News 25 Apr 13

Serbian President Apologises for War Crimes

Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic said he was “begging” on his knees for forgiveness for crimes committed by Serb forces in Bosnia during the 1990s conflict.  

Marija Ristic
BIRN
Belgrade

Nikolic made his apology “for all war crimes committed in the name of the Serbian people and Serbia by any individual” during an interview with Bosnian TV station BHT.

“Everything that happened during the 1990s was some form of genocide. But I am on my knees and begging for a pardon in the name of my people for the crime committed in Srebrenica,” Nikolic said in a trailer for the interview broadcast on Thursday.

Nikolic also said he plans to visit Srebrenica in the future.

At the start of his presidency in May last year, Nikolic made several statements related to the 1995 Srebrenica massacres that caused controversy in the region.

He refused to describe the killings of at least 7,000 Bosniaks in the town as genocide, claiming this had not been proved before international courts.

But critics pointed out that two international institutions, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and the International Court of Justice have classified the Srebrenica massacres as genocide, in 2004 and 2007 respectively. 

Nikolic’s apology comes after the first visit by two of the three members of Bosnia’s tripartite state presidency, Nebojsa Radmanovic and Bakir Izetbegovic, to Belgrade this week.

The Serbian and Bosnian presidents agreed to foster good relations and develop stronger ties.

But the third member of the Bosnian state presidency, the Croat representative, Zeljko Komsic, refused to go to the Serbian capital.

He said that a Serbian-sponsored debate on April 10 on the role of international war crimes courts held at the UN General Assembly, at which Nikolic spoke, had offended victims of the 1992-95 Bosnian war.

Komsic however welcomed the statement from Nikolic on Thursday, saying that it could help the relationship between Belgrade and Sarajevo.

“I believe this will improve relations in the region. It is about time that all countries in the region turn to a joint future and European integration, and continue to build good neighbourly relations,” Komsic said.

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Background

Srebrenica: Genocide Reconstructed

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.

Ratko Mladic: The Force Behind the Srebrenica Killings

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.

The Indictment Against Ratko Mladic

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.

Ratko Mladic: From Promising Officer to Bloodstained Warlord

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.

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