Srebrenica Still

They know why we are here, us passing tourists.
We feel their look. No eye engages ours.
We dare not ask directions. We do not know
To whom we talk, Bosniac or Serb
In this town of Srebrenica still
Divided, unresolved, this fine October day,
Twenty years on.


But it is not difficult to find. A field of white

Marble obelisks, one top one tail, in lines.

Some 5000 names, dates of birth

All different. Just the date of death the same.

July 1995



Some 400 fresh white stones stand out

This years mass grave unearthed, remains now named.

And some 3000 mothers, daughters,

Sons and wives still wait. There is some empty

Field for them.


The young Dutch soldier sleeps uneasily still

He remembers the pledge of a safe haven

Our United Nations gave. He remembers

The thousands who descended from villages around

The chaos of finding space and food amid fear

And under siege.


He remembers the day the Serbs arrived

In Russian tanks to his check post,

Seven men, one gun, no instructions.

Taken prisoner, he watched from his prison window,

The men of Srebrenica, segregated,

Loaded into busses, driven off.

He remembers seeing from his prison window

The trucks returning, human legs and arms

Dangling. He knew.


The blue UN building is fenced off, empty still

The compound, an old industry that once

Manufactured, now disintegrates

A complex of pipes and pistons, valves and tanks

Now ooze their padding from rusting joints,

Now drips water, feeds weeds and

Hazel saplings flourish.


The warehouse where thousands then had lived,

Is an empty monument. A single shovel

leans against a wall, as if just resting

Waiting for the next. A lectern stands

Ready for the human form and notes

Least we forget.


Inside another dark and empty space

Dwarfed on an industrial wall are photographs,

A picture board, colours fading: unearthing

A mass grave. Boots outline the form.

A dozen random lives described,

With objects of their every day

A watch, a childs’ school book, a knife

The young and fit, it seems, had fled

Up to the woods where ambush lay.

Life culled.


The tree clad hills, that look so stunning

In their autumn clocks of bronze and gold

Are now proposed as tourist trails.

And bird watching is on the list

Of things to do in Srebronica.

Perhaps one day, not now, when homes

Still bullet pock marked line the streets.

When more woman in the streets than men,

With looks that never meet your eye,

Of ghosts of lives that would have lived


July 1995.

8,000 people, mostly men, massacred


Slobodan Milošević  President of Serbia from 1989 to 1997 and President of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia from 1997 to 2000. Milošević was arrested by Yugoslav federal authorities on 31 March 2001 and extradited to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) to stand trial for charges of war crimes instead. Milošević conducted his own defense in the five-year long trial, which ended without a verdict when he died in his prison cell in The Hague in 2006.

Radovan Karadžić is a former Bosnian Serb politician. During the breakup of Yugoslavia, Karadžić, as President of the Republika Srpska, sought the direct unification of that entity with Serbia. He is detained in the United Nations Detention Unit accused of war crimes committed against Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats during the Siege of Sarajevo, as well as ordering the Srebrenica massacre.

Ratko Mladić is a Bosnian Serb former military leader accused of committing war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. On 31 May 2011, Mladić was extradited to The Hague, ICTY His trial formally began in the Hague on 16 May 2012. As the top military general with command responsibility, Mladić was accused by the ICTY of being responsible for the Siege of Sarajevo and the Srebrenica massacre—the largest mass murder in Europe since the immediate aftermath of World War II.

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