AS THOUSANDS gathered to attend the reburial of another 409 victims of the Srebrenica massacre, Hava Muhic stood at the smallest hole in the cemetery, near her husband’s grave. It was dug for her baby girl – who was born and died 18 years ago on the day of the worst massacre Europe has seen since the Second World War.
Mrs Muhic’s baby was among the remains of 409 people recently identified after being found in mass graves, who were reburied yesterday at the Potocari Memorial Centre on the anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre. This year’s commemorations bring the total of identified victims to 6,066. Another 2,306 remain missing.
Mrs Muhic buried the daughter she never had a chance to see or call by name.
Mrs Muhic blames her child’s death on the frantic rush to seek safety among UN peacekeepers as Bosnian Serbs overran the town. A woman who helped her give birth in the UN compound told her the girl was dead, born with the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck.
There is no way to know whether the chaos had anything to do with the baby’s death. One thing is certain – Mrs Muhic has spent 18 years living with the pain of not knowing where her baby was buried.
Srebrenica was a UN-protected Muslim town in Bosnia besieged by Serb forces throughout the country’s 1992-95 war. Serb troops led by General Ratko Mladic broke into the enclave on July 11, 1995. That morning, some 30,000 Bosnian Muslims flocked to the UN military base in the Potocari suburb seeking refuge. Among them was Mrs Muhic, aged 24 and nine months pregnant with her second child. Labour pains took her breath away as she passed the UN base. One of the peacekeepers told her she could enter.
Mrs Muhic recalled what happened to her daughter.
“Two men in uniform came…They took my baby and put it in a box. They asked me for my personal information and I gave it to them. They said they were taking the baby to bury it.”
Meanwhile, Serb forces had entered the UN compound unopposed by the frightened UN Dutch soldiers. They began separating men from women. Over the course of five days, they executed 8,372 men and boys.
Years later, Mrs Muhic discovered that her husband Hajrudin, his two brothers and her brother were among the thousands killed. Mrs Muhic’s son survived. He is now 23 years old and lives with her in southern France.
Authorities spent years trying to find a mass grave that Dutch soldiers reported digging inside the base for Bosnian Muslims, according to Amor Masovic, one of the directors of Bosnia’s Missing Persons Institute.
“Eventually we obtained a photo the soldiers took of the open grave with the little body in it,” Mr Masovic said.
Srebrenica’s mayor Camil Durakovic believes the baby would have been alive today had Muhic received normal medical care.
“But it died because it was born under unbearable circumstances and therefore it is a victim of genocide,” he said.
Mrs Muhic had a name for her daughter, Fatima. She has asked that it be engraved on the marble headstone that is to replace the wooden one.
Court rules Karadzic must stand trial on two counts of genocide
Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic must stand trial on two counts of genocide, appeals judges at a war crimes court in The Hague have ruled, reinstating one count that had been struck down.
The ruling means Karadzic must now face charges of masterminding the genocide of Bosnian Croats and Muslims across the territory of multi-ethnic Bosnia during a 1992-1995 war that cost 100,000 lives, in addition to a charge related to the Srebrenica massacre.
Judges yesterday found that there was enough evidence to suggest Karadzic – who was arrested on a Belgrade bus in 2008 after 11 years on the run – might have had “genocidal intent” with respect to crimes committed in Bosnia, meaning a full trial of the facts was warranted.
“The Appeals Chamber observes that the record includes evidence of genocidal and other culpable acts committed against Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats,” said Theodor Meron, president of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
Karadzic’s trial began in 2009, and prosecutors rested their case last year. Karadzic, who is defending himself in The Hague, called for acquittal on all 11 charges at the end of the prosecution case, saying there was insufficient evidence to convict him.