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Srebrenica Massacre Anniversary

Volume 584: debated on Wednesday 9 July 2014

[Dr William McCrea in the Chair]

It is a great pleasure to speak under your chairmanship, Dr McCrea. I very much welcome the opportunity to mark this week’s annual Srebrenica memorial day in the United Kingdom. First, I declare for the record that I visited Bosnia in February as part of a visit arranged and funded by the Remembering Srebrenica charity, which, as the Minister is aware, is supported by the UK Government.

Just over a week ago, we marked the 100th anniversary of the key event that prompted the descent into the outbreak of world war one. It was appropriate that, when we visited Sarajevo, our city tour passed the spot where Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated. That reminded us, first, that Bosnia is a country at the heart of modern European history and, secondly, that it is one that, sadly, has known conflict and strife over a prolonged period, both before and following the momentous events of world war one. The scars of conflict often remain for generations. Our visit was not only about commemorating the dead, but about how we could build a lasting legacy, both in Bosnia and at home, that would work to heal those scars and prevent further conflict.

It is heartening to witness the strong cross-party support, evidenced by the hon. Members present, for the excellent work of Remembering Srebrenica, together with the financial and diplomatic assistance provided by the Government. Last night, along with colleagues, I had the pleasure of attending the memorial event at Lancaster house, at which the President of Bosnia and Herzegovina was present, along with the Mothers of Srebrenica. A similar event is being hosted on Friday this week by the Scottish Government in Edinburgh.

I am delighted that the hon. Lady secured this debate. It is very heartening to see people across the political parties taking an interest in it. She has highlighted the commemorative event last night at Lancaster house. It was addressed by President Izetbegovic and attended by Baroness Warsi, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, the Minister and many others.

The hon. Lady also highlighted the fact that there will be a commemorative event in Edinburgh this week, hosted by the Scottish Government Minister Humza Yousaf. Does she agree with me that this instance of Governments, politicians and charities such as Remembering Srebrenica, doing tremendous work, is a model? Would it not be helpful for other European countries that have pledged to mark the tragedy in Srebrenica to look at what is happening across the nations, regions, towns, cities and communities of the UK to mark this important date, and to try to follow that model in the years to come?

I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman, who accompanied me on the visit in February. Following the passing of the resolution by the European Union in 2009, and given the problems within Europe—I will touch on those later—it would be very helpful for other countries to look at the good practice being followed across the United Kingdom. I know that the delegation will also be visiting Cardiff and Birmingham as part of its week of visits to see the good work being done by the charitable sector and by central and local government across the country.

Srebrenica’s fate in July 1995 continues to haunt us as the starkest failure in Europe’s history post-world war two. It was not, of course, the only massacre in the long and bloody war, which lasted more than four years, following the collapse of Yugoslavia, but it was by far the largest and most calculated in its planning, its execution and in the subsequent attempts at cover-up.

Following months of constant siege and the failure of the Dutch UN peacekeeping force to safeguard the population, the Bosnian Serb forces took control of the town on 11 July 1995. A day later, on 12 July, women and children were evacuated from the town while Bosnian Serb forces began separating out all men between the ages of 12 and 77 for

“interrogation for suspected war crimes”.

The night before, about 15,000 Bosnian Muslim men had attempted to escape from the town and were shelled and shot at as they fled through the mountains. It was basically a walk of terror and death, which for many of them lasted over five days. In the five days after the Bosnian Serb forces overran Srebrenica, more than 7,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were killed. Many of the bodies were buried in hastily dug mass graves, but following the unintended release of US satellite photographs showing the location of a number of the sites, a gruesome and chaotic reburial was organised, scattering body parts in many cases over multiple sites in the heavily wooded hills surrounding the town.

As we discovered on our visit in February to the International Commission on Missing Persons, it was only after the possibility of using DNA technology just over a decade ago, and the taking of tens of thousands of samples from the surviving family members of those who were massacred, that substantial numbers of the victims could be properly identified and interred with the respect and dignity that they deserved.

Nineteen years after the massacre, a number of Bosnian Serb leaders have been indicted for war crimes at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. The two most prominent—Radovan Karadzic, the former President, and Ratko Mladic, the military leader—remain on trial to this day at The Hague.

In February, I travelled to Bosnia with five fellow Scots: the Very Reverend Lorna Hood, who was then moderator of the Church of Scotland; the Church’s director of communications, Seonag MacKinnon; the hon. Member for Moray (Angus Robertson); Sergeant David Hamilton from the Scottish Police Federation; and David Pratt, the foreign affairs editor at the Sunday Herald. We were met with warmth and friendliness at all our meetings, including with the Grand Mufti and the remarkable Mothers of Srebrenica, who have fought so hard to ensure that their dreadful loss does not vanish from our memories. However, there was an overwhelming sense that this was a country and people too long stuck in an uncomfortable limbo, relying on a bare ceasefire agreement that halted the killing but has failed to address the main problems that the country faces. The presidential palace had been firebombed the week before our visit, and protests were continuing, as we witnessed on our visit.

The Dayton agreement was never designed to be a permanent solution. Twenty years later, that agreement has institutionalised the factionalism that over the years has led to the current political impasse. In my role as vice-chair of the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, which has worked extensively in the region for many years, I am only too aware of how the current overloaded bureaucracy throttles political progress and leaves many in Bosnia giving up hope of finding a better alternative.

Understandably, attention in the European Union during the past few months has focused on the emerging conflict in Ukraine, but I argue that there is a clear need, post the May European Union elections, for a much greater focus on finding a long-term political solution for Bosnia.

I thank the hon. Lady for securing the debate. Does she agree that it is important that we keep Bosnia and Herzegovina high on the agenda? Obviously, as chairman of the all-party group for Bosnia and Herzegovina, I have visited it many times, and I visited previously with the Westminster Foundation for Democracy. I will visit it again in a couple of weeks with Lady Warsi to do some refurbishment of a rape crisis centre outside Sarajevo. Does the hon. Lady agree that it is important that we keep up these visits and that we make them as often as we can, to ensure that Bosnia is high on the political agenda?

I entirely agree. I know that the hon. Lady has done a lot of good work personally in this area, both in her current position and in her work previously with the Westminster Foundation for Democracy.

When a country comes off our TV screens and out of our newspapers, it is all too easy for us to forget and think that the situation has been solved, but that is not what is happening in this case. I visited Croatia the year before, and the difference in tone and approach that I witnessed in Croatia and Bosnia was stark. That drove home to me the need for us to ensure that this issue is a foreign policy priority.

While I was in Bosnia, I met a senior female member of the Social Democratic party, one of the Labour party’s sister parties. She stressed that the engagement of the international community was vital in creating the necessary momentum and support for change in the political process.

The Westminster Foundation, as the hon. Member for Redditch (Karen Lumley) is aware, has been working to encourage the development of secular political parties, particularly in work with young people and women. I believe that the encouragement of a secular political landscape should still be a key part of the United Kingdom’s contribution.

Does the hon. Lady agree with me on another potential benefit, in addition to those she has mentioned, of greater international interest in Bosnia and Herzegovina? I am sure she is as shocked as I am by the repeated voices that one hears from Republika Srpska denying holocaust, appearing to justify ethnic cleansing and opposing the idea of Bosnia and Herzegovina thriving as a state with a place for all peoples and offering a better future for all regardless of their faith or ethnic background. Does she agree that it is important to shine a light on the darker recesses of extreme politics in Bosnia and Herzegovina to ensure that it can move towards a better European future for all in that country?

The hon. Gentleman touches on a point that the President of Bosnia and Herzegovina raised in his speech to us last night at Lancaster house. All political parties and leaders in Europe, particularly in this region, are beholden to do what he describes as they address conflicting views. The understandable reaction of the Bosniak population to the threatening tone and manner that has been adopted is one of great concern. It is important that the United Kingdom and other members of the European Union clearly state that such language and tone in the debate are completely unacceptable.

As the hon. Member for Moray is aware, we met the Grand Mufti, who spoke about the long history of links among the country’s faith groups—Muslim, Orthodox, Catholic and Jewish. However, outside Sarajevo and its main towns, those links are becoming increasingly threadbare, with little direct contact between the different communities. The current structures have encouraged separation. Young people attend separate schools, and they grow up with little or no contact with their Bosniak, Croat or Serbian neighbours. Economic stagnation, overwhelming and corrupt bureaucracy and high unemployment have meant that many have already left. The prospect of European Union membership since the global recession appears even more distant, and the lack of political will to change has led to despair, which we have witnessed in this year’s protests.

Constitutional amendments to break down administrative silos are one thing and an economic plan with outside support is another, but the lack of any proper grass-roots reconciliation process after such a long period is probably the greatest challenge that needs to be addressed if one nation is truly to emerge from the grim civil war. I note that since our visit, there have been a few encouraging signs of communities trying to come together outside the established but separate networks, and I hope that the Minister can give us some indication of how the Government hope to assist that process over the coming weeks and months.

In our conversations with the Mothers of Srebrenica, there was strong criticism of the International Criminal Tribunal. The delay in apprehending key figures, which we all know about, and the length and cost of proceedings, contrasted uneasily with the original claims that justice would be achieved for the victims and their families. The tribunal was the first of its kind, and undoubtedly, despite the acknowledged problems, it was an important step forward in setting international standards.

The Mothers of Srebrenica spoke eloquently about the failure, domestically and internationally, adequately to attend to the equally important need to provide justice locally. Few cases have been taken against those who directly carried out the dreadful murders over many agonising hours or undertook the burials and reburial of the victims. We learned that at least one of the direct participants in the massacres is currently employed at a senior level in the local regional government, which covers the town itself. We were frankly astonished to find that the Serb population is still using a school that was a site of one of the massacres, where many hundreds were killed.

We all need to learn the lessons about what has happened in Bosnia when we consider our current and future work in post-conflict states. International tribunals will, of course, continue to play an important part in justice, but truth and reconciliation at the grass roots is equally important in giving people permission to move on without disrespect to those who have lost their lives in such dreadful circumstances. Our meeting with the impressive International Commission on Missing Persons, established in 1996 by President Bill Clinton, reinforced the fear that too little attention was being paid to the increasingly open genocide deniers, whom the hon. Member for Moray has mentioned. The ICMP still faces regular challenges by Bosnian and Serbian politicians about the probity of its evidence.

The ICMP maintains the world’s largest DNA laboratory system dedicated exclusively to identifying missing persons. It works worldwide and is currently assisting in parts of the middle east afflicted by conflict. I am sure that its workload will continue to grow, given current events in the region. The focus of much of its work over the past 18 years in the former Yugoslavia has been to produce consistent, incontrovertible evidence to counter those who seek to deny. The ICMP’s record speaks for itself: 70% of the 40,000 missing from the Yugoslavian conflicts, and almost 90% of those reported missing from Srebrenica, have now been accounted for.

As a Glasgow MP, it was a great pleasure to meet Adam Boys, the ICMP’s director of international programmes, who is originally from Glasgow and has worked in Bosnia for many years, together with Dr John Clark, who has been the chief pathologist for the International Criminal Tribunal and who lives a few hundred yards from me in Glasgow. The UK Government have been a consistent and strong supporter of that work from the outset, and I hope that we can be confident that that support will continue.

As the Minister is aware, the charity Remembering Srebrenica is holding a series of events across the United Kingdom this week to commemorate the anniversary, as well as organising visits to Bosnia for young people so that they can become advocates in their local communities. The charity’s work and obvious passion have been rightly commended by many Members, and it has made many friends in Bosnia.

In an age when xenophobia and racism can all too quickly spring up, and where people are regularly urged to retreat behind domestic borders, it is essential that communities throughout the United Kingdom have the opportunity to learn more about the history that surrounded events in Srebrenica and why that history is relevant to their lives. The chair of Remembering Srebrenica, Dr Waqar Azmi, who conducted last night’s commemoration, pointed out:

“If the xenophobic claims of ethnic superiority could prevail amongst white, indigenous people who are assimilated and have lived together for hundreds of years, what chance do ethnic minority communities have in Europe?”

That is a question that we all need to address. It is vital that we do not forget why a country in our own continent fell into such a disastrous and brutal civil war. The sad truth is that the cost of conflict can continue for many decades after the guns stop.

We need to invest politically and financially in a process that embeds reconciliation and provides local as well as international justice. If we have not succeeded so far, we must be determined to keep trying. The 7,000 men and boys who died in July 1995 deserve nothing less.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Glasgow North (Ann McKechin) on securing this debate, which is timely in many ways. As she rightly says, we have to remember the circumstances surrounding the events at Srebrenica, and coming as it does 100 years after the events in Bosnia that led to the outbreak of the first world war, the anniversary of those events is particularly timely and ominous.

My visit to Srebrenica was probably one of the most moving experiences in my life, and the relative peace and tranquillity of the area belies the horrors that happened there. The hon. Gentleman mentioned the first world war, and we all notice that on the memorial plaques in our own constituencies, the same names appear over and over again. From the list of names on the memorial in Srebrenica, we see just how many people lost a large number of relatives from the same family. Does that not serve to show the real horror that occurred in those few days?

That is absolutely true. It is in the nature of genocidal attacks to be targeted at particular communities, and in those communities the losses—not only on a large scale but at the level of individuals and families—can be almost unimaginable. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to point that out.

The events that led to the outbreak of world war one in the Balkans were in many ways characterised by their unpredictability. The emerging, growing Serb state was covertly attempting to destabilise the Austro-Hungarian empire and had calculated that helping assassins to kill Archduke Franz Ferdinand would not precipitate a whole-scale catastrophe for Serbia. That was a miscalculation, and Austria responded by issuing Serbia with an impossible ultimatum. Unexpectedly for Austria, that drew in Russia, which led to the involvement of Germany, France and, ultimately, this country.

The unpredictability of events was part of the July crisis that led to the outbreak of the first world war; what is almost more horrifying about Srebrenica is its very predictability. There was not only the massacre of those few days in July 1995; there had been a siege for years before and people had been starving to death. Ethnic cleansing had been happening in hundreds of villages around the region as part of the strategic attempt to establish a Serb republic. The humanitarian disaster was already looming, even before the massacre, and the international community was well aware of it.

More than two years previously, in April 1993, UN resolution 819 was passed, establishing Srebrenica and its immediate area as a safe haven in the Yugoslav conflict. The people of Srebrenica were assured repeatedly that they were absolutely safe and that the UN troops, with Dutch and French commanders, would stand by them. I know that those commanders have come under intense scrutiny in the subsequent decades, but it was clear that they were trying to secure close air support at the time of the massacre. On one astonishing occasion, that support was refused because someone had filled in the request on the wrong form.

The implications of the massacre in Srebrenica and the way it was handled by the international community were significant not just for Bosnia but for the United Nations system and the whole international community. I think it was in 1999 that Kofi Annan’s report on the UN’s performance had to accept that, along with the international community as a whole, the UN bore huge responsibility for what happened in Srebrenica. In a way, the ghosts of Srebrenica would haunt the United Nations for many years to come.

After that came the development of the doctrine of the responsibility to protect. It was first and foremost an obligation on sovereign Governments and those in power in various regions to protect their own citizens. The development of the idea of the responsibility to protect gained ground not only because of what happened in Bosnia but because of what happened in Rwanda only about a year before, and because of what subsequently threatened to happen in Kosovo when NATO intervened to try to avoid a further humanitarian disaster. The emergence of the idea of the responsibility to protect—that the international community could not simply stand by and let events happen with such terrible consequences—has helped to shape the whole international system ever since.

It has, however, taken some time for the responsibility to protect to be used explicitly in UN resolutions. It was used in UN resolution 1970 on Libya in February 2011 —one of the rare occasions on which there has been consensus in the UN, the political will to act and the knowledge of an emerging humanitarian disaster—and mentioned again in UN resolution 1996 on South Sudan, but those are isolated examples.

It is difficult to achieve the necessary political unanimity, especially now in a Security Council that has become broadly polarised between the western permanent members on one side and China and Russia on the other—they are now much more reluctant to license what they see as western intervention following what they saw as the west going too far in Libya. We must ask ourselves serious questions about whether the international system is still working and about what reforms to the UN system might be needed in order to uphold the responsibility to protect.

It is now quite a long time since Srebrenica, and it is beginning to fade into people’s memories; or at least it is outside Bosnia—it is still very real in the minds of people in Bosnia, as Members have said. We must remember Srebrenica, just as we must remember Rwanda and the other occasions on which the international community failed to protect ordinary men, women and children and allowed intolerable massacres to take place.

We must decide how we are going to reform the United Nations, how we are going to bring together the international community to be able to take action, and how we can generate the political will to say that sometimes we do have to take action and there does have to be military intervention. With hindsight, we tend to celebrate the intervention in Kosovo and think of it as justifiable. In generous moments, most people would say that the invasion of Afghanistan—the NATO and allied intervention there—was justified and has established something of a stable state, although there are people who will question that.

However, what I see as a much more freelance action in the invasion of Iraq is clearly much more questionable. That did enormous damage to the ability of the international community to take action, because it was done on a much more unilateral or bilateral basis, principally by President Bush and Prime Minister Blair on our part. That undermined the potential for international action in subsequent international crises and has terminally damaged the reputation of that kind of intervention. In the vote on Syria last summer we saw the shadow of Iraq hanging over the debate to a large extent. The fear of getting embroiled again was still very much alive.

Nevertheless, we must remember the Srebrenicas, the Bosnias and the Rwandas. We have to work out how we can intervene effectively as an international community and learn the lesson of what happened in those dreadful days. When it comes to the situation now developing in Syria and Iraq, the lesson is that although action and mistaken interventions have consequences, so too does inaction. There was inaction in failing to support an effective political settlement in Iraq that did not alienate the Sunni population to the extent that they welcomed ISIS with open arms when it appeared to be liberating them. There was inaction in failing to support the democratic forces in Syria to the point where they were a credible opposition to President Assad and an alternative to the extremist jihadi elements there. Inaction, as well as action, has its consequences.

The ultimate lesson of Srebrenica is that inaction sometimes has terrible consequences. We need to work out the ground rules and the overarching strategy, as well as the international community’s response and the framework for that response. That way, when these events start to develop—not when they are unpredictable like the first world war, but when they can be seen years in advance, developing in front of all our eyes and the glare of the international media—we must be able to take action, or otherwise see more deaths like those at Srebrenica.

In conclusion, I welcome what the hon. Member for Glasgow North said about xenophobia and racism. We are living in difficult economic times, and in such times it is always easy to blame those who speak differently or look different from ourselves. We have seen elements of that in British politics and in politics across Europe in the recent European election campaign, but we must guard against that kind of xenophobia and racism. Ultimately, it is only through tolerance and reconciliation that we can prevent these kinds of disasters from taking place.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow North (Ann McKechin) on securing the debate and on the content of her speech. She set out what happened, but also the lessons to be learned and, like the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Martin Horwood), told us what we should be watching out for, especially bearing in mind what is happening across Europe.

Members might be aware that I am the chair of the all-party group on commemorating Srebrenica. I want to commemorate the anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide. My interest in Bosnia and Yugoslavia arises from having worked for the United Nations mission in Kosovo between 2000 and 2002, just after the NATO bombing of Serbia. While I was in Kosovo, I had the opportunity to speak to different people and heard about the genocide from some of the victims’ family members.

The background to the massacre is the break-up of the former Yugoslavia in the ’90s, which, as we all know, led to the conflict. That war sparked numerous atrocities and attempts at ethnic cleansing, such as the mass rape of women, which the United Nations has said can be described as a war crime. Studies have shown that something in the region of 20,000 to 50,000 Bosniak Muslim women were raped by Serb forces and abused for many months.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow North said earlier, many atrocities occurred. I think about 100,000 Muslims in total died in the whole Yugoslav conflict, but the reason why we are concentrating on Srebrenica is because of the way it happened—its deliberate manner and the fact that people were taken into this particular area, a UN safe haven. This was not a situation, such as that in Libya or Iraq, where one does not know what is happening on the ground and difficult decisions have to be made as to whether to go in without knowing what the consequences might be; here was a clear case of a group of 8,000-odd men and young boys deliberately being taken into a safe area. What makes it even more horrendous, and it reminds me a bit of what happened in Rwanda, was that there were—I stand to be corrected—Belgian, Canadian and Dutch troops there who were supposed to protect those people, but failed to do anything about it. That is what is truly shocking. It was not a case of, “Shall we intervene?”; they knew that people were being massacred, and they stood by and did nothing.

So far, we have not had an apology from those countries, saying, “This is what our armed forces failed to do.” There has been no apology from anyone. As has already been mentioned, everyone knew what was happening there. Years before the massacre, people knew what has happening, and everyone failed to protect the victims. One thing that is sometimes forgotten is that it was not just a case of 8,000 people being massacred in one go, but the failure of people who should have been there to protect them.

To be fair to the Dutch commander, Colonel Karremans, by the accounts I have read, I think he was committed to try to protect Srebrenica and the people there. It was the failure of the UN to deliver close air support, which he repeatedly requested, that effectively doomed his troops. His troops did engage with Serb forces at times. They had had hostages taken and were in a difficult position—almost impossible militarily. It was the failure of the overall UN command to deliver air support that doomed his mission.

That may be one explanation given, but I think the hon. Gentleman would find that most people who were there would not agree with that version of events. The hon. Member for Beckenham (Bob Stewart) is a former colonel who was in Bosnia at the time. I happened to talk to him a couple of days ago. He was there just before the massacre. He said that he had asked for British troops to remain and said that they should not be taken away, but regrettably, they were removed. Apparently, he passed on his sentiments—as we have all come to know, he is clear in his views and would express them forcefully—that it was not right that those other forces should be there. He gave an example of the Belgian logistics team asking for British troops to protect them while they carried out a logistics operation. What were the Belgian troops doing to try to protect their own? They had to call the British Army in to protect them. I think it is quite well known internationally that some armies and forces are much braver and more willing to do things. [Interruption.] I know that I am verging on controversial territory, but some forces perhaps tend to take the path of least resistance. That is exactly what we saw in Rwanda.

As someone who has been there, does the hon. Lady think that, whatever the rights and wrongs of Dutch or NATO troops, for any European who saw the Serbs separate men and boys from women alarm bells must have been set off about the past of this so-called civilised continent we live on?

That is absolutely right. The hon. Gentleman puts it even better than I have. That is the point I am trying to make. It was so obvious what was happening. Everyone knew. I would go as far as to say that people turned a blind eye to what was happening. It was like, “We couldn’t care less about these people.” Exactly the same happened in Rwanda as well, where troops from certain countries also turned a blind eye, and a whole load of massacres took place there.

The world at large needs to know what happened, as do the continent of Europe and people in our country. It is regrettable that although it was a few years ago that the European Parliament passed a resolution to say that the anniversary should be appropriately commemorated in all European countries, only in the last year or two have commemorations taken place. The first commemoration happened last year in Lancaster house, and this is the second year. I organised a book of signatures yesterday in the Members’ Cloak Room, and I am pleased to say that 160 hon. Members signed the book in one day. Obviously, people in this House understand and appreciate the matter.

I know that the Department for Communities and Local Government has been doing some work and has contributed some money to allow such events to happen, but the matter needs to be taken even more seriously. Councils and organisations throughout the United Kingdom need to be aware of it, and we should ensure that people know about it. First, it is a way of recognising what has happened. Secondly, it is a reminder of what can go wrong. After the second world war and the genocide of the Jewish people, we thought that such things could not happen again—certainly not in mainland Europe—only to find, just 19 years ago, that such things did occur again.

Last night at Lancaster house, one of the most striking sentiments I heard was one of the mothers saying, “I am not going to say ‘never again’, because people said that after the second world war, and here we are; we suffered it again.” We all say those words, but they are not good enough, are they? We need far more action.

I absolutely agree. I was there at the memorial service. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right.

I want to pick up on something the hon. Member for Cheltenham and my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow North said about attempts to prevent such things from happening again. I declare an interest, although I am sure it is completely irrelevant, because it is not because I am Muslim that I am making this point, and many colleagues and friends have made this point already. At the moment, in our country—I do not think for one minute that it will lead to that sort of level—if we look at media coverage in television, the newspapers and front-page headlines, 99.9% of the coverage is anti-Muslim. A lot of the media publish complete lies on their front pages. For example, there was the Muslim plot to kill the Pope—a complete lie. There was also the story about Muslims wanting Muslim toilets at public expense—a complete lie. It goes on and on.

Independent research carried out by a number of universities has shown that the constant negativity, the made-up stories and the media not telling the truth, or not putting things in context, has given a lot of people a bad understanding of Muslims and their religion. All religions have questions to answer, and there are things in all of them that can be looked at, but concentrating on one group of people and telling lies about them is really wrong.

A recent survey showed that 33% of people think Muslims are not really right for this country, that their religion is not appropriate and that they do not belong here. I feel very offended, because, although I was not born in England, I was brought up here, and this is my country. There are 3 million Muslims out there, but they are all being slated because of the actions of a few.

A lot of people in some parts of this country have never come across a Muslim, a black person or an Asian. Any information they have about a particular religion, group, culture or community will come from what they read in the paper. The images and information they have will be formed by that, as opposed to by meeting people.

In that respect, it is great that we have free speech and a free press, but people should show some responsibility. This hatred perpetuated towards particular groups leads to events such as those in Bosnia or in the second world war. If we look at some of the information and literature put out by the Germans and the Nazis, we see that the words used against the Jewish people were very similar to those being used against Muslim people in this country. In Bosnia and Yugoslavia, a lot of hatred also built up against different groups.

That is why responsibility has to be exercised by not only our media, but our political leaders. Some of them have said things that perpetuate the image of Islam as being somehow inconsistent with the British or the western way of life. That is a wrong narrative, and it needs to be addressed.

I hope I am forgiven for digressing slightly, but it is important to mention this issue, because hatred against a particular group does not just happen overnight. Somebody does not suddenly say, “Right, tomorrow we are going to kill this group of people.” Good, decent people are subjected to certain images and ideas, they get caught up in the frenzy of it all and atrocities happen. I am sure some people in Bosnia now think—years later, when they have had time to think about things—“God, what did we do?” People get carried away; the human mind is very susceptible. That is why we have to be careful.

The Government have done some good work on this issue, but I ask the Department to do even more. If the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Prime Minister could be at next year’s holocaust memorial event, that would certainly send some messages.

I want to speak briefly, because it is important that people reading the debate realise there is all-party support for the hon. Member for Glasgow North (Ann McKechin) and for what she has done today.

This is an important debate, partly because it is a memorial debate—there is not much we can do about these incidents, but we can talk about them. Often in our debates, we ask for finance, for something for the health service or for education. Occasionally, however, it is right that we in the House of Commons remember what happened in the past, even though there is little we can do about it. In that way, we can, I hope, draw some lessons.

I have been to Sarajevo and stood at the corner where Franz Ferdinand was shot, and it is extraordinary to be at that place, which is on the cusp of history. Oceans of print have been written about what caused the assassination and the catastrophe that engulfed Europe in the years following. A lot has also been said in the debate about the responsibility of the Dutch and the Belgian troops—what they did and did not do—but we miss the point if we focus too much on that.

Ultimately, what happened was not the fault of the Dutch or the Belgian troops; it was the fault of the people who conducted the massacre—they were the evil ones. The debate is important because it acknowledges that, somewhere in our human condition, there is a streak of evil, which can spring up in the most unlikely places and in all people. The point of this debate is surely to affirm a very simple principle, which I can articulate and then sit down: we are all part of one humanity.

I would certainly like to associate myself with the sentiments expressed by the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh).

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow North (Ann McKechin) for securing the debate. I was saddened to hear about her conversations with the Mothers of Srebrenica and about their criticisms of the delay in apprehending perpetrators. As she rightly says, that sits badly with the original claims about achieving justice for the victims and their families. I was genuinely shocked to hear that one of the direct participants in the massacres has a senior job in the regional government and that a school that was the site of one of the massacres is still being used as a school. My hon. Friend is absolutely right that truth and reconciliation in affected communities is so important in giving survivors permission to move on with their lives.

As we have heard today, 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys lost their lives in a criminal, genocidal frenzy. Women and girls were brutally and systematically raped as an act of war. It is almost impossible to begin to understand what the justification for that could be—I find it completely incomprehensible. These things happened in Europe, just 19 years ago.

Let us remind ourselves a little of the background. In his well considered and measured speech, the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Martin Horwood) rightly took us back to UN Security Council resolution 819, which designated the 30 square miles around the town of Srebrenica as a United Nations safe area. The resolution condemned Bosnian Serb attacks on the UN peacekeeping force, their interception of humanitarian assistance convoys and their deliberate actions to force the evacuation of the civilian population. It demanded the immediate withdrawal of Bosnian Serb forces from the area surrounding Srebrenica—a relatively small town—and requested the safe transfer of wounded and sick civilians. It required both sides in the conflict to demilitarise the town, but this they failed to do.

The Secretary-General of the United Nations requested additional military support, which was not forthcoming. As my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton South East (Yasmin Qureshi) passionately recounted, the failure of United Nations member states contributed to the inability to maintain the safe area.

Srebrenica fell to Serb forces on 11 July 1995, prompting a stream of refugees to the UN bases at Potocari and Tuzla. A mortar and tank attack on the UN base made it undefendable. By the end of the day, the Bosnian Serbs were in control of the whole area. On arriving, they began to separate off all the men and boys aged between 12 and 77. A column of 15,000 people fled towards the town of Tuzla, but it was pursued and shelled. A thousand of those who were fleeing were killed that day, but over the following 72 hours the captured Muslim men and boys were marched to killing fields for execution.

Nineteen years on, some of those responsible have been brought to trial and held to account for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide; but reconciliation is a complex process that takes place within communities and across generations. It takes time, honesty and determination to achieve it. As I prepared for today’s speech I recalled a similar debate earlier in the year for Holocaust memorial day. I, like many others, remembered how after the second world war we said “Never again,” and set up the United Nations to promote international peace and security; yet we have still witnessed outrageous atrocities around the world.

In the days immediately following the Srebrenica massacres this House met and heard accounts of the events. MPs discussed the role of the United Nations peacekeeping force, the circumstances in which the UN force fled the safe zone it had created around Srebrenica, and what provision was to be made for the thousands who had been displaced and who were in need of urgent help. Srebrenica showed us that the United Nations needs access to effective military capability, and needs to demonstrate willingness to act. Srebrenica was one of six UN safe areas. Those who were gathered in the designated safe haven around Srebrenica had, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton South East said, the right to expect that the United Nations would keep them safe.

In 2010, on the 15th anniversary, President Barack Obama said:

“This atrocity galvanized the international community to act to end the slaughter of civilians, and the name Srebrenica has since served as a stark reminder of the need for the world to respond resolutely in the face of evil.”

It is clear, with hindsight, that the international community should have intervened in Bosnia before Srebrenica. We should have been more resolute in our actions, once there, and should have provided the protection we were there to ensure. The Opposition have made clear our support for a strengthened United Nations that can intervene and uphold its commitment to maintaining international peace and security.

On Friday, when we mark Srebrenica memorial day and remember the victims and their families, we must renew the pledge of “Never again,” and renew our commitment to educating the present and future generations, so that history does not continue to repeat itself. I congratulate the Government on their commitment to remembering Srebrenica, and on their focus on fighting the forces that drive genocide. Last year’s funding of £170,000 was a welcome and important step. It established the UK’s first memorial day, created a dedicated online archive, and sent community leaders on visits to Srebrenica. The £800,000 that the Government have pledged for this year and next year, which will be matched by the charity Remembering Srebrenica, will ensure that the project develops and reaches further into our communities. With 750 young people visiting the area to learn the lessons of Srebrenica, we will be better placed to challenge intolerance at home and abroad, and to understand its extreme consequences.

I warmly welcome the work of the charity Remembering Srebrenica, and commend its founder Waqar Asmi’s commitment to creating a cohesive society for everyone. I also commend the charity’s aim of encouraging everyone in our society to learn about the consequences of hate and discrimination. It is critical that we should understand the horror and the legacy of events in July 1995, not just for the renewal of our pledge of “Never again,” but so that we can strengthen our communities to challenge prejudice and division, whatever their nature. All of us in the Chamber today recognise the importance of that work. It is vital to continue to remember such heinous atrocities of deep-seated xenophobic sectarianism. That drives a determination to foster resilient, inclusive and respectful communities here and abroad.

I know from his blog that the Minister has visited Srebrenica and I look forward to hearing the reflections he will no doubt recount in his response, but I want, if I may, to draw on something he said in his piece, about the phrase “ethnic cleansing”, which suddenly became part of everyday news-speak. Those two simple and mundane words express an amoral political intent to cleanse a country or area of human beings: a genocide of communities because of their difference. Yet such simplistic terms cannot possibly convey the true horror of war and genocide. The only true lexicon of war and genocide must be the real stories of the victims and their families, and I will give voice to a couple of those stories now.

One is the tragic story of Hasan Nuhanovich, who survived because he was an interpreter, first for Canadian UN troops and then for the Dutch troops. He describes events on 11 July when thousands of people, mostly women and children but also men and boys, fled the town and arrived at the UN base. Some were allowed in but the gate was then closed and a hole in the fence was sealed. That left about 5,000 to 6,000 people inside the base and 20,000 people outside. He heard the killing, screams and shots, and then the UN base fell to mortar and tank attacks. He says:

“The UN told me to tell the people to start leaving the base in groups of five—they didn’t say anything else.”

The people were hoping and thinking that the UN was in charge and would know what to do, but when they reached the gate they saw Serb soldiers standing there, pushing the men and the boys away from their sisters, wives and children. There was a separation taking place right there outside the gate. People realised at that moment that they were not going to any safe place; the Serbs were going to take them away.

Hasan concluded:

“My family was among the last ones to stay inside. I tried to keep them inside the base for as long as possible. But they were forced. Three UN soldiers came inside with three UN military observers and looked at my family and told me, ‘Hasan, translate to your family, tell them to leave right now.’ I was crying. My brother, who was 19, was sitting on the chair. Of course, my parents knew what was going to happen. But they were behaving in a different way; they actually tried to calm me down—they felt that if I start panicking, I would cause trouble for myself. If their elder son, myself, could remain inside the base, could stay alive, let’s at least try to do that. They knew my brother was going to be killed, they knew they were going to be killed. All the time as they were walked out of the base, my parents told me, ‘Hasan, stay. You can stay. Your brother will be with us; he will be OK.’ I was walking behind them, screaming and saying, ‘I am coming with you.’ But my brother turned around, and he started screaming right at my face: ‘You are not coming with me, you are going to stay inside because you can stay.’ And that was the last time I saw my family.”

Hasan has since discovered what happened to his mother. She killed herself with broken glass rather than submit to rape at a police station.

On the excellent Remembering Srebrenica website, I read the story of another Hasan, who at the age of 19 was part of the column desperately fleeing Bosnian Serb forces on foot, through the woods, away from Srebrenica. His story is terrifying and raw with the horror of the events he witnessed, but at the end he tells us that in 2009 he took a job at the memorial centre and has settled to raise a young family of his own. He tells of the pain of having to recount his story to visitors several times a day, but he is happy to do so, he says, because

“now, finally, someone is listening.”

Those who survived endured the most excruciating and traumatic experiences. Mevludin Orich lay for nine hours in one of the killing fields, playing dead while Serb troops patrolled the blood-soaked field, finishing off anyone who showed signs of life with a pistol shot to the head. He heard an old man plead, “Please don’t do this to us, children, we haven’t done anything to you,” but the old man was also shot.

Lying on top of Orich was his dead cousin, Hars. At one point, Orich saw a Serb soldier walk towards him. The soldier paused to shoot a man in the head, and then continued to walk toward Orich. Orich closed his eyes, but the shot did not come. Close to midnight, the shooting stopped and the Serbs left. Orich managed to shake off his cousin’s body, stand up and head into the forest. To do so, he had to climb over the bodies of the dead and the dying. That type of scarring and traumatising experience is bound to haunt the survivors, their families and their communities for decades, even generations, to come.

I have been to Srebrenica and Potocari to see at first hand the devastation left by the events of 1995, and I have spoken to many of the women and their children who survived that atrocity. Does the hon. Lady agree that one of the biggest remaining issues for many of the families involved is closure, because there were many situations where the acts were so despicable that the bodies and remains of family members have still not been obtained, and so are unable to be buried in the cemetery in Potocari?

I completely agree with the hon. Gentleman. One of the things that shocked me when considering the idea that reconciliation is happening in Srebrenica in Bosnia and nearby was the lack of detail about where these mass graves are. There might be another 100 mass graves out there. The gentleman I just spoke about—the second Hasan—needs to know where his dad and brother are because he wants to be able to bury them, but he cannot do so. Until such knowledge is out, reconciliation is hard.

I say to the first Hasan that we are listening and that is what today is about. Reconciliation will help to mitigate, to some extent, the trauma and the scars of people in this community, but for many of them what they lived through will be with them forever; it will pass down through generations, as events reverberate.

We can all agree in Westminster Hall today that Srebrenica was a very dark day for Europe, when once more it was consumed by a cloud of deep-seated xenophobic sectarianism, and innocents were yet again brutally murdered and mercilessly slaughtered in the name of nationalism. We have to find a way to rid ourselves of the cancer of intolerance and discrimination, and we must create a United Nations that is capable of fulfilling the noble mandate that it was given. The people of Srebrenica had a right to expect protection; the international community failed them. We must see, we must know and we must remember Srebrenica. And we must learn.

First, I am pleased to follow the hon. Member for West Ham (Lyn Brown), as I often do in these debates. As usual, she delivered her speech powerfully and in an emotionally charged way. I thank her for doing so because this is an occasion when it would be very easy to talk about diplomacy, and the rights and wrongs of what happened 19 years ago and earlier, but it is what happened to the people in those circumstances that counts. I thank her for speaking in the way that she did.

It is customary on these occasions to thank the initiator of the debate, the hon. Member for Glasgow North (Ann McKechin), so I do that both in the customary sense and in the sincere sense. I do so not only because I am the Minister responsible for the Government’s work in this sector but because it is something that, as a Minister, I find incredibly moving and powerful, compared with some of the other things that I have to do. In addition, it is an issue that has interested me for a long time.

Both the hon. Lady and my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Martin Horwood) reflected on the events that took place in the 1990s. With the possible exception of yourself, Dr McCrea, none of us who have taken part in this debate were MPs at that time. I was a young councillor—I was in my mid-20s—in Bristol, watching the TV coverage night after night, from the original invasion of Croatia and the bombardment of Vukovar by the Yugoslav national army, as it was at that time. I then saw how events unfolded in Bosnia and then, of course, in Kosovo in 1999. I felt angry and impotent that all this was happening in our European family of nations.

I will not stray into discussing the culpability of any of the troops on the ground, as some colleagues have done; for a start, that is probably beyond my remit. What I will say, however, is that we ought to remind ourselves that troops on the ground—whether they were from the UN or from the nations that were referred to—are responsible to democratic Governments. Perhaps it is the politicians of that era who should have been spoken of in condemnatory language, and I will stray no further than that in going beyond my remit.

The Department for Communities and Local Government gives significant amounts of money—the hon. Member for West Ham mentioned the £970,000 that our community integration budget has put into the Remembering Srebrenica events, both for last year and the next two years—and staff in the Department make a big personal commitment. There is a ministerial commitment as well. Those who were at Lancaster house last night would have heard all three Ministers who have an interest in this issue—the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Baroness Warsi and myself—speak from different perspectives. The three of us do not always agree on everything, but we are committed to this project, both for what it says about Britain in Bosnia—the project is very much appreciated in Bosnia itself—and for the effect that it can have on the next generation of community leaders and politicians in this country.

The hon. Member for Glasgow North opened the debate by mentioning Sarajevo and its resonance this year. When I was in Bosnia in April, I, too, stood on the corner where Archduke Ferdinand was assassinated. The generation of politicians who put together the League of Nations after world war one said, “Never again”; the generation of politicians after 1945 who put together the UN said, “Never again”; and no doubt our predecessors back in the mid to late 1990s said, “Never again.” Well, “never again” does not happen by accident; it happens by tough, grinding diplomacy.

I will stray slightly beyond my remit again, Dr McCrea, to say that, as a passionate Europhile within the Government, I think we sometimes need to remember that it is a major achievement of the European Union that conflict has not broken out among its member states. Moreover, apart from Albania it is the former Yugoslav republics that are still queuing up to join the EU. Of course, Slovenia and Croatia are already in. A couple of years ago, I went on a Westminster Foundation for Democracy visit to Macedonia with the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann) to help Macedonia with its preparations to become a member of the EU, and one day—I hope soon—Serbia and Bosnia will join that European family of nations as well. Then, perhaps, “never again” will actually have achieved a diplomatic outcome.

The hon. Member for Bolton South East (Yasmin Qureshi) mentioned commemorating Holocaust memorial day in the UK. She also said, in respect of the second world war, that all the attention tends to be given to the holocaust and asked about what is happening next year. In 2015 it will be both the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz—the hon. Member for West Ham has not been to Auschwitz yet, but I went many years ago, and we will renew the agreement to go together at some point soon, before that anniversary—and the 20th anniversary of events in Srebrenica.

I represent the Government on the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust and I assure the hon. Member for West Ham that we are thinking carefully about the significance of both those anniversaries and making sure they get all the appropriate attention from the Government, the royal family and—they more important than the politicians or other leaders—the survivors. The survivors of the holocaust are now smaller in number and many of them are quite old and frail, so we need to ensure that it is done in an appropriate setting for them, too.

Let me turn to the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust and our commemoration of Holocaust memorial day each year. Some of us spoke in the annual debate in January in the main Chamber, and most hon. Members were careful to ensure that we talked about all of the genocides that have taken place, which, with the exception of the holocaust, have sadly all happened in the lifetimes of all hon. Members in this Chamber: the unravelling of Yugoslavia; Rwanda; Dafur; the events taking place in South Sudan, and Cambodia.

I agree. Does the hon. Gentleman agree with me that we need to disseminate that information, particularly to our schools, to ensure that it is firmly embedded in our education system, so that youngsters learn about these atrocities and can learn from the mistakes of the past?

Yes. The hon. Gentleman is inviting me to stray again from my remit, but I have done it once, so let me do so once again, this time into the territory of the Department for Education.

Having visited schools, as I am sure all hon. Members do, I have spoken to history teachers—and to history admissions tutors at universities, in the days when I was the Lib Dem higher education spokesman—who tell me that children do learn about the holocaust and the Nazi period, although perhaps too much. I think they also need to learn about world war one, which is highly relevant over the next four years, and about the other genocides that have taken place in the lifetime of their parents. I am sure that every responsible history teacher and citizenship teacher in the country will ensure that they do so in the next 12 months.

Hon. Members mentioned closure, and the hon. Member for Glasgow North mentioned the important work of the International Commission for Missing Persons. Many powerful memories will stay with me from my visit to Bosnia, and the visit to the ICMP in Tuzla will certainly be one of them. Adam Boys, a Scotsman, is doing the archaeology of warfare—forensic science—digging up mass graves that contain not whole bodies, but dismembered bodies.

Such was the planned nature of what took place in the mid-1990s, it was not just a massacre; there was an attempt to cover it up by physically separating the bodies with bulldozers—I am being graphic—and scattering the remains over a wide area, deliberately, so that the crime was to some extent physically covered up. The remains of the people were thought at the time impossible to identify. Of course, now, through advances in science, it is possible to identify them. Many people are now getting that closure, but sadly it is often closure from the match of a DNA blood sample—the laboratory in Tuzla has blood samples donated by all surviving relatives who wished to do so, to be matched with a missing male relative—with a piece of a ribcage, the bone of a hand or part of a skull, not to a whole body. However, at least at that point a burial of partial remains can happen and some closure is afforded.

Every day, remains of parts of new bodies are being discovered and individuals are identified. However, there are still thousands of unidentified, unaccounted-for deaths in Bosnia, so the ICMP’s work will need to continue for many years to come.

Just on that point, the Minister will be aware, from his visit to the ICMP offices—I also visited and was moved by the warehouse where the remains yet to be identified are still kept—that it is now working in the middle east. It has already been to Libya and, given the events that are occurring as we speak in Syria and Iraq, it is likely that this type of work will be required on an even larger scale. I hope that the Government consider supporting this venture, allowing it to expand, because it will provide in future years the closure that it has provided to the victims in Yugoslavia.

That point was forcefully made to me at the time by Adam Boys, but continuing the funding is a matter for other parts of Government. The British Government have been one of the main supporters of the ICMP—that is certainly acknowledged—but sadly its work will probably be needed for many years, not just in the former Yugoslavia, but in other conflict areas.

The hon. Member for West Ham, who leads for the Opposition, mentioned the Remembering Srebrenica project—a £1 million commitment by the Government—and also Dr Waqar Azmi’s Ummah Help charity, which helps to take delegations of young people to Bosnia, specifically to Srebrenica. It is curious that the Department of Communities and Local Government does that, but we do it for two reasons. First, people from all over the world live in our major towns and cities, which, as a Liberal, I celebrate. In my constituency casework there are still refugees, mainly from Kosovo rather than Bosnia, and I am sure that there are people living in West Ham, Bolton and Bristol who are directly touched by what is happening. The effects of other conflicts are felt by families in our country. It is right that we support that reflection and understanding.

Secondly, we ask people who go on these delegations—the plan is to take some 800 people to Bosnia in the next two years—to use that time and apply the lesson of history that they will have learned in Bosnia in their own communities when they return to the UK. The 75 people who have been out on these delegations so far are all now feeding back their pledges about how they are going to make Tower Hamlets, Newham, Luton, Birmingham, Bolton, Blackburn and other places more cohesive and harmonious places to visit. The most obvious thing they are able to do is organise their own Remembering Srebrenica events throughout the country this year, and 16 events are taking place, in addition to the official events in London, Cardiff and Edinburgh that have been mentioned.

On Sunday evening, I attended an amazing event in Luton, which was organised by the five young people who were on my delegation in April. They made their own powerful speeches; two of the mothers, who I will mention shortly, spoke; and Ed Vulliamy, who was an ITN journalist at the time but now writes for The Guardian, gave his perspective as a British witness who was there. That powerful event was followed by an Iftar event, this being Ramadan. Several other events are taking place, including many organised by the police, including the police in Hertfordshire, City of London, Greater Manchester and Northamptonshire.

The practical reason why we are funding the project is so that people can learn the lessons of what so easily can happen. Several Members referred to that. Let us not forget that this is a place where the winter Olympics took place and where, when I was growing up, better-off friends went on holiday. I would still like to go to Dubrovnik on holiday. It was a civilised part of Europe, albeit a Communist dictatorship, where people had co-existed for a long time, and it unravelled very quickly. We must learn the lesson that community cohesion does not happen by accident. It is the responsibility of us all in public life to constantly work at it and nurture it in our constituencies and communities across the country. That is why it is right that a significant amount of British taxpayer’s money goes into that programme—not just to appreciate the lessons of history, but because it has direct practical application in making our country a better place.

The hon. Member for West Ham, my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham and the hon. Member for Pudsey (Stuart Andrew), who was with us earlier, mentioned that ugly phrase, “ethnic cleansing”. While the practice had been around for a long time, the phrase came into use during that conflict. We all remember Martin Bell, who compered last night’s events in Lancaster house, speaking about it. It shows how we can use phraseology to obscure an awful practice, and it is right that the hon. Member for West Ham used graphic language to bring to life what actually took place.

To add some of my own reflections to those of other Members, on my visit we were hosted in Srebrenica itself, by its mayor. He must have been a decade younger than me. He was the only person from his class in school to survive that massacre. Imagine that happening to any of us. We are all of an age where we possibly have school reunions. Imagine if someone’s school reunion was just them; the only person left from their class. That was the experience of the mayor of Srebrenica. The person who looked after him at the time was our guide for the whole visit, Mohammed, who was a couple of years older than the mayor. He guided the future mayor up into the mountains. A lot of people survived by fleeing into the forests and the mountains, pursued, shelled and shot at by the Bosnian Serb army, trying desperately to get to the safe haven of Tuzla. Members will be familiar with those awful scenes at the Potocari battery factory of people behind barbed wire pleading to be saved. I am not sure whether it is the same Hasan as the one mentioned by the hon. Member for West Ham, but the Hasan who guided us round that battery factory lost male members of his family. The most awful thing of all is that he lost his twin brother.

Opposite that battery factory where people sheltered is the Srebrenica memorial cemetery, where 8,372 marble obelisks stand as a physical memorial to the men and boys who were killed. The youngest had not yet entered his teens and the oldest had not quite entered his 80s, and there were all ages in between. On the memorial we saw in Sarajevo, on every single line—it was in alphabetical order and there were no Stephens to be seen—was the year 1966, which is the year I was born. In trying to comprehend the scale of the deaths that took place in a few short days, those sorts of things bring it home.

What really brought it home to me, and the most powerful memory of all—this remarkable group of people has been mentioned by several Members—was the Mothers of Srebrenica, a group of women of all ages who have dedicated themselves to ensuring that the rest of Europe never forgets what happened in their homeland. While they are called the Mothers of Srebrenica, they are widows and people who have lost a brother, a nephew, a father or a grandfather. The scale of male bereavement is all-embracing. Some lost 40 or 50 male members of their family. I have quite a small immediate family; others might have larger families. Imagine someone losing just about every male relative they know—that brings home how they have suffered. The hon. Member for West Ham was right to point out that some of these people have suffered not only with their bereavement, but with the physical and sexual abuse that they had from the Bosnian Serb army that murdered their menfolk.

How do we get something from this issue? That is what we should reflect on. The Government are putting investment into the visits, so that all the young people, police and other community leaders going to Bosnia can come back to Britain, having learnt the lessons. I will end my speech the same way I ended my speech in Lancaster house last night. Learning the lessons of history, thinking about what a reasonable parliamentary occasion this has been and going to the events are all very well, but none of that counts for anything unless we all pledge, just as we are asking the young people to pledge on these visits, to look at how we can make all our constituencies better places. That is my challenge to myself, to Members and to everyone else.

Sitting suspended.