Remembering Srebrenica: Lessons from the Past as Call for Action against Divisions

WESTERN BALKANS – Today we remember thousands of victims of the most horrifying event that has happened on the European soil since the Second World War. Twenty-five years ago, in July 1995, the war and its perpetrators, in a small town of Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina took away 8.372 lives. 

RYCO recalls the fact that the International Criminal Tribunal for ex-Yugoslavia and the International Court of Justice, respectively in 2004 and 2006, recognized the Srebrenica massacre as an act of genocide. This fact should not be questioned and should be accepted by everyone who wants to make and live in a peaceful Western Balkans.

As we remember Srebrenica, we remember and honor the victims and their families, and underline that peaceful relations and reconciliation require a comprehensive approach from all actors involved in dealing with the past and moving forward together.

Crimes against humanity and human rights violations committed during the wars of the 1990s and their consequences constitute the biggest burden that our societies face today. The war, still vivid images, and wounds not healed still shape relations between the Western Balkan people. These also put into perspective the importance of learning from the past and building new pathways that lead to long-lasting peace. 

On this day, RYCO takes the opportunity to reaffirm its commitment to respect and promote peace, understanding, human rights, inclusiveness, and tolerance. 

Living in the past with old narratives imposes barriers that are hindering the huge potential of cooperation and development in the Western Balkans, whereas empowering future generations and building friendly ties lead to a brighter common future for all. Young people are the real carriers of and contributors to peace and prosperity in our region, and we stand firm in enabling them to live in the Western Balkans where peace and justice prevail.

We remind that denying the facts and pushing for revisionism are not helpful and will certainly make history repeat itself. Those who are practicing denial and revisionism should know that they are paving the way to new conflicts and sufferings.

As young people continue to inherit narratives about the region’s past that focus on blame and divisions rather than reconciliation and cooperation, RYCO invites the six governments of the Western Balkans to join their efforts in finding ways of fostering trust between each other and building a common understanding of our recent past.

Genocide is a denial of the right of existence and denial of the right to live. We are convinced that such beliefs should not have a place in our modern times. We will fight against them whenever possible. That is why we acknowledge that there are no easy paths and shortcuts that lead to reconciliation, but there is only one way – the one of truth, peace, justice, trust, cooperation, and tolerance. 

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