House debates

Thursday, 3 September 2020

Constituency Statements

Srebrenica Massacre: 25th Anniversary

10:54 am

Photo of Tony ZappiaTony Zappia (Makin, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Bosnian genocide in which 8,732 men, women and children were mercilessly killed in Srebrenica on or around 11 July 1995. Described by the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres as the worst atrocity crime on European soil since World War II, the callous brutality still haunts those who survived but witnessed the killings and the body parts then being scattered around 570 mass graves in an attempt to conceal the victims' identities. To date, the bodies of around 6,500 of those who perished have been recovered and identified, but more than 1,000 are still to be found.

Every year on 11 July Adelaide's Bosnian Muslim community hold a service to remember those who were killed to draw attention to the injustices that they are still subjected to, and to hold to account those responsible for the atrocities in the hope that similar events will not be repeated. As I do each year, I attended this year's service, along with my state parliamentary colleagues Stephen Mullighan, Joe Szakacs and Katrine Hildyard; former state MPs Michael Atkinson and Jennifer Rankine; mayor of the City of Charles Sturt, Angela Evans; and former Port Adelaide Enfield mayor Gary Johanson.

The service began with a passionate address from the president of the Bosnia-Herzegovina Muslim Society of South Australia, Sam Hasic. We then heard heart-wrenching personal accounts of the atrocities from Mahira Hasonovic and Mehmed Mutafic. I will quote from Mahira's speech, where she describes the pain of losing her father, a school teacher, who was found around 13 years after he disappeared, having left behind his wife and four young children. She said:

To lose your father is hard.

But to lose him that way is unbearable.

When they speak about his death, I get up and leave or I mention God to strengthen my heart in those moments.

My father was shot execution style.

His body was buried in a mass grave.

And moved and moved again.

His bones were never all found.

A quarter of a century has passed, but for so many Bosnians the grieving, suffering and injustices continue. Loved ones are still missing and yet even in the face of war crime convictions in the International Court of Justice and the UN war crimes court, the findings of mass graves and eyewitness statements there are still denials and attempts to cover up or erase the war crimes from history. Today, I stand in solidarity with the Bosnian people in remembering the victims of the Bosnian genocide.