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Srebrenica: Worst European atrocity since WWII

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A version of this article by the late Graham Jones first appeared on CNN.com in 2006.

(CNN) – It is now remembered as the worst atrocity in Europe since World War II.

In a five-day orgy of slaughter at Srebrenica in July 1995, up to 8,000 Muslims were systematically exterminated in what was described at the U.N. war crimes tribunal as “the triumph of evil.”

Former Bosnian Serb commander-in-chief general Ratko Mladic, who is accused of direct involvement in the genocide at Srebrenica, was arrested on Thursday after more than 15 years on the run.

In 1995, Srebrenica was designated a U.N. “safe area.”

A judge at The Hague tribunal was later to describe what happened there as “truly scenes from hell written on the darkest pages of human history.” Thousands of Bosnian Muslims had sought refuge in the spa town of Srebrenica in 1995 as the Bosnian Serb army marched towards them. They were protected by just 100 lightly equipped Dutch peacekeepers – who proved no match for the advancing, heavily-armed Serb army.

Even if perhaps more than any other city in post-war Europe, Srebrenica became a global symbol of suffering and genocide, in this small place there are many attractions worth of visit.

The healing mineral water of Srebrenica is known from the time of the ancient Romans who called its sources Domavija, and the whole area in this beautiful corner of Eastern Bosnia – Argentaria. And during the reign of the Turks, fame of the healing water from the source of Javor Mountain spread, and it is interesting that today’s name of Srebrenica’s spa dates from these times. Turkish soldiers came to Srebrenica to be treated for leprosy, hence the name “Guber”.

Srebrenica municipality is located in the northeastern part of the periphery of Bosnia and Herzegovina, inside of a large middle course bend of the river Drina. The first time Srebrenica is mentioned in Dubrovnik sources is in 1352, and then again in 1376. To the present day, the municipality of Srebrenica has always been very interesting, evidenced by the remains of material culture from prehistoric times (Bronze and Iron Age), centuries-old residence of the Illyrians in this area, and the early arrival of the ancient Romans. Srebrenica was settled by the Illyrian tribe Dindar. The exploitation of lead and silver, started by Illyrians, was the main motive for the arrival of the Romans in Srebrenica. The Romans built originally ‘Flavius town Malvesiatium’ upstream Skelani near the Drina and later they built famous Domavia in Sase at the junction of Mejdanski stream and river and Saška. With the arrival of the Slavic tribes in the sixth century, and at the beginning of the collapse of the Roman Empire, Domavija lost its significance, and all the ancient cities were demolished. In this way, the epoch of an advanced ancient life in these areas had ended. It is important to mention the presence of Franciscans in our city. The Franciscans came to Bosnia in the late thirteenth century (1291) and shortly afterwards they build their first monastery in Srebrenica and by which later their monastery state was named Bosnia Srebrenika or Bosna Srebrena (Latin: Bosna Argentia). In the beginning, members of the Franciscan order were mostly foreigners (Germans, Hungarians, Italians), but soon, owing to the demands of the Bosnian aristocracy, a local clergy became predominant. In the municipality of Srebrenica 47 necropolis were recorded with over 850 tombstones, with later studies in this field revealing the existence of another 6 necropolis which is to say the number of tombstones in this area is significantly higher. Tombstones are usually related to Bogomils – members of the Bosnian church, residents of the medieval Bosnian state.

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