16th anniversary of the genocide at Srebrenica

While in Bosnia, Government Minister Baroness Warsi delivered a speech to mark the 16th anniversary of the genocide at Srebrenica.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government
The Rt Hon Baroness Warsi

We are here on this sad occasion to mark the sixteenth anniversary of the worst atrocity in Europe in recent memory.

Today we remember more than eight thousand Bosniak men and boys killed on this soil during the genocide of 1995.

Later today, more than six hundred burials will take place across the street at the Poto?ari memorial cemetery.

Many of the families burying their loved ones have spent more than a decade seeking the truth about their deaths.

My thoughts, those of my Government and of the whole international community are with these people today.

Those who were killed, those who suffered and all those who lost loved ones.

Srebrenica is a name that now resonates around the world as a lesson in the consequences of unchecked evil.

But we must never lose sight of the fact that the genocide at Srebrenica is about the massacre of individuals…

…each of them mourned by friends, families and loved ones.

The victims must not and will not ever be forgotten. Today is above all about them.

Today is also an occasion to restate our commitment to justice for those responsible for war crimes.

The path to justice can be slow and painful. It requires determination, commitment and perseverance.

And when it is finally achieved, justice can reawaken painful memories.

Sadly it is not an instant cure for grief and mourning. But it is essential if the wounds of the past are to begin to be healed.

With this in mind, the arrest of Ratko Mladic this May was a very important moment.

After more than fifteen years as a fugitive…,

… Mladic is now facing international justice in The Hague, where he stands accused of war crimes…,

… crimes against humanity and genocide.

This process shows clearly that there is no expiry date on the most terrible of crimes.

The UK government and the whole international community will be unflinching in our commitment to bringing to justice those accused of committing such crimes.

Mladic’s arrest serves also as a warning to members of other regimes around the world who may be considering committing atrocities:

… they will not be able to hide from justice.

The UK has long been a strong supporter of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and of the Prosecutor’s work.

We commend the Court on its work to date and give it our full support in current and forthcoming trials.

It is important to remember that this process is not yet complete.

One fugitive, Goran Hadzic, is still at large and must be found.

We urge all countries of this region to co-operate fully with the Tribunal…

…and fulfil their obligations under international law to bring Hadzic too, to justice.

We also call on all countries of the former Yugoslavia to work to ensure that others responsible for war crimes are brought to justice through domestic legal processes.

As well as memory and justice, today is also about the future.

While the judicial process cannot and will not ever compensate the bereaved for the losses they have sustained…,

… we hope that the capture of Ratko Mladic will allow the families of the victims to find some relief.

We hope it can mark a turning point and the start of a new chapter of co-operation and progress in the Western Balkans.

Some of this has already begun.

My Government welcomed the resolution on Srebrenica passed last March by the Serbian Parliament…

… as a positive first step on the path towards reconciliation…,

… as well as recent high-level contacts between the political leaders of this region.

We hope that these political initiatives will continue and intensify.

The genocide at Srebrenica teaches us an important lesson.

It is a lesson to us about the tragic consequences of a passive response in the face of evil.

We have a duty to learn this lesson and to propagate it.

And that is why I think it is so fitting that this year, as in past years, Srebrenica will host this Summer University…

… bringing together post-graduate students from all around the world to increase understanding about how such a terrible event was allowed to occur.

I strongly support this initiative which I believe honours those who lost their lives here.

And I believe that your studies can help ensure that such terrible events should never be repeated anywhere in the world.

To this year’s students I wish you a productive and insightful period of study here in Srebrenica.

I encourage you to draw on your studies here in your future work wherever and whatever that may be.

For our part, the UK Government’s vision for Bosnia and Herzegovina is of a single, stable, prosperous and reforming country…

… heading towards EU and NATO membership.

We want to see all the citizens of this country sharing in the many benefits that this will bring.

It is right that we look forwards, towards this goal.

But starting a new chapter does not mean forgetting the past.

And here I would like to end where I began.

Our thoughts today are with all those who suffered here and all who lost loved ones sixteen years ago.

They must not and will not ever be forgotten.

Updates to this page

Published 11 July 2011