Remembering Srebrenica

Secretary of State Greg Clark speaking at the commemoration of the Srebrenica genocide.

The Rt Hon Greg Clark MP

Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon.

My colleague the Foreign Secretary is sorry he can’t be here today.

He has asked me to deliver this speech on his behalf.

I’d like to start by paying tribute to the survivors and their families who are here with us today and thanking them for the moving testimony they shared.

I also want to acknowledge the work of the charity Remembering Srebrenica, organisers of today’s service and a host of events across the UK in the run up to 11 July.

On its 20th anniversary, it is right that we commemorate the victims of the Srebrenica genocide: Europe’s worst mass-killing since the Second World War.

Today (6 July 2015), in this Abbey, the testimony of the survivors has helped us look the past straight in the eye.

It has united us in an emphatic rejection of those who try to deny what happened.

And it redoubles our determination never to forget.

But remembrance must not be the handmaiden of revenge or despair, but the spur to justice, reconciliation and hope.

So I honour the work of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in pursuing some measure of justice for crimes that defy comprehension.

And I am glad that regional leaders of all faiths and ethnicities will join citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina and representatives of the international community at the burial and in shared commemorations at Potočari cemetery next Saturday.

I hope that by coming together to remember their past, leaders from all sides are also signalling their intent to build a better, shared future for their country.

Because the shadow of violence has receded but peace will only truly light up the nation when the politics of hope prevail over those of division.

The UK is a long-standing friend of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Last year the Foreign Secretary and his German counterpart launched an initiative, since adopted by the EU, to help speed its journey to EU membership.

We believe this is the best way to help the country achieve the kind of lasting prosperity and stability that are mutually reinforcing, as it strives to become what it should be: a stable, prosperous nation at the heart of Europe.

But the memory of what happened in Srebrenica leaves the international community with obligations that extend well beyond the region, important though its future is for us all.

It demands that we all try to understand why those who placed their hope in the international community on the eve of genocide found it dashed.

Tomorrow the UN Security Council will consider a resolution on Srebrenica sponsored by the UK, commemorating the innocent victims, calling for reconciliation, and reaffirming our determination to give substance to the cry, ‘never again’.

We cannot undo past suffering.

But the 20th anniversary of Srebrenica must be a moment when, by looking back, we learn to look forward… with greater resolve, greater unity, greater conviction to do all in our power to prevent such crimes being committed again.

And today, the international community reaffirms that commitment before the survivors.

That is the only meaningful commemoration the world can give the victims. And we owe them, and those they left behind, nothing less.

Published 6 July 2015