BELGRADE, Serbia 

A three-day peace march in Bosnia and Herzegovina to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the genocide in Srebrenica kicked off under the shadow of COVID-19.

Munir Habibovic, the sub-committee head of the Peace Walk, said 500 people could participate in the march this year and their fever will be checked periodically.

The doctors and health teams are present in the camp areas, Habibovic added.

Traditionally thousands of people from all over the world come to the Bosnian town of Nezuk every year to participate in the march. This year it started from Crni Vrh near Zvornik, as new COVID-19 cases were recently detected in Nezuk.

The participants will march for three days, and spend the nights at designated areas. The march is expected to conclude at a cemetery in Potocari, a village in eastern Bosnia-Herzegovina, just northwest of the Srebrenica town, where a funeral prayer and burial ceremony will be held for eight victims.

Since 2005, thousands of people have attended the Mars Mira — which means Peace March in Bosnian — following the same forest path used by the Bosniaks when they were fleeing the Srebrenica genocide.

More than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were killed after Bosnian Serb forces attacked Srebrenica in July 1995, despite the presence of Dutch troops meant to act as international peacekeepers.

In the early 1990s, Srebrenica was besieged by Serbian forces trying to wrest territory from Bosnian Muslims and Croats to form their own state.

In the spring of 1993, the UN Security Council declared Srebrenica a “safe area.” However, Serbian troops led by Gen. Ratko Mladic — later found guilty of war crimes and genocide — overran the UN zone.

Some 15,000 Srebrenica people fled into the surrounding mountains but Serb troops hunted down and killed 6,000 of them in the forests.

A total of 6,696 victims lie buried at the Srebrenica Genocide Memorial in Potocari. At Saturday’s commemoration ceremony, eight more identified victims will be buried at the cemetery.

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