By Cpl. Jean-Philippe Lavigne
First published in
SFOR Informer#126, November 14, 2001
Srebrenica was the first United Nations Protection
Forces (UNPROFOR) "Safe Area" to disappear in eastern
Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). On July 11, 1995, General Ratko
Mladic's Serb Army staged a brutal take-over of the enclave. According
to the indictment filed by the International Crime Tribunal for
former Yugoslavia (ICTY), 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.
- Annex 7 of General Framework Agreement for Peace (GFAP) states
that all displaced persons and refugees have the right to return
to their pre-war houses. But application of the Property Law Implementation
Plan (PLIP) is only partial in some parts of the Republika Srpska.
The implementation ratio in Srebrenica is only 6.7 percent, and
it's the lowest in BiH. Among 4,534 registered claims, 1,204 were
finally accepted, but only 304 families are in position to repossess
"These result must be relativised," explains a UNHCR
field officer. "These are not return statistics. It doesn't
mean that the people actually returned to their pre-war homes.
For a combination of economic and security reasons, some prefer
renting, selling or exchanging their property to live elsewhere."
But some don't have the choice. About 118 Bosniacs started to
return to Srebrenica Municipality this year. Some 15 families,
which means approximately 100 people live in the city. Most of
them choose to live out of town or in other municipalities in
the neighbourhood, such as Bratunac or Soceska village where the
first returnees came in June 2000. It is easier to start farming
These returns were interrupted in December last year after a Bosniac
was assassinated. In the course of the last six years, many Bosniac
returnees were victims of attacks, hand grenades, harassment or
provocation. Some houses were burned, particularly in Bratunac,
Zvornik and Vlasenica. "Minority returnees fear for their
security, but the situation is really better since Camp Connor
was constructed," observes Staff Sgt. Ronald Wedderman. "New
reconstruction all around the base testifies to this. We struggle
every day to bring back life in this place."
nothing can be done until the situation of B-Serbs, illegally
occupying Bosniac houses, remains unsolved. Unfortunately, the
B-Serb hard-liner party (SDS), as well as the Bosniac SDA, obstruct
the return process. "Their strategy is to maintain ethnically
pure territories separated by the Inter Entity Boundary Line (IEBL),"
explains Maj. Wala, 2nd Finnish CIMIC team commander. "People
in poor areas can be influenced by these kinds of arguments."
Among the 15,000 B-Serbs currently living in the municipality
(8,000 live downtown), only 10 percent are from Srebrenica. Most
of them are displaced persons, coming from more than 50 municipalities
throughout the Federation. They had to flee their homes after
the Naser Oric offensive in 1992-1993 or they left Sarajevo in
fear of retaliations in 1996. Their condition is very difficult
too. Some 15,000 displaced persons, who have spent the last six
years in Bratunac are leaving this municipality to start a new
life in other places in RS. Only 8,000 of them still live there
Many local and international organisations took action to rebuild
houses and repair infrastructure before the winter. Approximately
492 projects were approved by donors in 2001, mostly by the Federation
Ministry for Social Affairs, DPs and Refugees and the Finnish
and Norwegian government. "But we need more donations and
it is virtually impossible to recreate a pre-war community,"
explains the UNHCR field officer. "There is neither agricultural
production nor economic activity in the region. Actually UNHCR
developed a bus line as well as a bakery project in the centre
of the city."
But thousands of survivors are still suffering, seeking for the
truth. They still don't know what happened to their families and
relatives. This year the Federation Commission for Missing Persons
announced that a team exhumed 1,000 Srebrenica victims, bringing
the total to 5,000. Some 20,000 people remain unaccounted for,
most of them Bosniacs, six years after the war that tore the Balkans
Nations of SFOR: US
SFOR at Work
The lost souls
of Srebrenica (part I)