''Now that we have understood the message of Srebrenica, we must do everything possible to stop the slaughter in Syria,'' Ban Ki-Moon said during his visit to the Potocari cemetery and memorial site on the outskirts of Srebrenica. The UN had designated the eastern Bosnian enclave as a safe haven for Muslim refugees, but Dutch peacekeepers were unable to stop Bosnian Serb forces led by General Ratko Mladic from carrying out the massacre.
''The international community was incapable of protecting those who in that moment needed our help, and they were killed,'' the Ki-moon said. ''World leaders have since undertaken the obligation of defending civilians as a principle.'' Accompanied by Bosnian President Bakir Izetbegovic, a Muslim who heads up the country's three-party presidency, Ban Ki-moon placed a wreath at the Potocari memorial monument, and observed some minutes of silence before the wall on which the victims' names are engraved. ''Srebrenica is sacred ground for the families of the victims, but also for the family of nations,'' Ban Ki-moon said.
The Srebrenica massacre was the worst mass killing on European soil since World War II. Bosnia is still burying the dead, which are 5,657 so far. The remains of some 2,400 more have still to be identified or dug up from mass graves in hilly eastern Bosnia.
''You have come to face the result of your predecessors' errors and lack of courage,'' said President Izetbegovic.
The visit - the first by a head of the UN to Srebrenica - ends Ban Ki-moon's week-long tour of the countries carved from the former Yugoslavia.
On Wednesday, he told the Bosnian parliament in Sarajevo, where 10,000 people died in a 43-month siege, that he was making a plea to the world to unite and ''stop the slaughter'' in Syria.