After more than 13 hours of debate, the Serbian parliament adopted a resolution condemning the massacre of more than 7,000 Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) men and boys in Srebrenica in 1995, though stopping short of calling the crime a genocide.
127 MPs voted in favor of the resolution out of a total of 250, although not all MPs were present for the vote. 21 deputies voted against the resolution, with one abstention.
The resolution condemned the crimes committed in Srebrenica, and extended an apology to the families of the victims for not doing everything possible to prevent the massacre, but it did not call the crime committed an act of genocide.
For a European Serbia, G17 Plus, the Socialist Party, United Serbia Party, Pensioners' Party and minority parties all voted in favour of the resolution, while the Democratic Party of Serbia and the New Serbia Party voted against. The Serb Radical Party and the Liberal Democratic Party did not participate in the vote, although for different reasons. The Serb Progressive Party walked out of the assembly before the vote was taken.
Serbian Parliamentary Speaker Slavica Djukic-Dejanovic announced on Monday that a vote on the resolution would be held on Tuesday, noting that while the declaration could be debated, no amendments would be allowed, meaning that the text would have to be voted on in as it was presented to the floor of the assembly.
The text of the declaration reads: "The parliament of Serbia strongly condemns the crime committed against the Bosnian Muslim population of Srebrenica in July 1995, as determined by the International Court of Justice ruling."
Nada Kolundzija, head of the ruling For a European Serbia group, which is led by the Democratic Party, said at the session that once the Srebrenica declaration was adopted, a tragic chapter in recent history would be closed and a new perspective would be opened, with international credibility and a restored image of Serbia.
“Condemning the crime against the Bosniaks of Srebrenica, while paying respect to the innocent victims and offering condolences to their families, will left the burden off future generations which certain individuals have placed on us,” Kolundzija said.
Srebrenica has become a byword for genocide and a symbol of the horror of Bosnia's 1992-95 war. Around 8,000 Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) men and boys were executed by Bosnian Serb forces after they overran the UN-protected enclave in July 1995.
The European Parliament adopted a resolution in January 2009 and called on all European states to do the same and recognise July 11, the date of the start of the Srebrenica massacre, as "a day of commemoration throughout the EU”.
Some politicians strongly objected to the resolution because it specifically addressed Srebrenica and did not include other crimes committed during the wars in the former Yugoslavia, while other groups, including the Liberal Democratic Party, blasted the resolution for not going far enough in its condemnation of the cime, in particular criticising the fact that the text does not call the massacre a genocide.
An organisation which groups together Serbian associations of families of missing persons in the former Yugoslavia requested an explanation as to why the adoption of a separate declaration on Srebrenica was necessary, instead of one resolution condemning all crimes, in which victims would not be separated. The organisation questioned whether the weight of a crime can be measured by numbers.
"Even if we do that [measure crimes by numbers], don't you think that 47,000 Serbs killed from Slovenia to Kosovo does not deserve a similar declaration?" the organisation asked, adding that it did not intend to deny or denigrate any victims.
Parliamentary Speaker Djukic-Dejanovic announced that consultations regarding the declaration condemning the crimes committed against Serbs in the former Yugoslavia would be held on Thursday.
During the 13-hour long session, members of the Serbian police received a fake bomb tip-off. Police units swept the area and checked all cars parked in front of the National Assembly and concluded that the bomb threat was fake.
"An unknown person gave a tip-off over the phone tonight that a bomb was planted in front of the National Assembly, but an inspection of the area found that the dialer was a fake," Police Director Milorad Veljovic said on Tuesday night.
The MPs were not evacuated during the police check.
Serbian nationals had the opportunity to watch the session on public broadcaster RTS at the written request of the country's parliamentary speaker, who asked for the live transmission of the entire debate.
Media outlets from all over the world reported on the adoption of the declaration, with many calling the decision an indication of Serbia's desire to distance itself from its bellicose past under the regime of strongman Slobodan Milosevic. Others noted that the level of controversy surrounding the resolution was an indication of the divisions present in the country regarding its role in the wars of the 1990s.
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In July 1995 Srebrenica was shelled and occupied by the Army of Republic of Srpska,VRS, despite being declared a protected area by the United Nations. More than 7,000 people were killed, the victims of genocide.
The Bosnian Serb commander’s role in the genocide committed in Srebrenica is described in detail in many indictments and verdicts pronounced before local and international judicial institutions.
Indictments in 1995 and 2000, further amended in 2002 and 2010, charge the former commander of the Republika Srpska Army with genocide and other crimes.
When Mladic ordered his army to bomb the people of Sarajevo until they ‘go insane’, he revealed the murderous intentions that would culminate in the Srebrenica massacre.