Baroness Sayeeda Warsi reflects on her visit to Srebrenica.
“There is nothing more moving and sobering than visiting the place where so many men and boys were murdered over that terrible period in July 1995. The scale of the atrocity really hits home when you see the rows upon rows of graves of the victims, and the names of so many lost lives carved out in the stone of the Potočari Memorial. What is so striking when you visit the town of Srebrenica is that it is so peaceful, quiet, and normal. It just shows that hatred can take hold anywhere in the world. I think if more people learnt about past atrocities, about the escalation of hatred, about the culmination of persecution, our world would be better guarded against repeating the mistakes of the past.
On my many visits to Bosnia I saw how inter-ethnic tensions were stifling regeneration and reconciliation. We must encourage communities to come together in Srebrenica and work for the common good. It’s a challenge that inspired me to set up Project Maja in Bosnia.
I wanted Parliamentary colleagues to learn about Srebrenica and to put something back into the communities affected by the war by working on social action projects in the country. It is important that, as politicians and policy makers, these awful events remain at the forefront of our minds. It is our duty to continue to help the victims’ families seek justice and rebuild their lives, to learn the consequences of hatred and to guard against discrimination.
The world has many lessons to learn from the Srebrenica genocide – the worst atrocity on European soil since the Holocaust. After pledging ‘never again’, once more hatred was able to take hold and rob so many people of their lives. The genocide shows us where hatred can lead if it is left unchecked. It shows that division and discrimination can take hold at any time in any place – even in a country as integrated as Bosnia was in the 1990s.
Srebrenica Memorial Day gives us a chance to stop and reflect upon the appalling atrocities that took place in the Bosnian enclave. It’s a day for us to think about the thousands of victims and their families; to show Britain’s solidarity with and support for Bosnia; and to reaffirm our resolve to ensure that this kind of tragedy can never, ever happen again.
In 2007, the International Court of Justice ruled that the atrocities carried out by Mladić’s forces constituted genocide. The act was committed in front of the eyes of the very international community that was there to prevent it, but did not. It failed to act in Srebrenica, as it had failed in Rwanda 12 months earlier. There cannot be true reconciliation until what happened in Srebrenica is accepted.”