Boris Johnson urged to apologise for Srebrenica remarks

UK prime minister accused of making insensitive comments over 1995 massacre of 8,000 Muslims

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been urged to apologise for a 1997 article where he wrote “they weren't exactly angels, these Muslims” in reference to the victims of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre during the Bosnian War.

Mr Johnson’s office said his comments were taken out of context.

A letter to the prime minister signed by 31 members of parliament said “it is unthinkable that you would publicly attend national memorial events, without having apologised for such comments”.

The letter comes 25 years since the massacre at Srebrenica, where more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys were slaughtered by Serb forces.

“There can be no excuse for in any way blaming the victims of a genocide for its perpetration, not even for a prime minister. Meanwhile, to attend such events without reflection on your previous comments is an insult to the victims and their families who continue to suffer the consequences to this day,” the letter reads.

It also refers to allegedly anti-Muslim remarks he has previously made.

“Moreover, considering your long and significant history of racist, Islamophobic, and prejudicial statements, your comments about Srebrenica cannot be seen as an isolated incident,” the letter adds.

Writing in 1997 for the Ottawa Citizen when he was a journalist, Mr Johnson said Srebrenica was the worst massacre on European soil since the Second World War but questioned "what could the West really have done?"

"Alright, I say, the fate of Srebrenica was appalling. But they weren't exactly angels, these Muslims," he wrote.

Mr Johnson’s office says the “quote is clearly taken out of context”.

"The prime minister has, over the last 25 years, consistently condemned the Srebrenica genocide as one of the worst crimes in history."

On Saturday, Mr Johnson paid respects to the victims of the atrocity to mark its 25th anniversary.

People pray near coffins at a graveyard during a mass funeral in Potocari near Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina July 11, 2020. Bosnia marks the 25th anniversary of the massacre of more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys, with many relatives unable to attend due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

“I want to join with you once more in mourning the victims of those terrible events, and to stand with the families in their fight for justice,” he said.

“As in so many cases from this conflict which brought violence and destruction across the western Balkans, many families still do not know what happened to their loved ones. Many perpetrators have still not been held to account.

“And there are those who would prefer to forget or deny the enormity of what took place. We must not allow that to happen.”