By Cpl. Jean-Philippe Lavigne
First published in
SFOR Informer#125, October 31, 2001
Srebrenica was the first United Nations Protection
Forces (UNPROFOR) "Safe Area" to disappear in eastern
BiH. According to the indictments filed against him, on July 11,
1995, Gen. Ratko Mladic's Serb Army staged a brutal take-over
of the enclave. Over a period of five days, Serb soldiers separated
Bosniac families, systematically murdered some 8,000 men and boys,
and organised the deportation of 40,000 others. As a French parliamentary
commission is about to give its statements on the worst case of
genocide in Europe since World War II, the situation of thousands
of survivors still remains uncertain.
Srebrenica - Seven months ago, Task Force Eagle
installed a base in Bratunac, Camp Connor, 10 kilometres North
of Srebrenica to encourage the return of Displaced Persons and
difficult to know what is hiding behind the eyes and lost faces
staring at the American convoy. Is it hatred, rebellion, pain
or simply fear?
On the side of the road, a youngster quickly gives the three-finger
sign, a Serbian Nationalist Symbol guaranteed to provoke.
"They insult us sometimes and show fingers," says Sgt.
Michael D. Jones. "But most of them are just teenagers."
The most impressive thing is the silence of Srebrenica when the
engines stop. The city has remained as if frozen through the years.
The aftermath and consequences of the war are everywhere. Graffiti
and campaign posters for Serb hard-line leaders Seselj and Poplasen
cover the walls, which are marked with scattered impacts. Rusty
scaffolding like skeletons support buildings whose facades are
falling off, smashed by mortar shells. The huge department store
Robna Kuca stands empty and dilapidated in the centre of the city,
with bombed stores all around.
only sign of hope is a big school at the end of the city where
hundreds of children gather. People say that the first Bosniac
began attending the school this September. "I start all my
patrols from here," says Lt. Charles E. Gilbert, 3rd Knight
Viper platoon commander. "It's a way to keep on morale high.
My guys are often depressed after leaving this place."
The place is usually quiet but there's a feeling a tension that
fills the air. "We are here to show our presence," Gilbert
says. "We intercede only in case of emergency or if we can
help. Patrolling is the occasion for us to feel the situation.
We make sure that they live in acceptable conditions and that
they have enough to face winter."
team heads to "Hunter's lodge" on the upper part of
the city. "It used to be a sniper position," says Sgt
Jones. In this 200 square-kilometre area, surrounded by mountains,
more than 40,000, mostly women, children and elderly, survived
for more than two years in horrible conditions, under permanent
threat of Serb artillery fire. In July 1995, Mladic finally seized
the town and organised the ethnic cleansing, slaughtering and
deporting of the population. It's impossible to imagine what happened
In the aftermath of the massacre, thousands of survivors were
settled in collective centres and abandoned houses in the Federation,
mostly in Tuzla Canton, Sarajevo Canton or in Vozuca (Zenica-Doboj
Canton). They were still there when General Framework Agreement
for Peace (GFAP) was signed in December 1995 and most of them
remain there six years after. They are mainly women, whose husbands
were murdered. Many are illiterate and can't apply for a job.
They currently have no resources.
To be continued
Nations of SFOR: US
SFOR at Work
The lost souls
of Srebrenica (part II)