The Srebrenica massacre - archive, July 1995

Twenty-five years ago, around 8,000 Muslim boys and men were killed in the Srebrenica genocide when the besieged enclave in Bosnia was overrun by Bosnian Serb forces. See how the Guardian reported the massacre and human rights abuses

Rampant Serbs push UN aside: thousands flee as haven is overun

by Ian Traynor in Vienna
12 July 1985

Serbian forces swept through eastern Bosnia last night, overrunning the UN safe haven of Srebrenica, putting tens of thousands of civilians to flight and moving rapidly to seize more UN-protected territory.

The lightning offensive dealt a possibly terminal blow to the beleaguered UN mission in Bosnia, which had pledged to protect the safe havens for Bosnian civilians.

Bosnian Serb television, announcing the “liberation” of Srebrenica, promptly called for the surrender of Zepa, a second Muslim enclave, and announced that its capitulation was expected. A third safe haven, Gorazde, was also under threat.

The Serbian forces shrugged off Nato air strikes and UN warnings to overrun the east Bosnian town - the first to be declared a haven. Last night the Serbs declared they had formed a new civilian administration for Srebrenica.
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Serbs bus refugees to front line: horror of ethnic cleansing returns

by Ian Traynor
13 July 1995

The horrors of the Serbian “ethnic cleansing” that spawned a network of camps and sprawling columns of refugees returned to haunt Bosnia and the rest of the world last night as thousands of the elderly, women and children were forced out of Srebrenica, bussed to within miles of the front line and made to trudge across the treacherous lines to seek sanctuary.

General Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb commander, strode into the east Bosnian Muslim enclave of Srebrenica to survey his latest conquest, accompanied by a fleet of buses and lorries. He ordered the instant deportation of tens of thousands of people, under siege for three years.

The evacuations are the biggest wave of ethnic cleansing in Bosnia in two years. Families were being sorted by gender, with males, suspected combatants and “terrorists” detained as prisoners of war, United Nations officials said. Thousands of youths and men were believed to be in Serb detention last night.

According to a UN spokesman, Alexander Ivanko, Gen Mladic said all males aged over 16 would be transported east to Serb-held Bratunac, to be “screened for war crimes”. Gen Mladic’s forces shelled columns of refugees yesterday, continuing to attack UN posts and adding a further 12 Dutch UN hostages to the 30 already held.

Most of Srebrenica‘s 42,000 inhabitants were uprooted during earlier ethnic cleansing, and many are suffering from malnutrition and dehydration.

A Bosnian Serb armed vehicle crew driving through the deserted streets of Srebrenica, 16 July 1995.
A Bosnian Serb armed vehicle crew driving through the deserted streets of Srebrenica, 16 July 1995. Photograph: Igor Dutina/EPA

Comment: Now look you lot, just pack it in and die quietly

by Maggie O’Kane
13 July 1995

Dear Srebrenica, sorry for your trouble, I’m just writing to say, as I told the Commons yesterday, that the best thing you Safe Haven Muslims could do is to surrender your weapons and demilitarise.

I know this is a pretty odd suggestion, but when you’re British Foreign Secretary, speaking about Bosnia, it’s a question of muddling through the sticky bits; the fall of the first safe haven, market-place massacres, bloody playgrounds, little Irma, that sort of thing; and pointing out again and again, as I did in the Commons yesterday, that we’ve sent lots of troops, who may be going out of their minds with boredom doing nothing – but a least we sent them. Incidentally, the Serbs were wondering if we at the UN could help them out with a spot of ethnic cleansing – given that there’s 40,000 of you hanging about inside the Srebrenica enclave.
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Refugees from the overrun UN safe haven enclave of Srebrenica looking through the razor-wire at newly arriving refugees in a UN base 12 kms south of Tuzla, 13 July 1995.
Refugees from the overrun UN safe haven enclave of Srebrenica looking through the razor-wire at newly arriving refugees in a UN base 12 kms south of Tuzla, 13 July 1995. Photograph: Darko Bandic/AP

‘They lined us up and took the men away, but some people were shot. I saw a 13-year-old boy shot through the mouth’

by Julian Borger in Tuzla
14 July 1995

In tears and confusion, thousands of women, children and old men expelled from Srebrenica poured off buses yesterday at the decrepit air base in the town of Tuzla, northern Bosnia, accusing Serb rebels of murder and rape and the United Nations of indifference during the fall of the enclave.

The handful of aid workers in Tuzla were overwhelmed by the wave of refugees. Some handed out cartons of water. But there was no food, no advice and no organisation. New arrivals had to fight their way through a weeping, near hysterical crowd, desperate to find friends and relatives separated from them during their expulsion.

The expulsion was one of the biggest single forced movements of the 40-month Bosnian war. In the past 24 hours, about 15,000 civilians - all women, children and the elderly - have been ‘ethnically cleansed’ from territory just conquered. The Serbs are demanding that another 20,000 or more be herded into refugee compounds in the Tuzla area today.
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UN confirms Bosnian massacre

by Ian Traynor, Julian Borger and Hella Pick
12 August 1995

A United Nations investigation has found that Bosnian Serb soldiers committed wholesale human rights abuses after the fall of the Muslim enclave of Srebrenica last month, including mass executions and beatings.

A confidential UN report, leaked to the Guardian yesterday, supports earlier press and United States government allegations of mass killings. Its authors say it is too early to estimate how many were slaughtered, and echo international demands for access to the Srebrenica area to allow further investigation.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said yesterday that at least 6,000 people are missing in eastern Bosnia. US officials believe up to 12,000 are unaccounted for, and say 2,700 may be buried in a mass grave near the village of Kasaba, a few miles north-west of Srebrenica.

The American government published aerial photographs of Kasaba on Thursday showing areas of freshly-dug earth and the tracks of mechanical diggers. The UN and ICRC have reacted cautiously to the claim of a mass grave, arguing that first-hand examination of the site is necessary before conclusions can be drawn. The UN report, nevertheless, finds that “substantial violations of human rights accompanied the fall of Srebrenica”.

The Bosnian Serb authorities have repeatedly blocked attempts to gain access to the Srebrenica area. In July, the Serbs allowed ICRC investigators to visit Muslim detainees, but they found only 200 men. The US believes there is already evidence to make concrete charges of atrocities. US officials yesterday described the Bosnian Serb leaders, Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic, as war criminals and bloodthirsty killers.


compiled by Richard Nelsson

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