BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Fearing unrest, Serbia’s police on Friday banned gatherings honoring the victims of the Srebrenica massacre 20 years ago as well as those by ultranationalists who have threatened to disrupt the event.
Liberal Serbian groups have planned to organize a happening in Belgrade on Saturday when thousands of people would lie down on the pavement in front of the country’s parliament.
The symbolic gesture would mark the 20th anniversary of the slaughter in neighboring Bosnia of more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys by Bosnian Serb troops — the worst carnage in Europe since World War II.
Several Serb ultranationalist groups, who claim fewer than 8,000 people died in Srebrenica and that they were all Muslim soldiers who had killed Serbs, had pledged to disrupt the event.
“For police, the safety of all citizens is important and we won’t allow chaos on the streets,” said Serbian Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic while announcing the ban.
The organizers of the liberal protest were furious, saying the ban of their event shows that Serbs has never come to grips with their wartime past.
“We (Serbia) have shown where we stand. And that is what’s so worrisome,” said Dusan Masic, a journalist who initiated the commemoration event.
This week, a proposed U.N. Security Council resolution that labeled the Srebrenica crime “an act of genocide” — as two U.N. courts have already done — was vetoed by Russia, Serbia’s traditional Slavic ally.
Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, a former ultranationalist, has said he will be representing Serbia at the central commemorations in Srebrenica on Saturday.
Stefanovic, the police chief, indicated Friday that Vucic’s trip is still in question because of alleged security threats posed by Muslim extremist groups.
AP reporter Jovana Gec contributed.