On 12 July 1995, the Bosnian Serb forces under the command of General Mladić began separating men, between the ages of 12 and 77, from women and children in the UN ‘safe area’ of Srebrenica.
Women, children and the elderly were forced to board buses that took them to Kladanj, a town by the River Drinjača.
As the deportation commenced, eyewitnesses observed General Mladić arriving in Srebrenica accompanied by journalists and TV cameras. He tried to calm the panicking civilians by handing out bread and water to the refugees and tossing sweets to the children. He said to them:
‘Don’t be afraid. Just take it easy, let women and children go first. Plenty of buses will come. We will transfer you towards Kladanj…just don’t panic. Let women and little children go first. Do not let any of the children get lost. Don’t be afraid. Nobody will harm you.’
By the end of the day, 5,000 women, children and the elderly were deported by the Bosnian Serb forces to Kladanj. Over the next 30 hours, 23,000 people were deported.
That evening, the systematic murder of the Bosnian men and boys left in Srebrenica began.
In the following days, up to 8,000 men and boys were murdered by Bosnian Serb forces. The UN described the events in Srebrenica as an act of genocide.