None of us who have visited Srebrenica will ever forget what we have seen there. It will always be in our minds and is now, 25 years on from the terrible events of 1995. We will never forget the grim factory in which the victims were held, the fields and woods in which they lost their lives and the cemetery in which so many thousands of bodies have now been laid to rest and brought back together and I pay tribute to the International Commission on Missing Persons for their painstaking and difficult and compassionate work.
What happened at Srebrenica was an act of genocide. It was a crime that will live on in our memories through the ages and it was the greatest single act of evil on the continent of Europe since the Second World War and 25 years on, we particularly remember the families and loved ones of those who lost their lives. I pay tribute to the Remembering Srebrenica initiative for the work in making sure that we keep faith with those people and that we remember the enormity and the extent of this terrible crime.
But of course it is part of the reason for that initiative, one of the reasons for that initiative, that we also remember the lessons, that we learn the lessons of what happened 25 years ago and to me there are five lessons briefly stated. One is that this is a reminder of what happens if we allow hatred and extremism to grow unchecked and we all have a responsibility to give our opinions, lead our societies, govern our nations with that constantly in mind to bring people together rather than to drive them apart.
Second, it is a lesson that many of the things we easily take for granted today are very fragile, including peace, including the rule of law, including the assumption that people will behave according to any of the normal standards of civilisation and that means we need strong global governance and national governance across our countries to make sure that peace, the rule of law and the norms of civilisation are always reinforced.
Third, it is a lesson that access to justice and avenues of justice are needed including to international criminal tribunals where appropriate and that in a conflict which saw so much gender based violence, that it is vital to ensure that crimes of sexual violence in conflict are also prosecuted so that justice is done.
Fourth it is a lesson that we do have a responsibility to protect and a responsibility to act when it is in our power to do so and life is so clearly threatened. We will often be told many reasons for caution, many reasons to hold back, sometimes we have to cast those reasons aside. Srebrenica was one of those where a responsibility to protect should have been in force.
And fifth it is a lesson that we must never neglect the Western Balkans and its role in the peace of Europe and the wider world. More than once in the 20th century that lesson was forgotten.
Remembering Srebrenica means we don’t have to learn that lesson all over again. Thank you very much.