BANJA LUKA, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — The leader of Bosnia’s Serbs denied on Tuesday that genocide was committed in Srebrenica and called for the withdrawal of a government report that acknowledged the massacre of more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys in the eastern Bosnian enclave in 1995 — triggering possible new tensions in the war-scarred Balkan state.
Milorad Dodik spoke at a parliamentary session of the autonomous Bosnian Serb republic, demanding that the legislature revoke the 2004 report compiled by a previous Bosnian Serb government. He said the report is biased and does not mention Serb victims.
The parliament dominated by Dodik’s supporters later Tuesday voted to reject the report, saying it is “not objective and is untrue.” It instructed the current Bosnian Serb government to officially annul it.
Dodik, who advocates that Bosnian Serb territories should split and join Serbia, has repeatedly rejected rulings by a U.N. war crimes court that genocide was committed in Srebrenica. He accused the U.S., the West and rival Bosnian Muslims of staging the massacre that is considered the worst carnage in Europe since World War II.
“The Srebrenica crime is a staged tragedy with an aim to satanize the Serbs,” Dodik said without elaborating.
He called for the forming of an “unbiased” international investigation into the Srebrenica massacre “in order to stop manipulation” with the number of victims.
Srebrenica survivors were outraged.
“Dodik’s initiative is shameful and inhumane toward the victims,” said Sehida Abdurahmanovic, a member of the Mothers of Srebrenica rights association. “Genocide was confirmed in Srebrenica. We cannot allow that someone changes the number of victims for something that is definite. We are again returning to the facts that we thought were confirmed.”
The European Union said in a statement that it rejects any denial “or misinterpretation of the genocide in Srebrenica.”
“We call upon all political leaders and others in positions of authority in BiH (Bosnia-Herzegovina) to lead the way in honoring victims and promoting reconciliation,” the EU office in Sarajevo said.
Bosnian Serbs overran the majority Muslim town on July 11, 1995, rounding up Srebrenica’s Muslims and killing more than 8,000 men and boys.
The U.N. war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia has sentenced Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic and his military commander Ratko Mladic over the Srebrenica massacre and other atrocities of the 1992-95 war.
Although the international court has labeled the Srebrenica killings as genocide, Serbs have never admitted that their troops committed the ultimate crime and nationalist politicians have viewed Mladic and Karadzic as heroes.
It is widely believed that Dodik’s reopening of the debate over Srebrenica is intended to secure the support of hard-line Bosnian Serbs ahead of the Oct. 7 general election. Dodik has had the support of Russia for his separatist stands.
Belgrade political analyst Bosko Jaksic said Dodik’s initiative is “a cheap, irresponsible and dangerous provocation.”
“It’s clear that it will provoke and add to the tensions in chronically unstable Bosnia,” Jaksic said. “Mr. Dodik belongs to politicians in the region who are thinking that by aggressively promoting nationalism they can stay in power.”
Dusan Stojanovic contributed from Belgrade, Serbia, and Radul Radovanovic from Srebrenica, Bosnia.