Serbia president apologizes for Srebrenica massacre

Updated 29 April 2013
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Serbia president apologizes for Srebrenica massacre

Bosnia-Hercegovina: Serbia’s nationalist President Tomislav Nikolic on Thursday personally apologized for the first time for the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of 8,000 Muslims, but stopped short of calling it genocide.
“I kneel and ask for forgiveness for Serbia for the crime committed in Srebrenica,” Nikolic said of the slaughter, the worst atrocity in Europe since World War II.
“I apologize for the crimes committed by any individual in the name of our state and our people,” he said in an interview to be aired on Bosnian national television, parts of which have been released on You Tube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9c-iF9Li8tY).
After being elected last May, Nikolic caused a stir in the region by refusing to acknowledge that the massacre in the Bosnian enclave — in which some 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed by Bosnian Serb forces — was a genocide, despite it being ruled as such by two international courts.
Nikolic at the time said “there was no genocide in Srebrenica.”
Munira Subasic, president of the Mothers of Srebrenica association, which groups families of the victims, said she was “not convinced” of Nikolic’s sincerity.
“We do not need someone to kneel and ask for forgiveness. We want to hear the Serbian president and Serbia say the word genocide,” Munira Subasic told AFP.
“Only then we will believe that it is a sincere gesture,” she said.
“We need Serbia to accept rulings by the international courts,” said Subasic, whose husband and son were killed in Srebrenica massacre.
Until five years ago Nikolic was a top official of the ultra-nationalist Serbian Radical Party, which has denied that Serb forces committed crimes during the Balkans wars of the 1990s.
Its leader Vojislav Seselj is currently on trial for war crimes before The Hague-based UN International Criminal Court for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
Nikolic’s apology came a few days after a member of Bosnia’s tripartite presidency Bakir Izetbegovic had indirectly urged him to acknowledge Srebrenica massacre as genocide.
“In order to go forward, we need to stop for a moment and look back to ... what has happened in Srebrenica. We ask this truth to be recognized and words to be chosen when talking about it ... and to respect the decisions of the international courts,” Izetbegovic said after meeting Nikolic in Belgrade earlier this week.
While this marks Nikolic’s first apology on Srebrenica, Serbia has in the past expressed regret over the deaths.
In 2010 the Serbian parliament passed an historic declaration condemning the Srebrenica massacre in a gesture ending years of denial by Serbian politicians about the scale of the killings, but Nikolic at the time did not support the move.
Nikolic’s predecessor Boris Tadic also apologized to Srebrenica victims during a commemoration event in 2005.
Both the ICTY and the United Nations’ highest court, the International Court of Justice, have found that the Srebrenica massacre was a genocide.
Bosnian Serb wartime political and military leaders Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic are currently on trial on genocide charges before the ICTY for their role in Srebrenica massacre.
Both men have pleaded not guilty to genocide charges for masterminding the massacre and all other charges against them over the Bosnian war that left around 100,000 people dead.
So far 38 former Bosnian Serb military or police officials have been convicted, including some for genocide, for their role in the Srebrenica killings, both by the ICTY and Bosnia’s own war crimes court.
In the past 17 years, the remains of 5,650 victims have been buried, but the search goes on.
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Japan halts missile drills after Trump-Kim summit

Updated 21 June 2018
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Japan halts missile drills after Trump-Kim summit

TOKYO: Japan has halted evacuation drills simulating a North Korean missile attack in the wake of historic talks between Washington and Pyongyang, local media reported Thursday.
Government officials did not immediately confirm the reports, but authorities in one town said they were suspending a drill planned for next week on orders from Tokyo.
The decision comes after US President Donald Trump and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un met last week in Singapore, with the pair signing a joint document calling for denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
Yaita in Tochigi prefecture north of Tokyo had been planning an evacuation drill for next week involving some 800 residents including 350 school children, city official Yutaka Yanagida said.
But the city suddenly canceled all preparations late Wednesday after being instructed by the government that “drills should be postponed for the time being following a change in the environment after the US-North Korea summit,” he said.
Contacted by AFP, a Cabinet Office official said the government would announce its policy on evacuation drills on Friday, declining to comment further.
Last year, Pyongyang fired two missiles over Japan and it has splashed others into the sea near the country, sparking a mix of panic and outrage.
Earlier this year, hundreds of Tokyo residents scrambled for cover in the Japanese capital’s first evacuation drill for a military attack by Pyongyang.
North Korea has singled out Japan, a key US ally in the region, for verbal attacks, threatening to “sink” the country into the sea and to turn it into “ashes.”
But the regional mood has turned toward diplomacy since the Winter Olympics hosted by South Korea, which set off a series of diplomatic moves culminating in the Trump-Kim meet.