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Memorial tree in Belfast marks the 25th anniversary of Bosnia horror

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Junior Minister Declan Kearney, genocide survivor Mevlida Lazibi, Finance Minister Conor Murphy and Junior Minister Gordon Lyons

Junior Minister Declan Kearney, genocide survivor Mevlida Lazibi, Finance Minister Conor Murphy and Junior Minister Gordon Lyons

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Ey

The mass graves of 307 Srebrenica victims

The mass graves of 307 Srebrenica victims

Junior Minister Declan Kearney, genocide survivor Mevlida Lazibi, Finance Minister Conor Murphy and Junior Minister Gordon Lyons

A woman who lost 36 members of her family at Srebrenica has taken part in a ceremony at Stormont to mark the 25th anniversary of the massacre.

Bosnian Serb forces killed more than 8,000 Muslims who were meant to be under UN protection.

The July 1995 massacre was the worst in Europe since the Second World War.

A tree-planting ceremony was held ahead of Srebrenica Memorial Day, held on July 11 each year, which remembers those who died.

Mevlida Lazibi, who lost 36 family members in the genocide, including her father, grandfather and brothers, travelled from London to take part in the event. Junior Ministers Declan Kearney and Gordon Lyons, Finance Minister Conor Murphy and representatives of Remembering Srebrenica -­ a charitable organisation which raises awareness about the genocide ­- were also present.

Ms Lazibi, who presented Ministers with a Flower of Srebrenica to thank them for hosting the event, said: "I hope that the tree serves as a living reminder that genocide like Srebrenica can still happen in Europe.

"I hope also that as a living memorial to the thousands of innocent victims who lost their lives in Srebrenica, it grows a bond between Northern Ireland and Bosnia-Herzegovina as two regions coming out of conflict supporting each other in their pursuit of peace and reconciliation."

Speaking at Thursday's ceremony, Mr Kearney said: "Today, we honour the resilience of Mevlida and all the people of Bosnia. Their work in contributing to rebuilding a country still living with the consequences of hatred is an example to us all."

Mr Lyons added: "Today gives us all an opportunity to reflect upon the genocide that took place in 1995 and remember all the victims and those who were left behind."

Mr Murphy said: "This memorial within the grounds of Stormont Estate is a lasting tribute to those who lost their lives in the Srebrenica genocide and to the Mothers of Srebrenica who have tirelessly campaigned for justice and reconciliation."

Srebrenica remains the only massacre on European soil since the Second World War to be ruled a genocide.

During the Bosnian War from 1992 to 1995, the Serb army was engaged in an ethnic-cleansing operation.

Thousands of Muslims sought safety in Srebrenica, which the UN was protecting with Dutch forces, but the area fell in July 1995 during a Serb offensive led by General Ratko Mladic.

Reports of massacres start to emerge on July 14 1995.

In the five days after Bosnian Serb forces overran Srebrenica, more than 7,000 Muslim men are thought to have been killed.

Belfast Telegraph