- - Sunday, November 18, 2012

PARIS — The Ukrainian group Femen, whose topless members stage pranks to support gay rights, taunted a march in Paris by Catholics who oppose France’s draft law to legalize gay marriage.

The Catholic group Civitas organized Sunday’s march by several thousand people carrying pro-family banners.

Several Femen activists turned up topless, chanted “in gay we trust” and sprayed white powder from bottles.

That prompted several anti-gay marriage protesters to hit the Femen members and push them to the ground.

On Saturday, several thousand people took to the streets in cities across France to protest the draft law, which could see marriage and adoption legalized for homosexual couples early next year.

BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA

Veterans pay respects to victims in Bosnia

SREBRENICA — Veterans from opposite sides of the brutal Balkan wars of the 1990s paid their respects Saturday to the victims of the worst massacre in Europe since World War II.

The small group of former fighters from Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia laid flowers at the memorial dedicated to more than 8,000 Muslim Bosnian men and boys who were executed in 1995 by Serb forces in the eastern Bosnian town of Srebrenica.

The visit was organized by the Center for Nonviolent Action, a nongovernmental organization that promotes nonviolence and dialogue, and encourages former foes to deal constructively with their past.

For most, this was the first time they had faced the magnitude of the crimes committed by their own forces. Participants said the visit left them “shocked” and “speechless.”

Novica Kostic, a former soldier from Serbia, said the group had visited other marked and unmarked places where people suffered during the wars “but this is heavy.”

“This is horror. Genocide is a soft word for this. This is hell for my soul,” the shaken veteran said.

After watching a documentary about the massacre, the group walked along a wall engraved with the names of the victims. Many were overwhelmed by the thousands of graves that fill the valley near Srebrenica.

After the fall of the town in July 1995, residents fled to the nearby U.N. base seeking protection from Dutch forces.

But when Serb forces led by genocide suspect Ratko Mladic — now on trial before the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague — arrived at the base, the Dutch did not stop the Serb soldiers from separating out men and boys for execution.

The bodies of the victims are still being found in mass graves hidden in the area. The bones are identified through DNA analysis and returned to their families who bury them at the memorial center.

Ljuban Volas, a former Bosnian Serb soldier, said as a human being and as a soldier of the army that committed this crime, he simply “cannot approve it. Whoever did this must be held responsible.”

The 1992-95 Bosnian war was the most brutal of the wars that erupted after Yugoslavia fell apart. The fighting between Bosnian Muslims, Serbs and Croats devastated Bosnia and killed more than 100,000 people.

GREECE

Marches commemorate 1973 student uprising

ATHENS — Greeks took to the streets by the tens of thousands Saturday to commemorate the 39th anniversary of a deadly student uprising against the country’s former dictatorship.

While the marches went on peacefully, clashes between anarchists and police erupted briefly in the capital, Athens, and Greece’s second-largest city of Thessaloniki, in both cases far from where the marches took place.

Police announced that they detained 70 people in Athens and 19 in Thessaloniki.

With more than 6,000 police deployed in the city center, protesters marched from the National Technical University of Athens, where the 1973 uprising kicked off, to the U.S. Embassy. They were led by students carrying a Greek flag bloodied during the uprising.

Many Greeks hold the U.S. responsible for backing the 1967-1974 dictatorship. Protesters burned a U.S. flag outside the embassy, a yearly ritual.

A separate march by Communist Party supporters later went past the U.S. Embassy.

The Communists had announced their intention to march on to the Israeli Embassy, past the U.S. Embassy, to protest Israel’s bombardment of the Gaza Strip.

Police initially blocked the route at the request of a prosecutor, but after talks with protesters, unblocked it and the march resumed and ended peacefully.

Police say both marches involved about 22,000 people.

CROATIA

Tribunal overturns generals’ convictions

THE HAGUE — The Yugoslav war crimes tribunal has overturned the convictions of two Croat generals for murdering and illegally expelling Serb civilians in a 1995 military blitz, and both men returned home to a hero’s welcome.

Friday’s decision, by a 3-2 majority in the U.N. court’s five-judge appeals chamber, is one of the most significant reversals in the court’s 18-year history and overturns a verdict that had dealt a blow to Croatia’s self-image as a victim of atrocities, rather than a perpetrator, during the Balkan wars in the 1990s.

The ruling triggered scenes of rapture in court and among Croat war veterans watching the ruling on big screens in the capital, Zagreb, but also produced fury in Serbia, where it was seen as further evidence of anti-Serb bias at the tribunal.

Neither Gen. Ante Gotovina nor Gen. Mladen Markac showed any emotion as Presiding Judge Theodor Meron told them they were free men, but their supporters in the court’s packed public gallery cheered and clapped.

Gens. Gotovina and Markac had been sentenced to 24 and 18 years, respectively, in 2011 for crimes that included murder and deportation. Judges had ruled that both men were part of a criminal conspiracy led by former Croat President Franjo Tudjman to expel Serbs.

ITALY

Police block websitefor white supremacists

ROME — Italian police have blocked access to a white supremacist website and arrested four people who they say incited racial hatred and spread anti-Semitism.

Authorities on Friday blocked Stormfront, a white supremacist website based in the U.S., and shut down its Italian-language forum.

They also confiscated knives, batons and baseball bats as well neo-Nazi and Fascist propaganda, including pamphlets and banners emblazoned with swastikas, in searches of properties mostly in northeastern Italy.

Prosecutors in Rome launched the investigation after the group published blacklists of religious leaders, politicians, journalists and judges citing their support of immigrants. They also published lists of prominent Jewish citizens.

The four were arrested in the northern city of Milan and in Frosinone and Pescara in central Italy.

From wire dispatches and staff reports