SARAJEVO/BELGRADE (Reuters) - Survivors of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre called on Friday for Austrian author Peter Handke’s Nobel Prize for Literature to be revoked, saying it was “shameful” to recognise a man who has denied the killings happened.
Their anger echoed criticism of Thursday’s decision in many Balkan countries over Handke’s open support for late Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, who led his country during the Balkan Wars of the 1990s.
“We shall send a letter to the Committee to revoke the award,” Munira Subasic, president of the Mothers of Srebrenica association which represents survivors, told Reuters.
“This is shameful, one should be worried what message this is going to send,” she said.
Handke could not immediately be reached for comment.
The Swedish Academy, which choose the Nobel literature laureate, did not respond to requests for comment. Anders Olsson, an academy member, said after the award was announced on Thursday: “It is not a political prize, it is a literary prize.”
Handke spoke at Milosevic’s funeral in 2006 after the Serbian leader died while in detention awaiting trial at the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague for his role in the wars.
The Austrian also voiced support for Bosnian Serb leaders Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, both of whom were convicted of genocide for the killing of more then 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the United Nations protected enclave of Srebrenica.
Though much of the reaction to the prize was negative in the Balkans, it won some applause in Serbia.
“The news that you have won the Nobel Prize for Literature has confirmed that virtue and water always find their way and that the struggle for freedom and the right to choice ... is not in vain,” Serbian Defence Minister Aleksandar Vulin, an ally of Slobodan Milosevic in the 1990s, said in a message to Handke.
In 1996, Handke wrote an essay called “Journey to the Rivers: Justice for Serbia” in which he sided with Milosevic’s administration.
He denied that the Srebrenica massacre happened and said the 43-month siege of the Bosnian capital Sarajevo by Bosnian Serb forces was staged by Bosnian Muslims.
“In the years after the war ended, Handke has never shown any sign of regret, nor has he offered an apology to the victims of genocide,” said Sefik Dzaferovic, a Muslim Bosniak member of Bosnia’s tripartite inter-ethnic presidency.
The decision has been widely criticised in Albania and Kosovo, where an estimated 10,000 ethnic Albanians were killed and almost 1 million put to flight during a 1998-99 war waged by forces under Milosevic.
An online petition launched by an Albanian citizen called for Handke to be stripped of his Nobel prize and had been signed by 30,000 people in less than 24 hours.
“Never thought would feel like vomiting because of a @NobelPrize but shamelessness is becoming the normal part of the world we live in,” Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said on Twitter.