Srebrenica massacre, 25 years on Muslims still face Serb denial

Srebrenica survivor Ramiz Nukic prays near the graves of his father and two brothers in Srebrenica-Potocari Memorial Center, near Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina, July 6, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 10 July 2020

Srebrenica massacre, 25 years on Muslims still face Serb denial

  • Bosnian Serb forces killed more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys in a few days after capturing the ill-fated town on July 11, 1995
  • Bosnian Serb wartime military chief general Ratko Mladic was sentenced to life in prison by a UN court in 2017 over war crimes including the Srebrenica genocide

SREBRENICA, Bosnia and Herzegovina: Relatives of the Bosnian Muslims killed in the worst atrocity on European soil since World War II are getting ready to mark 25 years since the Srebrenica massacre on Saturday, but for many Serbs the episode remains a myth.
“It’s not easy to live here next to those who 25 years on deny that a genocide was committed,” says Hamdija Fejzic, Srebrenica’s Muslim deputy mayor.
For Bosnian Muslims, recognizing the scale of the atrocity is a necessity for lasting peace. But for most Serbs — leaders and laypeople in both Bosnia and Serbia — using the word genocide remains unacceptable.
Bosnian Serb forces killed more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys in a few days after capturing the ill-fated town on July 11, 1995.
The episode — labelled as genocide by two international courts — came at the end of a 1992-1995 war between Bosnia’s Croats, Muslims and Serbs that claimed some 100,000 lives.
Bosnian Serb wartime military chief general Ratko Mladic, still revered as a hero by many Serbs, was sentenced to life in prison by a UN court in 2017 over war crimes including the Srebrenica genocide. He is awaiting the decision on his appeal.
In the run-up to the anniversary, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic described Srebrenica as “something that we should not and cannot be proud of,” but he has never publicly uttered the word “genocide.”
In July 2017, he said it was a “horrible crime” but added that “between 80 and 90 percent of Serbs do not think that a major crime was committed.”
Several thousand Serbs and Muslims live side by side in impoverished Srebrenica, a lifeless town in eastern Bosnia with just a few shops open in its center.
Mayor Mladen Grujicic was elected in 2016 after a campaign based on genocide denial — he said the number of victims was not “valid.”
“I claim here that the genocide was not committed,” Bosnian Serb political leader Milorad Dodik told a rally of support to Grujicic at the time.
In 2019, during a conference gathering mainly Serb historians and aimed at “establishing the truth” about Srebrenica, Dodik said it was a “myth.”
“Every people need a myth,” said Dodik. “Muslims didn’t have it and they try to build a myth around Srebrenica.”
Ethnic Serb lawmakers in the Bosnian parliament have consistently rejected bills that would ban genocide denial.
So far, the remains of nearly 6,900 victims have been found and identified in more than 80 mass graves.
Most were buried at the memorial cemetery in Potocari, a village just outside Srebrenica.
On Saturday, the remains of nine victims identified over the past year will be laid to rest by their families.
Deputy mayor Fejzic said denial of the genocide was like the “last phase” of the atrocity itself, telling AFP: “We are facing that every day.”
For European Union enlargement commissioner Oliver Varhelyi the Srebrenica genocide was “still an open wound at the heart of Europe.”
“This part of European history must be upheld against any attempt at denial and revisionism,” he said this week.
Meanwhile, Mladic and Bosnian Serb wartime political leader Radovan Karadzic, who was also sentenced to life in prison in The Hague, remain heroes for many Serbs.
A university campus in Pale, Bosnian Serb wartime stronghold near Sarajevo, was named after Karadzic in 2016, and the plaque with his name at the entrance was unveiled by Dodik.
The 25th anniversary of genocide is also the “25th anniversary of denial,” said Emir Suljagic, director of the memorial center and a massacre survivor.
“Despite forensic evidence... and judgments by international courts, the denial of the Srebrenica genocide intensified,” he said.
Denial of genocide, he said, means a lack of accountability and will always lead to more atrocities.


Indonesia begins human trials of anti-virus vaccine

Updated 54 min 8 sec ago

Indonesia begins human trials of anti-virus vaccine

  • The third phase of the clinical trials of the vaccine — which is manufactured by China’s Sinovac Biotech in collaboration with its Indonesian pharma counterpart, Bio Farma — began on Tuesday
  • The third phase is a must before the vaccine, known as CoronaVac, goes into the production stage and is a prerequisite for all pharmaceutical products, including medicines and vaccines

JAKARTA: Indonesia is stepping up efforts to find a COVID-19 vaccine by launching human trials of a potentially effective drug amid criticism of its lacklustre handling of the pandemic and concerns about its plummeting economy.

The third phase of the clinical trials of the vaccine — which is manufactured by China’s Sinovac Biotech in collaboration with its Indonesian pharma counterpart, Bio Farma — began on Tuesday and is being conducted by the Padjadjaran University School of Medicine at six locations in Bandung, West Java province, where the university and the state-owned pharma company are based.

“The first day of the trial went well, with 20 volunteers in each of the six locations injected with the potential vaccine. We have no complaints so far, and we are preparing the second injection batch on Aug 14,” Iwan Setiawan, a spokesman for Bio Farma, told Arab News on Wednesday.

He added that the six-month trial would require the participation of 1,620 volunteers who were “in good health and had not tested positive” for the disease.

Ridwan Kamil, governor of West Java, Indonesia’s most populated province, is among the volunteers who have signed up for the trial.

The third phase is a must before the vaccine, known as CoronaVac, goes into the production stage and is a prerequisite for all pharmaceutical products, including medicines and vaccines.

“The potential vaccine had gone through three trials; the pre-clinical, the clinical trial first phase and the second phase in China,” Bio Farma CEO Honesti Basyir said in a statement.

According to Basyir, Sinovac is one of the few institutions that have progressed to the third phase of the clinical trial from among hundreds of research institutions around the world that are developing the COVID-19 vaccine.

According to Oxford Business Group’s COVID-10 Economic Impact Assessment, there are more than 150 different vaccines that international researchers are working on. However, only 26 have reached the human trial stage so far.

Once the trials are concluded, Bio Farma will register the vaccine with the Food and Drug Supervisory Agency so that it can begin mass-production of the drug.

“We have prepared a production facility for the COVID-19 vaccine with a maximum capacity of 100 million dosages, and by the end of December this year we will have an increased production capacity to produce an additional 150 million dosages,” Basyir said.

President Joko Widodo oversaw the first injections to the batch of volunteers in one of the six locations and also toured Bio Farma’s production facility. 

“We hope this clinical trial would conclude in six months and so we can start producing the vaccine in January and vaccinate our people soon,” Widodo said.

State-Owned Enterprise Minister Erick Thohir, who is also the head of the COVID-19 mitigation and national economic recovery committee, said that Bio Farma was a well-established vaccine producer whose products were halal-compliant and used in 150 countries, including in the Middle East.

The collaboration with Sinovac is one of three vaccine-development projects that Indonesia is engaging in with foreign parties as it grapples with a surge in infections. At the same time, social restrictions and economic activities were eased. The other two projects are with South Korea’s Genexine and Norway’s Coalition for Epidemic, Preparedness and Innovation.

As of Wednesday, Indonesia had reported 130,718 infections with 1,942 new cases, 85,798 recoveries and 5,903 deaths, although experts suggest that the numbers could be higher due to the country’s low testing capacity.

Cases also surged in the capital Jakarta with workplaces emerging as the new infection clusters after thousands of employees returned to work recently.