Survivors of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre forced a French former U.N. commander to leave a memorial site for victims on Friday, angry he had not fulfilled a wartime promise never to abandon the Bosnian town.
On his first visit to Srebrenica since 1995, Philippe Morillon was scheduled to meet town officials and relatives of some of the 8,000 Muslim men and boys slaughtered in the eastern town in July 1995 by Bosnian Serb forces.
Morillon, 74, led the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) in Bosnia in 1992-93, at the time Srebrenica was declared a U.N.-protected area, and was in charge of delivering aid to thousands of Muslims from eastern Bosnia seeking refuge.
The Frenchman wanted to extend his sympathies and ask for forgiveness from the victims' families, but several women were irritated that he entered the cemetery and forced him out.
He did not have the right to enter the cemetery where our children were buried thanks to him, said Hatidza Mehmedovic, who in July buried the exhumed remains of her husband and two sons killed in the massacre.
In 1993, Srebrenica residents prevented Morillon from leaving Srebrenica for two days during a visit in which he promised: I will never abandon you.
Today, many survivors blame him for not doing enough to alert his government and the United Nations to the town's plight.
The women asked him why he had failed to fulfil his promise and whether he felt guilty for the massacre, defined as genocide by the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague.
If I only knew that all of that would last for another two years, that it would end this way, I would have evacuated everybody, Bosnian state radio quoted Morillon as saying.
But I could not do it because I would have been regarded as an accomplice in the ethnic cleansing, and the Sarajevo government did not want it, added Morillon, who is now a member of the European Parliament.
Unhappy with his answers, the women later began to yell at him and he eventually left Srebrenica.
(Editing by Adam Tanner and Noah Barkin)