Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Muslim Returnees Demand Special Status for Srebrenica

By Merdijana Sadovic in Sarajevo (TU No 492, 9-Mar-07)
Several hundred returnees to the wider Srebrenica area say they will leave for good if all their demands are not met by March 14.

Srebrenica, where 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed after it was taken over by Serb forces in July 1995, is today part of the Bosnian Serb entity Republika Srpska, RS.

But Srebrenica returnees claim that the ICJ verdict announced on February 26 in The Hague means some changes have to be made.

In an interview for Bosnian federal television this week, the chairman of a newly formed group of 15 prominent Muslim returnees claiming to represent the views of others who’ve come back said Srebrenica should be given special status. That means it would be classed as a district – like Brcko, is the only town in Bosnia to currently enjoy this status – and run by the Bosnian state instead of the RS as it is now.

“We don’t want to live in an entity governed by those who committed genocide”, said Hakija Meholjic.

According to Meholjic, another reason why many returnees want to leave is that Srebrenica remains an underdeveloped town with a dead economy more than 11 years after the war ended.

The RS Prime Minister Milorad Dodik urged Muslims to stay, saying his government is doing everything they can to improve the economy and life conditions for all Srebrenica citizens, including those who had returned.

He also announced that the RS would initiate the founding of an institute for the research of genocide that would have its headquarters in Srebrenica.

Dodik said that this institute will “with a sufficient dose of responsibility and objectivity, provide a scientific assessment of all the events that took place earlier, with the aim to acquaint younger generations with everything that took place in this area”.

However, Dodik maintains that giving Srebrenica a special status within Republika Srpska is not an acceptable solution.

He also announced that Bosnian Serb officials will soon sign a joint statement saying that they do not accept collective responsibility of the RS for crimes committed during the war.

“If someone thinks that Republika Srpska should be abolished or annulled, that person is wrong, because that is for the RS institutions and citizens to decide,” he said.

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