bne IntelliNews -
Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic was attacked with stones during the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the massacre of some 8,000 Muslim boys and men by Bosnian Serb military commanders in Srebrenica on July 11.
Vucic, now a pro-European leader and a promoter of compromise in the Balkans, had arrived in Srebrenica in a symbolic visit to demonstrate Serbia’s interest in reconciliation and to pay respect to the war victims.
However, his visit was marred by painful memories of his hardline nationalist past during Bosnia’s 1992-95 war. The words he once said in parliament - “For every Serbian killed, we will kill 100 Muslims” – were turned into slogans on July 11 above the heads of the mourners in the Potocari memorial complex in Srebrenica.
Protesters threw stones, bottles and other objects at Vucic who was rushed away from the memorial complex by his bodyguards. The attack was strongly condemned by the international community, the European Union, as well as by Serbian and Bosnian officials.
“The fact that the prime minister of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic, who took the historic decision to come to the 20th anniversary commemoration of the genocide at Srebrenica, was forced to leave today goes against the spirit of this day of remembrance,” EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said in a statement following the attack. “It shows that we all need to redouble our efforts to overcome hatred and pursue reconciliation across the whole Western Balkans region and beyond.”
Mogherini said that the EU expects a full investigation into the incident by the Bosnia and Herzegovina authorities.
Media reports said that Vucic was hit in the face by a stone, which broke his glasses. He told a news conference upon his return to Belgrade that the attack against him was “well organised and prepared”.
“I express regret that this happened and because some people have not recognised my sincere intention to build friendship between Serbs and Bosniaks,” Vucic said.
He pointed out that during the commemoration of the Srebrenica anniversary he was warmly welcomed by the mothers of those killed (from the Association of Srebrenica Mothers) and by Srebrenica mayor Camil Durakovic, adding his attackers were not supported by the victims’ families.
The attack on Vucic took place after Russia vetoed on July 8 a special resolution at the United Nations that would have labelled the Srebrenica massacre a genocide. The Russian veto resulted from heavy lobbying by Serbia and Bosnia’s Serb Republic against the resolution.
Even though the 1995 killings are considered the worst atrocity to have occurred in Europe since the end of Second World War, and the International Court of Justice and the war tribunal in the Hague have already ruled the crime as genocide, Serbia and Bosnian Serbs still declined to recognise it as such.
On July 12, Serbia sent a protest note to Bosnia over the attack against Vucic, calling it an attempted murder.
"By attending the commemoration… Vucic showed readiness to pay homage to the Srebrenica victims and make a step forward in the relations within the region, which is something we expect from other countries as well," the diplomatic note read.
"We expect the officials of Bosnia-Herzegovina to publicly condemn the attempted murder of the Serbian Prime Minister," it added.
Bosnian Foreign Minister Igor Crnadak strongly condemned the attack, while Srebrenica mayor Durakovic went even further, calling the attackers “human ragtag”. At the same time, the Bosnian government has called an extraordinary cabinet meeting for July 13 to discuss the events.
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