE followed his five-year case as it unfolded in the The Trial of Ratko Mladić.

The Srebrenica massacre came three years into a brutal war that ravaged Bosnia and Herzegovina. The conflict was sparked in 1992, after Bosnia and Herzegovina declared independence from Yugoslavia. To bring Bosnian territory back under Serb control, the Bosnian Serb Army began acts of “ethnic cleansing” against the Bosnian Muslim and Croat populations.

Mladić was convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity in 2017 (which he appealed the next year), but the region still struggles to heal.

Bosnian Serb families also seek recognition for their losses. According to Balkan Insight, a plaque honoring the Serbs who were killed by “Muslim hordes” near Srebrenica from 1992–1995 was installed in the town last month, sparking controversy ahead of the 24th commemoration for Bosnian Muslims.

As the film reveals, some Serbs believe Mladić protected their families from attacks.

“The other side considers him to be a war criminal. We consider him our savior,” Mladić’s personal driver Mladjen Kenjic told FRONTLINE as he prepared to testify on Mladić’s behalf.

According to the Associated Press, no official delegations of Bosnian Serbs attended the commemoration event.

To learn more about how the case was built against the Bosnian Serb general responsible for the deaths of those buried today, and the difficulties of reconciling contradictory memories of the past, watch FRONTLINE’s investigation in The Trial of Ratko Mladić.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article stated that a plaque was installed to honor Serbs killed in the Srebrenica massacre. We regret the error. 

In order to foster a civil and literate discussion that respects all participants, FRONTLINE has the following guidelines for commentary. By submitting comments here, you are consenting to these rules:

Readers' comments that include profanity, obscenity, personal attacks, harassment, or are defamatory, sexist, racist, violate a third party's right to privacy, or are otherwise inappropriate, will be removed. Entries that are unsigned or are "signed" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. We reserve the right to not post comments that are more than 400 words. We will take steps to block users who repeatedly violate our commenting rules, terms of use, or privacy policies. You are fully responsible for your comments.

blog comments powered by Disqus

More Stories

Interview: Joe Biden on School Shootings
Then-Vice President Joe Biden discussed school shootings and gun control in a previously unpublished interview with FRONTLINE from November 2014.
May 26, 2022
Exclusive: What Joe Biden Told FRONTLINE About School Shootings and Gun Control in 2014
In remarks this week, President Biden cited his history trying to pass “common sense gun laws” — a subject he talked about in a 2014 interview with FRONTLINE, back when he was vice president and was confronted with Sandy Hook.
May 25, 2022
Two Years After George Floyd’s Murder, Minneapolis’ Efforts to Transform Safety Remain Unfinished
City leaders say they see promise in new programs that rely on civilians for some services, but recent developments have raised fresh questions about whether the MPD can be reformed.
May 25, 2022
FRONTLINE’s “A Thousand Cuts” Wins Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award
The 2021 FRONTLINE documentary examining renowned journalist Maria Ressa's fight for press freedom in the Philippines has been honored with an RFK Award in the International TV category. 
May 24, 2022