(MENAFN- The Journal Of Turkish Weekly) Huge crowds of mourners and scores of international dignitaries including former US President Bill Clinton were set to gather in the eastern Bosnian town on Saturday to mark the anniversary of the worst atrocity in Europe since World War II.
The commemoration came amid heightened political tensions over Srebrenica after a UN Security Council resolution condemning the massacres as genocide was vetoed this week by Serbia's ally Russia.
Thousands of people marched to the Srebrenica memorial centre on foot along the route taken by those who fled the killings of more than 7,000 Bosniak men and boys by Bosnian Serb forces after they overran the UN-declared 'safe area' in July 1995.
The commemoration will see the remains of 136 more Srebrenica victims laid to rest at the memorial centre at Potocari, which in 1995 was a base for UN peacekeepers who failed to prevent the massacres.
Among those being buried this year are 18 minors; the two youngest were 16 years old when they were killed, while the oldest victim was 75.
One of the men being buried is Mehmed Avdic, who was 19 years old when he was killed. "There was so much pain for 20 years... but at least I know that he was found. So many families have loved ones who are still missing," his sister Nasa Becirovic told BIRN.
The massacres have been defined as genocide by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, the International Court of Justice and the Bosnian state court.
But this definition is strongly contested by Serbian and Bosnian Serb officials, who claim that the crime, although real, did not amount to genocide.
Russia said that the proposed UN Security Council resolution calling the massacres genocide was "politically motivated" and "not in the interest of reconciliation". Moscow's veto caused anger among Bosniak politicians.
Tensions were also raised in the run-up to the anniversary by the arrest of the wartime Bosnian Army commander in Srebrenica, Naser Oric, on a Serbian war crimes warrant.
Despite the controversy, Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic is expected to attend the commemoration.
Bosnian Serb interior minister Dragan Lukac insisted that it would proceed peacefully.
"This is in the interest of [Bosnia's-dominated entity] Republika Srpska [where Srebrenica is located]," said Lukac.
He said that 1,200 police officers would ensure security at the commemoration.
Bosnia's Muslim religious leader, Grand Mufti Husein Kavazovic, called on Bosniaks and Serbs on Friday to reconcile.
"Serbs and Bosniaks should reconcile and pledge to permanent cooperation at a joint meeting which should take place in Srebrenica, with political, spiritual and intellectual elites from both peoples attending. We should call on our Slavic roots and pledge to live in peace with common assistance and recognition," said Grand Mufti Kavazovic.
Plans by Serbian peace activists to hold a commemoration in Belgrade on Saturday were blocked when the interior ministry banned all public rallies, citing security fears.
The ministry imposed the ban after right-wing nationalist groups said they would hold counter-demonstrations against the activists' planned commemoration outside parliament.
Instead, some 200 people lit candles in silence in front of the Serbian president's office on Friday night in homage to the victims, despite a protest by right-wingers singing nationalist songs.
International and Bosnian courts have so far sentenced a total of 37 people to around 630 years in prison for genocide and other crimes against Bosniaks from Srebrenica in 1995.
The former Bosnian Serb Army chief and political leader, Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic, are both still on trial in The Hague for alleged genocide and other crimes.
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