Speech by Ambassador Lars-Gunnar Wigemark at the 24th commemoration of the Srebrenica genocide

Survivors, Mothers of Srebrenica,
Relatives and Friends of those who lost their lives,
Excellencies,

Three months ago my mother died. She passed away quietly from old age and was spared the pain of a mother having to witness the premature death of her child.

For 24 years, the Mothers of Srebrenica have had to live with how their sons, brothers and husbands were extinguished by an act of brutal, deliberate and systematic killing.

The Mothers of Srebrenica and many others have been living with memories of their final farewells for more than two decades. Haunted by last looks and words exchanged, questions left unanswered about the fate of their beloved.

6643 victims identified and still counting.

Today, our thoughts are with them.

Our thoughts are also with the survivors, friends and families of those trapped and executed in what they trusted to be a UN safety zone.

Srebrenica is a deep wound reopened every time responsibility for the man-made atrocities that unfolded here are denied, or down played, and their perpetrators glorified.

“Genocide denial and revisionism contradict the most fundamental European values.” These are not my words but a direct quote from the European Commission’s Opinion on Bosnia and Herzegovina’s application for EU membership.

The European Union was founded on the very concept of recognizing the holocaust and a pledge never to repeat this darkest part of European history.

Yet it happened here again half a century later. And we must all as Europeans lower our heads in shame for letting such a crime take place on our door step.

Recognizing the Srebrenica genocide in no way diminishes the significance of the many brutal killings and war crimes committed elsewhere, some not far from here.

But denying or twisting well established facts, or contradicting decisions of international courts with clear UN Security Council mandates, will never shed light on the truth anywhere.

As the European Union Special Representative and on behalf of EU Member States, I call upon all political leaders in this country and elsewhere in the region to show accountability, recognition and regret for what happened here. I urge you to promote an environment conducive to reconciliation and finally overcoming the legacies of war.

Impunity for crimes and disrespect for our common principles as democracies and open societies are not acceptable.

As Europeans, we need to ensure the rule of law and respect for fundamental rights and human dignity across the continent. Today, we do so by honoring and remembering the Srebrenica victims and reflecting on the consequences for all of us.

Thank you for your attention.