Dr. Eric Dachy was working in the former Yugoslavia with an international aid organization in 1993 when he joined a United Nations peacekeeping convoy to the town of Srebrenica, then under siege by Bosnian Serb forces. Inside Srebrenica, the Bosniak population had been without electricity, running water, adequate food, and medical supplies for months. Dachy knew that his medical skills and the supplies he was bringing to Bosnian doctors would not matter if the Serbs took the town.
When the United Nations declared Srebrenica a “safe haven” on April 16, 1993, largely as a result of the UN convoy’s trip, the Serb offensive was halted. Dachy stayed in Srebrenica for three days and shortly thereafter helped establish a permanent international medical presence there.
Two years later, however, the Bosnian Serb army staged a brutal takeover of Srebrenica and its surrounding area, where they proceeded to perpetrate genocide. Over a period of several days the Bosnian Serb soldiers separated Bosniak families, forcibly expelled 30,000 people in a massive campaign of ethnic cleansing and systematically murdered more than 8,000 boys, men, and the elderly in fields, schools, and warehouses throughout the local area.
Despite efforts to conceal the crime, as of July 2009 the identity of 6,186 Srebrenica Genocide victims have been identified through DNA analysis conducted by the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP). The victims’ remains have been excavated from some 80 mass graves. According to the ICMP, “the overall high matching rate between DNA extracted from these bone and blood samples leads ICMP to support an estimate of close to 8,100 individuals missing from the fall of Srebrenica.”
“By seeking to eliminate a part of the Bosnian Muslims, the Bosnian Serb forces committed genocide. They targeted for extinction the 40,000 Bosnian Muslims living in Srebrenica, a group which was emblematic of the Bosnian Muslims in general…. The Appeals Chamber states unequivocally that the law condemns, in appropriate terms, the deep and lasting injury inflicted, and calls the massacre at Srebrenica by its proper name: genocide. Those responsible will bear this stigma, and it will serve as a warning to those who may in future contemplate the commission of such a heinous act.” – Presiding ICTY Judge Theodor Meron.
Dr. Eric Dachy − We arrived in the night, in the snow, in Srebrenica, a completely dark place; there was no power at all. And then we saw in the light of the vehicles we were in, we saw thousands, maybe more, thousands of people completely silent, watching us as ghosts, wondering what — why we were coming, what our arrival meant for them. And obviously they were already, I don’t know, shocked by what was their future.
Definitely the military situation was dramatical. The Serbs were going to take the city. They were on the edge of entering the city and basically doing what they were doing everywhere else, which meant killing all the men in age to fight, raping some women and sending everybody else, I mean, old men, women, and children to Bosnia territory.
We understood that there was very little we could do as doctors. People in Bosnia didn’t need assistance. They needed security, they needed protection, they needed to be saved from killers.