Genocide in Bosnia

Bosnian Genocide, 1992-1995

Tears for Kids, the 1993 Srebrenica Children Massacre

(Photos courtesy: The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., from video testimony about the 1993 Srebrenica Children Massacre)

Bosnian Genocide (1993) -- Srebrenica Children Massacre, April 1993. Photo courtesy: The USHMM, video screenshots.

The Srebrenica Children Massacre refers to the killing of as many as 62 children among the victims when the elementary school in Srebrenica, eastern Bosnia, was shelled by the Army of Republika Srpska in April 1993.

The Srebrenica Children Massacre occurred two years before the Srebrenica genocide.

On 12 April 1993, the Bosnian Serbs told the UNHCR representatives that they would attack the town of Srebrenica within two days unless the Bosniaks surrendered. The same day, Serbs attacked Srebrenica’s elementary school, killing 62 Bosniak children and wounding 152 others.

Bosnian Genocide (1993) -- Srebrenica Children Massacre, April 1993. Photo courtesy: The USHMM, video screenshots.

Bosnian Genocide (1993) -- Srebrenica Children Massacre, April 1993. Photo courtesy: The USHMM, video screenshots.

According to evidence given to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia by Sead Bekric, one of the survivors, describing how he was blinded at the age of 14, “There was a soccer field in Srebrenica on April 12th 1993 and there was a massive amount of people and we had a match and there was a shelling from Zvijezda, from the hill above Bratunac and the soccer field was shelled and I was blinded, together with 62 other people killed on the soccer field. … My understanding there was about 60, 62 people killed on that day and there was over 100 wounded on that day.”

Bosnian Genocide (1993) -- Srebrenica Children Massacre in April 1993. Video screenshot courtesy of CNN.

Bosnian Genocide (1993) -- Srebrenica Children Massacre in April 1993. Video screenshot courtesy of CNN.

Survivors were treated by Dr Nedret Mujkanovic, who in an interview with Chuck Sudetic described how people were sitting around in front of the refugee-packed school and children were playing football and other games. “In less than one minute, seven rockets from a multiple-rocket launcher fell in an area about half the size of a football field.”

Srebrenica Children Massacre (Bosnian Genocide) in 1993

Srebrenica Children Massacre (Bosnian Genocide) in 1993

Dr. Mujkanovic told Sudetic that 36 people had died immediately and 102 had been seriously wounded. He said that the Serbs knew there was a camp of refugees from Cerska and Konjevic Polje in the school. “They directed their fire at that location. It came completely by surprise. There were pieces of women scattered about, and you could not see how to fit them together. I saw one dead mother lying on the ground and holding the hands of her two dead children. They all had no heads.”

Photo of Sead Bekric, child victim of the 1993 Srebrenica Children Massacre. Shrapnel from a mortar had swept away this boy's eyes and blinded him, part of his skull was also crushed.

Photo of Sead Bekric, child victim of the 1993 Srebrenica Children Massacre. Shrapnel from a mortar had swept away this boy's eyes and blinded him, part of his skull was also crushed. Credits: James Mason

Dr Mujkanovic subsequently gave evidence to the ICTY about the shelling on 12 April. Srebrenica was under general attack. After the fall of Cerska and Konjevic Polje, their population of 15,000 or more had fled to Srebrenica and were accommodated in the primary and secondary schools in Srebrenica and even on the streets. When the school was shelled over 100 people were killed and approximately the same number seriously injured, including lots of women, lots of children and some men. Dr Mujkanovic also told the Tribunal how the evacuation of the injured had been shelled by the Serbs.

There is some confusion about the final number of the dead. No formal investigation was conducted as far as Sead Bekric’s evidence to the ICTY indicates.

Footage from Tony Birtley video reporting.

Footage from ABC reporting from Srebrenica by Tony Birtley.

The massacre and the injured Sead Bekric were seen as emblematic of the fate of the child victims of the violent war of ethnic cleansing unleashed in Bosnia. Sead’s face was shown around the world by CNN television. The cover of the 10 May 1993 edition of Newsweek magazine printed one large, self-explanatory word across Sead’s injured chest: “Bosnia.”

This massacre occurred immediately before the United Nations declared Srebrenica a “safe haven”, and more than two years before the Srebrenica genocide.

The massacre is also mentioned in Emir Suljagic’s personal account of the siege and fall of Srebrenica, “Postcards from the Grave”.

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