The notorious 1995 massacre of 8,000 Muslims in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica was not genocide but the killings amounted to “grave war crimes,” Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic said Friday.
“There was no genocide in Srebrenica,” Nikolic said in an interview with Montenegrin state television published on its website Friday. “In Srebrenica, grave war crimes were committed by some Serbs, who should be found, prosecuted and punished,” he said.
Some 8,000 Muslim men and boys were slaughtered in a matter of days after Bosnian Serb troops overran the U.N.-protected enclave of Srebrenica in Bosnia in July 1995.
The massacre, the worst single atrocity on European soil since World War II, has since been ruled to have constituted a genocide by two international courts: the U.N. Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the U.N.’s highest court, the International Court of Justice.
According to Nikolic, a nationalist populist who was sworn in as president only this week, “it is very difficult to indict someone and to prove before a court that an event qualifies as a genocide”, without commenting on the rulings of the ICTY and the ICJ.
Former Bosnian Serb political and military leaders Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic are currently on trial before the ICTY on genocide charges notably for their role in the massacre.
Nikolic also blasted the Montenegrin interviewer for asking if he would go to Srebrenica, which has a yearly commemoration on July 11.
“Do not ask all the time of the Serbian president when he is going to Srebrenica. My predecessor was there and paid tribute... why should every president do the same?” he said.
Former president Boris Tadic apologized to Srebrenica victims when he attended the 2005 commemoration of the massacre, the bloodiest episode in the 1992-95 Bosnian war. He was also present at the ceremony in 2010.