Anger boiled over Saturday at a massive commemoration of the slaughter of 8,000 Bosnian Muslims at Srebrenica 20 years ago as people pelted Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic with stones, water bottles and other objects. An aide said the prime minister was hit in the face with a rock.
Vucic’s associate, Suzana Vasiljevic, said that his glasses were broken when he was struck in the face with a stone. Vasiljevic said she was behind Vucic when “masses broke the fences and turned against us.”
Tens of thousands came to mark the 20th anniversary of Europe’s worst massacre since the Holocaust – the slaughter of 8,000 Muslims from the eastern Bosnian town of Srebrenica – with foreign dignitaries urging the international community not to allow such atrocities to happen again and to call the crime “genocide.”
Vucic, once an ultra-nationalist, came to represent his country at the commemoration in an apparent gesture of reconciliation. But a few people carried banners with his own wartime quote: “For every killed Serb, we will kill 100 Bosniaks.”
Vucic and his guards were forced to run through a crowd that rushed them, with guards trying to protect the prime minister with bags, umbrellas and their raised arms. He returned to Serbia soon afterward.
Serbia’s foreign minister, Ivica Dacic, said the incident was an attack on Serbia.
“By deciding to bow to the victims, Serbia’s prime minister behaved like a statesman,” Dacic said in a statement. “This is another negative consequence of politicizing this subject that has brought new divisions and hatreds instead of reconciliation.”
The Muslim Bosniak mayor of Srebrenica, Camil Durakovic, said he was “deeply disappointed and I truly apologize to Prime Minister Vucic for what he experienced.”
Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland condemned the attack. The ceremony in Potocari, the Srebrenica suburb where the memorial center is located, “should have been a place for reflection, reconciliation, not violence,” Jagland said.
This was not the first time that top Serbian officials visited Srebrenica for commemorations. The former pro-democratic president, Boris Tadic, was there on the 10th anniversary of the massacre, and there were no major incidents.
Serbia and Bosnian Serbs deny the killings were genocide, and claim that the death toll has been exaggerated.