12 October, 1999
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan issued an apology for the international community's mistakes in Bosnia's civil war, saying that the massacre at Srebrenica would haunt the body forever. Annan: "We will never forget that Bosnia was as much a moral cause as a military conflict. The tragedy of Srebrenica will haunt our history forever."
Annan called the Bosnian conflict "one of the most difficult and painful" in UN history. After meeting with members of Bosnia's inter-ethnic presidency, he announced a plan to build a memorial to UN personnel who contributed to peace in Bosnia. "No one regrets more than we the opportunities for achieving peace and justice that were missed," Annan said. "No one laments more than we the failure of the international community to take decisive action to halt the suffering and end a war that had produced so many victims." The town of Srebrenica was captured by Serbian forces in July 1995, despite its designation as a UN "safe haven" two years earlier. A massacre of some 8,000 Muslim men followed - widely seen as the worst atrocity in Europe" since World War II (Reuters/Central Europe Online, 12 Oct).
UN forces "could only watch" as the Serbian armies overran the city. While the UN eased the suffering of local populations in Bosnia, it was "not given the mandate or resources by member nations to fully take care of Bosnians or do anything to stop the war." Annan said the UN will continue to assist Bosnia in its reconstruction efforts, adding that he is optimistic about the country's prospects. "When I last came to Bosnia, Sarajevo was a nightmare of human and physical destruction," he said. "Today, I have witnessed the revival of civil society, the reconstruction of the economy, and the rekindling of hope for a better future for all citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina" (Alexandar Dragicevic, Associated Press/Nando.net, 11 Oct).