UN General Assembly declares Srebrenica genocide remembrance day

By Thomson Reuters May 23, 2024 | 11:16 AM

By Michelle Nichols Daria Sito-Sucic

UNITED NATIONS/SARAJEVO (Reuters) – The United Nations General Assembly declared July 11 an international day of remembrance of the 1995 Srebrenica genocide in a resolution on Thursday that was strongly opposed by Serbia and Bosnian Serbs.

The massacre of about 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys in 1995, after the U.N. safe zone of Srebrenica was overrun by Bosnian Serb forces, took place during the Balkan wars that followed the disintegration of Yugoslavia and was seen at the time as Europe’s worst atrocity since World War Two.

The resolution, initiated by Germany and Rwanda and the cross-regional core group of 17 member states including the United States, was approved by a simple majority of 84 votes in the 193-member General Assembly under its Culture of Peace agenda.

The resolution “decides to designate 11 July as the International Day of Reflection and Commemoration of the 1995 Genocide in Srebrenica, to be observed annually”.

“Our initiative is about honoring the memory of the victims and supporting the survivors who continue to live with the scars of that fateful time,” said Antje Leendertse, Germany’s Permanent Representative at the U.N., addressing the plenary session.

Serbia and Bosnian Serbs, who deny that the massacre constituted genocide, say the resolution brands Serbia as a “genocidal nation” although this is not mentioned in the text.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic called on member states to vote against the resolution, saying it was “highly politicised” and would not contribute to the reconciliation in Bosnia and the region but rather would open a Pandora’s box.

“Divisions will become deeper and deeper, the resolution will cause instability in the region,” Vucic said.

Leendertse said the resolution was not directed against Serbia. She added that Montenegro’s amendments that the crime of genocide is individualized and cannot be attributed to any specific group were included in the resolution to offset concern from Serbia.


The streets of towns across Serbia and Bosnia´s Serb Republic were decorated on Thursday with Serbian flags and placards reading “We are not genocidal people, we remember”.

Before the vote, Bosnian Serb nationalist leader Milorad Dodik threatened that the Serb Republic, an autonomous region that makes up Bosnia along with the Bosniak-Croat federation under a peace deal, would secede if the resolution went ahead. He has repeatedly threatened secession.

On July 11, 1995, Bosnian Serb forces commanded by General Ratko Mladic separated men and boys from women and slaughtered them in the following days. Their remains were found years later in mass graves in eastern Bosnia, though some relatives still have no idea where their loved ones died.

Two international courts have ruled the atrocity constituted genocide. Mladic and his political chief Radovan Karadzic were jailed for life for war crimes, including genocide, while nearly 50 Bosnian Serbs were also convicted.

Thursday’s resolution condemns denial of the massacre and glorification of war criminals, calling for the remaining victims to be found and identified and all perpetrators who are still at large to be brought to justice.

It also urges member states to preserve the established facts through their educational systems to prevent denial or distortion.

(Additional reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic; Writing by Daria Sito-Sucic; Editing by Frances Kerry)