Photos: Remembering the Victims of the Srebrenica Massacre

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A woman searches for her relative's name on the coffins of newly identified victims of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, at the Memorial Center in Potocari near Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina, July 9, 2015. Stoyan Nenov/Reuters

More than a hundred coffins are en route to Srebrenica. The bodies they contain will be buried Saturday, 20 years after the fall of a U.N. "safe area" and the subsequent massacre that took the lives of roughly 8,000 Muslim men and boys.

Family members wept Thursday as a truck carrying 136 victims—recently found in mass graves and identified through DNA analysis—passed through Sarajevo, the capital city of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Since men and boys were targeted in the 1995 massacre, many of those who placed flowers on the truck were women—mothers, sisters and wives of those slaughtered.

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A woman puts flowers on a truck carrying 136 coffins of newly identified victims of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, in front of the presidential building in Sarajevo, July 9, 2015. Dado Ruviou/Reuters
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In front of the presidential building in Sarajevo, a woman cries beside a truck carrying the coffins of newly identified victims on July 9, 2015. Dado Ruvic/Reuters

The U.N. Security Council designated Srebrenica a "safe area" on April 16, 1993, in the midst of war and ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia. In Resolution 819, the council wrote that it "condemns and rejects the deliberate actions of the Bosnian Serb party to force the evacuation of the civilian population from Srebrenica and its surrounding areas as well as from other parts of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina as part of its overall abhorrent campaign of 'ethnic cleansing.'"

The resolution required that "all parties and others concerned treat Srebrenica and its surroundings as a safe area which should be free from any armed attack or any hostile act," and requested that then–U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali "take immediate steps to increase the presence of UNPROFOR [the U.N. Protection Force]" in the area.

But on July 11, 1995, Serb troops flouted the "safe area" designation and overran UN observation posts. In the days that followed the fall of Srebrenica, the Serbs executed 7,000 to 8,000 men and boys, according to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, while women and children were sent to Muslim-held territory.

On Saturday, a commemoration ceremony in Srebrenica will mark the 20th anniversary of the largest massacre in Europe since the Holocaust, and the newly identified victims will be buried at the Srebrenica-Potocari Memorial Center and Cemetery. Approximately 50,000 are expected to attend the funeral, the AP reports, including international delegations. Former president Bill Clinton will lead a U.S. delegation to Srebrenica Saturday, joined by former secretary of state Madeleine Albright, senators Roger Wicker and Jeanne Shaheen, and representatives Eliot Engel and Peter King. Serbia's Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic will also attend.

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Bosnian Muslims carry a coffin of their relative among the 136 newly identified victims of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre lined up for a joint burial in Potocari, Bosnia and Herzegovina, July 9, 2015. Dado Ruvic/Reuters
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A Muslim woman cries near the coffin of her relative among the 136 newly identified victims, which are lined up for a joint burial in Potocari, Bosnia and Herzegovina, July 9, 2015. Dado Ruvic/Reuters

In the three days preceding the July 11 anniversary, several thousand people are walking from the village of Nezuk to Srebrenica on the annual "March for Peace," to commemorate the victims of the genocide. The survivors and others from Bosnia and elsewhere plan to walk in reverse the route taken by Bosnian Muslims fleeing from Serb troops two decades ago between Srebrenica and the city of Tuzla, where a camp for displaced persons camp was established.

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People march near the village of Nezuk, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, July 8, 2015. Several thousand people on Wednesday started a 53-mile march from Nezuk to Srebrenica called the "March of Peace", to retrace the route in reverse taken by Bosnian Muslims fleeing Serb forces in 1995. The marchers consisted of survivors of the Srebrenica massacre as well as people from all parts of Bosnia and countries around the world. Antonio Bronic/Reuters
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"March of Peace" participants walk through a forest near the village of Liplje, about 93 miles from Sarajevo, on July 8, 2015. Antonio Bronic/Reuters
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Rasid Drvisevic, right, prepares coffee for a friend after the first day of "March of Peace" near village of Liplje, July 8, 2015. Drvisevic was 35 years old when he survived the trip from Srebrenica to Tuzla, during which he lost 32 family members. According to Drvisevic, who is participating in his 11th "March of Peace," he is unable to sleep months before the march and dreams of the friends and family whom he lost during the trip. Antonio Bronic/Reuters

Like the recent 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide, the upcoming 20th anniversary of Srebrenica has raised tension about use of the word genocide. On Wednesday, Russia vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution that would have condemned the massacre as such.

Vitaly Churkin, Russia's ambassador to the U.N., said the resolution was "not constructive, confrontational and politically motivated." He suggested instead language that condemned "the most serious crimes of concern to the international community," despite the fact that the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and the International Court of Justice both concluded that the events constitute genocide.

On Wednesday, U.S. Permanent Representative to the U.N. Samantha Power, delivered cutting remarks following Russia's veto:

I was a 24-year-old reporter in July 1995 living in Sarajevo when the Bosnian Serbs made their move on Srebrenica. I was there when – a few days after the Srebrenica safe area fell – a colleague first told me about reports of mass executions.

"No," was all I could say. "No."

Even having lived in a war zone and under siege and even having seen innumerable atrocities, I couldn't bring myself to believe that Bosnian Serb forces would execute every Muslim man and boy in their custody. For all of the brutality of a horrific war, this was a singular horror. It was genocide. A fact now proven again and again by international tribunals. When I learned that Russia was planning to veto the UN Security Council resolution commemorating the genocide in Srebrenica, I confess I had a similar reaction.

"No," I said. "No."

Why would Russia vote to deny recognition of the Srebrenica genocide? Today's vote mattered. It mattered hugely to the families of the victims of the Srebrenica genocide. Russia's veto is heartbreaking for those families and it is a further stain on this Council's record

The remains of more than 1,000 victims are still out there. They continue to haunt us, and we cannot rest until they are all found. Only by unearthing these truths – and only by recognizing this genocide, the gravity of this genocide, and how we outside failed to prevent it – will we be able to help the region move beyond such a dark part of its history, help it walk toward greater reconciliation, which we all seek, and live up to the promise of preventing genocide in our time.

Power, who won the Pulitzer Prize in 2003 for her book A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide, also expressed her disappointment on Twitter Wednesday:

Must be truly heartbreaking for families of 8,000 Srebrenica victims to learn #Russia has vetoed commemoration of the 1995 genocide.

— Samantha Power (@AmbPower44) July 8, 2015

Genocide is proven fact in #Srebrenica. Refusal to acknowledge is obstacle to reconciliation. Unity is built bringing truths out into open.

— Samantha Power (@AmbPower44) July 8, 2015

B/c #Russia used privilege of permanent membership to block marking #Srebrenica genocide, UNSC fails the victims & further stains its record

— Samantha Power (@AmbPower44) July 8, 2015