UN Headquarters

12 July 2010

Remarks at ceremony marking the 15th Srebrenica Commemoration

Ban Ki-moon

Your Excellency Ivan Barbaliæ, [Permanent Representative of Bosnia and Herzegovina],

Your Excellency, Dr. Ali Abdussalam Treki, [President of the General Assembly],


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today we honour the victims of the largest atrocity on European soil since the founding of the United Nations.

We pay homage to the thousands of men and boys who were slaughtered – brutally... deliberately and systematically.

We recognize the burden of families and loved ones who carry the memories and pain with each step.

And, we vow, together, never again to allow such an atrocity to happen at any time...in any place.

This we owe to the souls of Srebrenica.

This we owe to our common humanity.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This is a day to remember the horror of Srebrenica. But it is also a time to re-assert the power of tolerance and understanding.

All Bosnians, and indeed, all of the people of that part of the Balkans, must re-engage with one other on the basis of mutual respect and trust.

Fifteen years have passed. The region has made progress.

I am particularly heartened by recent efforts to further smooth the path towards reconciliation.

But there is a still a long way to go.

Responsible leaders and citizens must join forces to continue pursuing this essential goal.

The emergence of respect and trust after conflict also depends heavily on bringing perpetrators to account. Truth must be told. Justice must be done.

The International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia have found that the horror of Srebrenica constituted a crime of genocide. These institutions are contributing significantly to the ongoing fight against impunity.

Until all those accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes face those charges and are judged, our quest for justice, and the path towards healing, will remain incomplete.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We cannot undo the past.

But we must face it and learn from it to build a just and prosperous future.

That means all of us – including the United Nations.

The United Nations made serious errors of judgment in Srebrenica which weigh heavy on our collective memory and conscience.

As Secretary-General Annan said in 1999, “the tragedy of Srebrenica will haunt our history forever.”

We must remain steadfast in ensuring that humankind never forgets those lessons.

The work of the International Criminal Court, our efforts to protect civilians, our increased vigilance for early signs of genocide or other grave crimes, are all meant to reduce the risk of another such assault on innocents – and to fully prepare us if it does come.

The age of impunity has passed, and the age of accountability is now taking over.

Bosnia and Herzegovina is also teaching the world many lessons. You are applying your experience from this unspeakable tragedy to promote global peace as a member of the United Nations Security Council.

On this day, let us pledge together to protect and uphold human dignity, wherever and whenever it is threatened.

Thank you very much.