Officials of the European Union, the Council of Europe, the United States, and the Croat member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Dragan Covic issued separate statements on Wednesday to commemorate the victims of the 1995 Srebrenica genocide.
"Today we commemorate the 23rd anniversary of the genocide in Srebrenica. As some victims are still being laid to rest, we extend our sympathies to the survivors and to the families and friends of those who have suffered and lost their lives. This commemoration reminds us of one of the darkest moments of humanity and modern European history, and of our responsibility to prevent such an atrocity from ever happening again. While remembering, we have the responsibility to build a better future for the generations to come, a future based on reconciliation, avoiding divisive actions and rhetoric," EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, and Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Johannes Hahn, said in a joint message.
They confirmed that the EU would "continue to support the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina to overcome the legacy of the past, and advance the country on its European path."
Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatovic, who herself is from Bosnia and Herzegovina, said that she would continue to pursue justice for the victims of all war crimes committed in the Balkans, and that she would be in the service of justice as it is the only way to deal with the past and prevent it from happening again.
Mijatovic noted that the atrocity committed against the Bosniak population of Srebrenica was found long ago to qualify as genocide. She said that European countries should provide greater support to civil initiatives for reconciliation, and should exert their influence on politicians and public figures in Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina to stop denying the past and start building a more inclusive education systems and societies.
Mijatovic warned that the education system, especially in Bosnia and Herzegovina, suppressed the truth about the past and manipulated facts about the 1990s war, which she said only fomented further ethnic tensions and prevented reconciliation based on truth.
"Just like the Holocaust and the genocide in Rwanda, the genocide in Srebrenica did not happen accidentally. It began long before it was carried out. It began when people started to be singled out on ethnic grounds. It grew through public discourse, with the aid of some of the media, which dehumanised people and marginalised critical voices. It was designed as systematic and organised extermination of a large group of people before the eyes of a passive international community, and it continues even today, through denial and impunity," she warned.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressed solidarity on behalf of the people and government of his country with the families of the victims of the Srebrenica genocide, calling on the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina to work together on overcoming past grievances and strengthening democratic institutions in their country.
"The horrific Srebrenica genocide reminds us that we must strive for a stable and prosperous future for the benefit of all citizens, regardless of race or religion, in Bosnia and Herzegovina and everywhere else," Pompeo said in a statement.
"The United States stands with the people Bosnia and Herzegovina on this day. We will not forget your fallen. We honor the victims of genocide and remain steadfast in our partnership to bring enduring stability and prosperity to your country," the statement said.
Croat member of Bosnia's tripartite presidency, Dragan Covic, tweeted: "A horrible crime was committed in Srebrenica. Today we beg forgiveness, even for those who do not have the courage to do that." He added that the European future of Bosnia and Herzegovina could be built only on truth and reconciliation.
Since early morning on Wednesday, thousands of people have been gathering at the memorial complex in Potocari near Srebrenica, in eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina to commemorate the 23rd anniversary of the genocide against the local Bosniak population, committed by Bosnian Serb forces commanded by general Ratko Mladic. More than 8,000 Bosniak men and boys perished after the wall of the town in what is considered the worst atrocity on European soil since World War II.