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Thousands of Bosnian Serbs attend rally denying genocide was committed in Srebrenica in 1995


BANJA LUKA, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — Thousands of Bosnian Serbs rallied on Thursday denying that genocide was committed in Srebrenica in 1995 despite rulings to the contrary by two United Nations courts.

More than 8,000 Bosniak Muslim men and boys were executed by Bosnian Serb troops in the eastern Bosnian enclave in July 1995. The victims' remains were dumped in mass graves and later reburied to hide evidence of atrocities.

International courts in The Hague, Netherlands, have branded the crime in Srebrenica a genocide, Europe's first since World War II. Bosnian Serb top army officers and political leaders also have been convicted of genocide by U.N. judges.

Srebrenica was a “mistake” and a “huge crime,” Bosnian Serb separatist leader Milorad Dodik told the crowd at the rally in the northwestern town of Banja Luka that is the Bosnian Serb main administrative center. “But it wasn't genocide.”

The rally was organized in protest of a draft U.N. resolution commemorating the genocide in Srebrenica that is supported by the Bosniak politicians in Bosnia along with a number of European countries and the United States.

The resolution is yet to be passed in the U.N. but the Bosnian Serbs and neighboring Serbia have been strongly opposed, saying it would brand the Serbs as a “genocidal nation.” The Serbs are supported by Russia and China.

Genocide denial is punishable by Bosnia's own laws. Bosnian Serb parliament, however, earlier on Thursday approved a report denying the Srebrenica genocide.

Dodik reiterated his threats that Bosnian Serbs, who control about a half of Bosnia, would split from the rest of the country if the Srebrenica resolution is passed in the U.N General Assembly.

The other half of Bosnia is run by the country's Bosniaks, who are mostly Muslim, and Croats.

“We do not want to live in the same state with you (Bosniaks) and we will not live in the same state with you,” said Dodik. “We will do it (split) when the conditions are right.”

Serbia's parliament speaker and outgoing Prime minister Ana Brnabic also attended the gathering in Banja Luka.

Dodik is staunchly pro-Russian and has faced U.S. and British sanctions for his separatism. He has traveled to Russia and met with Russia's President Vladimir Putin despite the invasion of Ukraine and in defiance of the West.

In his speech, Dodik said he hoped a potential victory at the upcoming U.S. election by former President Donald Trump would create “different conditions in which we will play.” He did not elaborate. Dodik ended his speech by exclaiming “Long live Russia!”

Bosnia remains ethnically divided and politically tense long after the end of the 1992-95 war. The troubled Balkan nation is seeking European Union membership but internal divisions have hampered the effort amid fears of instability as the war rages in Ukraine.