There were many many terrible deeds in the three years of war which devastated Bosnia and Herzegovina. I know because I witnessed some of them and saw the aftermath of many, many more.
But the greatest atrocity was the genocide at Srebrenica, which was, at once, the worst crime to happen on European soil since the Second World War and the signature horror representing all the horrors suffered by the Bosnian people.
Nothing can diminish the culpability of those who perpetrated this genocide. But, in condemning this evil, it is also right to acknowledge our passive complicity, as members of the international community for what happened in the UN “Safe Haven” of Srebrenica. We could have prevented this horror – but we chose not to.
Whether through error, misjudgement, an inability to comprehend, or just inattention, we stood aside when we should not have done. We should therefore remember Srebrenica, not just to bear witness to those who suffered, but also as a warning to us all of what happens when we turn our back.
The 8,000 gravestones in Srebrenica which mark the last resting place of those who were murdered, are also signposts that tell us of the consequences which can ensue when we fail to be vigilant against hatred and intolerance, even in our own societies. They oblige every one of us to be active, not passive in defending the universal values which are not the possession of any single religion or race, but are rather the common property of all humanity.
Remembering these painful truths about the past and acknowledging our own failures at the time, is the key to our shared quest for a better and more tolerant world in the future.
That is the best memorial to those who were killed at Srebrenica and the best commitment we can make to those who suffer still from of its aftermath.