Ladies and Gentlemen, I am so very touched to have been asked to speak to you on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide and I can only say how greatly saddened I am that the current circumstances have prevented me from visiting Srebrenica in person this year. I had very much wanted to pay my respects at Potocari and the Memorial Centre and to have the opportunity of meeting the Mothers of Srebrenica as well as other family members and survivors.
It was important to me therefore that I should send this message to you today. I have cared deeply for many years about all that your country and the region have endured and have followed with close interest and particular sympathy the steps you have taken on the long, hard road of reconciliation. I greatly admire the difficult but essential work being carried out in Bosnia-Herzegovina to address the legacies of the past and I have been deeply moved by the remarkable and courageous efforts of those working tirelessly in pursuit of justice to rebuild trust and to bring hope to their communities.
The terrible events of July 1995, confirmed as genocide by international courts, are a dreadful stain on our collective conscience. The international community failed those who were killed, those who somehow survived and those who endured the terrible loss of their loved ones. By remembering the pain of the past and learning its lessons, we can together resolve that it must never happen again. This is why the work of organisations such as the United Kingdom’s Remembering Srebrenica is so vitally important and why, 25 years after these terrible crimes were committed, we should stand in determined solidarity with those who have lost so much.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I know that many of those families are still searching for their loved ones and that the painstaking effort to locate and identify all those who were murdered at Srebrenica continues to this day. I can only begin to imagine the pain that must be felt by those who are still seeking answers and the closure they might bring. I have had the greatest pleasure of meeting some of those families of the missing from Bosnia-Herzegovina and from across the region on a number of occasions, most recently in London in 2018 during the London Summit on the Western Balkans when I was delighted to welcome a group of families to my home at Clarence House. I’ve always been profoundly moved by their unwavering determination to find justice but also by the extraordinary compassion that they showed for one another. As I said on that occasion, their dignity and humanity are a lesson to us all and a reminder that reconciliation is not simply a theoretical, abstract concept. It is a matter of practical, difficult action, painful choices and hard but essential compromise.
Ladies and Gentlemen, as we remember the victims of the Srebrenica genocide, those who died and those who were left behind, let us honour their memory by recommitting ourselves to the difficult, essential process of reconciliation. In so doing, let us take inspiration and encouragement from the compassion and dignity of those who still suffer today and from the optimism of all those in Bosnia and Herzegovina who are striving to build a more just and brighter future.