Srebrenica survivors heckle former UN general

3rd September 2010, Comments 0 comments

A former commander of UN peacekeeping forces in Bosnia was heckled by relatives of the 8,000 victims of the Srebrenica massacre Friday as he apologised for failure to prevent it.

General Philippe Morillon, who infamously promised the inhabitants of the town that they would be safe, was abused relatives when he visited a memorial centre in Potocari, near Srebrenica.

"I came here to ask for a pardon for the West, for Europe, for what we have not done... what we were not able to do," said Morillon, who headed the UN's peacekeeping force in Bosnia from September 1992 to July 1993.

In 1992, Morillon infamously told the inhabitants of the besieged Muslim enclave: "You are under the protection of the UN force... I will never abandon you."

Although Srebrenica was declared a UN "security zone", it was protected only by a battalion of Dutch soldiers serving with the UN force.

Two years later, in July 1995, Bosnian Serbs under command of Ratko Mladic captured the enclave and shot nearly 8,000 Muslim men and boys, throwing their bodies into mass graves.

Morillon, now 74, was heckled by a group of women as he visited a memorial centre where 4,500 victims are buried.

"Your result is here, in front of you," shouted Hatidza Mehmedovic, chairwoman of the Mothers of Srebrenica association, pointing towards the white tombstones.

"This place is sacred for us... You should know that God will not forgive you," she yelled.

Visibly upset by her accusations, Morillon said he had been "glad to have some time (...) to pray."

"Since I am a believer, a Christian... I prayed to ask for a pardon," he said.

"My mission ended on July 12, 1993. Everything that happened after, I understand their disgust, but to hold me responsible, that, of course, I can not accept," he said.

The worst atrocity in Europe since World War II was ruled an act of genocide by the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, both based in The Hague.

© 2010 AFP

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