FM visits Bosnia and Herzegovina.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will today (Sunday) visit Srebrenica to pay tribute to those killed in the 1995 genocide – and pledge to help ensure that the atrocity is never forgotten.
The visit was a commitment made to survivors and representatives from the Mothers of Srebenica – whom the First Minister met in Edinburgh last year at a memorial service marking the 20th anniversary of the genocide.
Her tour will be led by the Very Rev Dr Lorna Hood, the former Moderator of the Church of Scotland and chair of the Scottish board of Remembering Srebrenica. Dr Hood was honoured last year for her work to ensure that Scotland and the rest of the UK never forget the Srebrenica genocide.
The First Minister will meet survivors and the bereaved in Srebrenica, and visit a number of sites that played a pivotal role in supporting those fleeing the atrocities and those supported by international volunteers.
The genocide saw more than 8,000 men and boys murdered in the space of a few days – with the bodies buried in mass graves – and was described by the United Nations as “the worst crime in Europe since the Second World War.”
Last year the Scottish Government launched an education pack – developed by Remembering Srebrenica – for use in secondary schools in Scotland.
Scotland has strong links with Bosnia and Herzegovina, and during the Balkan conflict Edinburgh Direct Aid sent many convoys delivering supplies and medicines into the heart of the city.
Christine Witcutt, along with her husband Alan were two of the first to volunteer to drive in the convoy to Bosnia. Tragically, Christine was killed on “snipers alley” in Sarajevo a few months later. Her humanitarian work lives on in the Christine Witcutt Day Care Centre, established in 2001, to provide support to families with disabled children in Sarajevo.
Following the conflict, Scottish scientist Adam Boys was instrumental in setting up the International Commission on Missing Persons, which has used DNA identification technology to reunite thousands of families with the remains of their loved ones.
During the visit, the First Minister will undertake introductory meetings with the Chairman of the Council of Ministers Denis Zvizdic, and the Foreign Minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina Igor Crnadak, as well as religious leaders from different communities, to hear about their efforts to overcome the legacy of war and to build a brighter future for all the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Speaking ahead of the visit, the First Minister said:
“It will be a privilege to visit Srebrenica and learn first-hand how survivors and bereaved family members of the genocide have fought to preserve the memory of their loved ones.
“More than 8,000 men and boys had their lives taken from them, and it is vital that what happened in Srebrenica, in one of Europe’s darkest chapters, is never forgotten.
“Scotland has strong links with the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina – and during my visit I will be keen not just to pay tribute on behalf of the people of Scotland to those who were murdered in the genocide, but also to learn how we can use the memory of what happened at Srebrenica to help tackle intolerance and hatred wherever it occurs in the world.
“Brave people like Christine Witcutt, who put herself in the front line to help those so desperately in need during the conflict, represented a beacon of hope and compassion amid appalling suffering– and Christine’s humanitarian work lives on in the centre created in her memory.
“In a world where conflict is sadly still very much a reality, we must never forget the lessons of the past as we try to build a more peaceful, tolerant future.”
Very Rev Dr Lorna Hood, former Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland said:
"In making this visit the First Minister is keeping her promise to the Mothers of Srebrenica and to the survivors of the atrocity who met with her after she spoke at the memorial event in St. Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh last year. The Scottish Board of Remembering Srebrenica is delighted that the First Minister has been determined to keep that promise and to support the aims of the charity to fight and challenge hatred wherever it occurs but especially in our own communities.
"The terrorist events of the last few months and years around the world should make us even more aware that hatred and discrimination if left unchallenged and unchecked can lead to terrible evil even amongst those who had previously been neighbours and friends.
"Many of the bereaved are still waiting for justice and for the remains of their loved ones to be found."
On Sunday 21 August the First Minister will:
- meet representatives from faith groups
- visit the Christine Witcutt day care centre, which provides care to children with disabilities
- meet Hasan Hasanovic, the curator at the Potocari Memorial Centre. The massacre in Srebrenica began in Potocari and in October 2000 Wolfgang Petritsch, the then High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina declared the land should be turned into a memorial and cemetery.
- meet with representatives from Mothers of Srebrenica who speak on behalf of families and loved ones affected
- lay a wreath at Potocari Cemetery.
Images will be available after 16:30 via Press Association
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