TWENTY-FIVE years ago genocide was committed in Europe. Four decades after the systematic extermination of European Jewry by the Nazis the continent was scarred by genocidal acts against people because they were Muslims.

Over the course of several days in 1995 Bosnian Serb forces murdered more than 8000 unarmed men and boys. All of them had been under the protection of the United Nations in the town of Srebrenica. Today a quarter of a century later events are being held in Bosnia-Herzegovina and around the world to commemorate the victims, raise awareness and ensure that it never happens again.

For younger people who did not live through the war in the former-Yugoslavia, it is hard to comprehend the inhumanity that occurred in the Balkans at the beginning of the 1990s. Rebel Serbs that refused to accept the independence of Bosnia-Herzegovina took up arms in the multinational republic and tried to carve out their own territory by “ethnic cleansing”, the euphemism for mistreatment and murder which saw Bosnian Muslims expelled from their homes, villages and towns.

In eastern Bosnia-Herzegovina the town of Srebrenica and surrounding villages in the Drina valley had a Muslim majority and became besieged by Serb forces. What happened during the war has been the subject of numerous verified international reports and international court cases: “More than three years before the 1995 Srebrenica genocide, Bosnian Serb nationalists – with the logistical, moral and financial support of Serbia and the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA) – destroyed 296 predominantly Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) villages in the region around Srebrenica, forcibly uprooting some 70,000 Bosniaks from their homes and systematically massacring at least 3166 Bosniaks (documented deaths) including many women, children and the elderly”.

After trying to starve out the population of Srebrenica which had been swollen by tens of thousands of refugees from the surrounding area, Bosnian Serb forces and paramilitaries from Serbia proper took the UN “Safe Area” by force, without any resistance from UN Protection Force. There 8372 unarmed men and boys were summarily murdered between July 11-25, 1995. The scenes in and around the former enclave, including the hunting down of escapees, raping of women, the killing of children, and mass shootings defy description.

In 2001, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) judged that the 1995 Srebrenica massacre was genocide. Presiding Judge Theodor Meron in a subsequent case reaffirmed that the Srebrenica massacre was genocide stated: “By seeking to eliminate a part of the Bosnian Muslims, the Bosnian Serb forces committed genocide. They targeted for extinction the 40,000 Bosnian Muslims living in Srebrenica, a group which was emblematic of the Bosnian Muslims in general. They stripped all the male Muslim prisoners, military and civilian, elderly and young, of their personal belongings and identification, and deliberately and methodically killed them solely on the basis of their identity.”

Over the years, many in Scotland have helped people in Bosnia-Herzegovina, going back to the charity efforts of Edinburgh Direct Aid and volunteers from around the country who wanted to help the civilian population in Sarajevo. Scots aid worker Christine Witcutt was killed by sniper fire outside the besieged capital, her husband Alan, who passed away in recent weeks, continued his dedicated charity work in Bosnia-Herzegovina for the rest of his life. His son-in-law David Hamilton who was also on the Bosnian aid convoys is now secretary of Remembering Srebrenica, the charity headed by the former Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland Lorna Hood.

They both joined me on the first Scottish Remembering Srebrenica delegation which I led to Bosnia-Herzegovina in 2014. As a journalist that covered the war in the former-Yugoslavia I have been closely connected to the region since the war, just like Scots international affairs journalist and fellow National columnist David Pratt, who was also part of the delegation.

Visits to Srebrenica from Scotland has continued regularly since then and included First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, and former Conservative and Labour leaders Ruth Davidson and Kezia Dugdale. Events marking Srebrenica Memorial Day have been held at the Scottish Parliament, St Giles Cathedral and Bute House. Survivors of the genocide like Hasan Hasanovic have come to Scotland to bear witness at Scottish schools which receive education packs helping teach the next generations about the tragic events.

As the 25th anniversary of the genocide is marked in the weeks ahead it is important to support the work of Remembering Srebrenica Scotland and Waqar Azmi, Resad Trbonja and colleagues at Remembering Srebrenica UK. It is less than a year since the Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to the genocide denier Peter Handke. Through ignorance and denial we will forget the valuable lessons of history and be condemned to repeat the worst of human tragedies. We must not let that happen.