[This is a somewhat edited version of the Memorandum which Srebrenica Historical Project recently submitted to the Human Rights Committee of the European Parliament in Brussels about reconstruction and development issues that the Serbian community in Srebrenica faces.]
The memorandum that we have the honour to submit to you focuses on socio-economic and material conditions in the municipality of Srebrenica, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and solicits your help to increase awareness and mobilize support for overcoming the effects of ethnically discriminatory policies in the district of Srebrenica.
А. General considerations
1. Srebrenica is a region of particular interest not only for the Republic of Srpska, but also for the international community. It has significant symbolic value as the place of intense combat between the two major communities, Serbian and Muslim, during the 1992 - 1995 conflict in Bosnia. Just as it has had a polarizing effect, it may also exhibit potential for reconciliation if the work of reconstructing homes, villages, and – most importantly – mutual trust is pursued wisely and equitably. The record shows that both communities in Srebrenica have suffered grievously. However, due to the fact that it has been the object of continuous international attention, the Muslim community has for the most part laid successfully the foundations of a successful recovery. With regard to the Serbian community, that has not been the case at all. Neglected after the war’s end in 1995, and virtually unrecognized as the victim of massive human and material suffering, the Serbian community has not managed to regain its equilibrium either in the political, material, or social dimensions. While the Muslim community shows not just signs of physical revitalization, but also a lively thrust to affirm and expand its presence, the Serbian community is just hanging on – barely.
2. This state of affairs is probably the result of a combination of political circumstances which are not the subject of our presentation. Our purpose here is only to present the reality and the practical consequences of the unequal position of the two communities vis-à-vis post-war reconstruction and options for sustainable survival.
3. The starting point of our analysis is that members of all communities in Srebrenica must have equal access to all benefits that are offered to its citizens. At a minimum, that means: (1) participation in the political system of the municipality on an equal footing; (2) effective presence in all plans which are being developed in order to improve the economic and social status of the community as a whole, as well as of its constituent parts; and (3) equal access to reconstruction and development resources because, a decade and a half after the destructive conflict, that is an indispensable precondition of sustainable life.
B. Relative material position
4. “Material position” refers to all the basic factors which affect a community’s ability to survive and develop: it includes human, social, economic, political, and cultural components, to mention just the main ones. When the position of two communities living side by side is compared using these parameters, it is important to pay attention not just to the situation as it currently stands, but also to the prevailing trends which indicate future developments.
5. From both points of view, the Serbian community is seriously disadvantaged in Srebrenica.
6. We will focus particularly on two aspects: economic development from the standpoint of the community’s sustainability in the region of Srebrenica and reconstruction of basic material resources which sustainable survival requires. This is a reference to resources that were damaged or completely destroyed during the war, 1992 – 1995.
7. The economic aspect: The Municipality of Srebrenica, it should be noted, is politically under the control of the Muslim community notwithstanding the fact that it constitutes a minority in the area. That is because certain clauses of the Dayton peace treaty have exempted Srebrenica from the “one man, one vote” standard that democratic procedure presupposes. In Srebrenica elections, former residents dispersed throughout Bosnia and beyond are allowed to take part notwithstanding the fact that physically they do not live there. The reason offered is to redress the consequences of “ethnic cleansing” within that community.
8. One of the perhaps unintended practical consequences of that remedial measure is the creation of very uneven development plans which do not regard Srebrenica as a single political space belonging equally to both communities, but favour one community at the expense of the other. The current development plan provides for two industrial zones, one in Potočari, and another in Skelani. However, the developmental dynamic charted for those two zones is very uneven. While the Potočari zone is being primed for rapid development and is slated to become the economic hub of the municipality, the Skelani zone is largely neglected notwithstanding the fact that it has twice as many inhabitants, the majority of whom are Serbs. The conclusion that mainly Muslim Potočari are being given preferential treatment in fostering development is supported by much evidence: imbalance in infrastructural investment (e. g. asphalt roads have been built to Muslim villages in the surrounding area) and investment in the construction of industrial facilities which will lead to employment possibilities (“Cimos” factory, food processing plant, winery, zinc purification plant, etc.). In Potočari, for instance in the “March 11” zinc processing plant, 300 new jobs were created, 30 new apartments were built, plans exist for the construction of a school, sports facility, etc. On the other hand, in Skelani not a single new job was created in the last couple of years, there is no agricultural cooperative or food processing facility, there are no mechanisms for the wholesale purchase of farmers’ major produce such as milk and berries. Some of the conditions which encumber citizens’ everyday life and deny them long term prospects in the area are: inadequate water pipes, obsolete filters which often cause water to be contaminated, closure of the commercial border crossing to Serbia in nearby Bajina Bašta, which greatly complicates the exportation of local agricultural produce, to mention just some. In addition, there is no local pharmacy or urgent care clinic, no bank, apartment buildings are not being reconstructed, the local day care center, with 28 pre-school children (compared to 40 in Srebrenica town) is receiving inadequate support from the municipality, there are no cultural institutions such as reading rooms, and no municipal assistance to develop potential local assets such as agriculture and tourism. Naturally, these factors impact Skelani residents from both communities. But since the majority of the population is Serbian, just as in Potočari the majority are Muslim, this kind of development policy conveys clear messages and it has unambiguous implications for the sustainability of the two communities in the region of Srebrenica.
9. Reconstruction: We turn now to the condition precedent for sustainable development, and that is the reconstruction of the basic elements of the living environment. Where Serbian residents of Srebrenica are concerned, that means practically the reconstruction of devastated Serbian villages and restoration of thousands of demolished homes to the point where they would be fit for human habitation again. In that regard, a decade and a half after the end of the war in Bosnia, the situation is most discouraging. The scope of physical destruction and the massive scale of the expulsion of the local Serbian population during the conflict was impressively depicted in the Report of the Netherlands War Research Institute [NIOD], Part I: The Yugoslavian problem and the role of the West, 1991 – 1994; chapter 10: Srebrenica under siege: “Muslim fighters from Srebrenica attacked 79 Serbian places in the districts of Srebrenica and Bratunac … ultimately, of the original 9390 Serbian inhabitants of the Srebrenica district, only 860 remained, mainly in four villages of Skelani, Crkčica, Petrica and Liješće.” That was the state of affairs at the end of the war, fifteen years ago.
10. The monograph of Dr. Ljubiša Simić, “The Martyrdom of Serbian Srebrenica, 1992 – 1995: a photographic journey through a land of misery and sorrow” [Srebrenica Historical Project, Belgrade 2010]  is visual evidence of the fact that the condition of Serbian villages since then not only has not improved, but has deteriorated considerably. In about 200 photographs the present  appearance of the villages referred to in the NIOD Report, where before the outbreak of the conflict were inhabited by Serbs [about 9000 in total], is depicted. The general conclusion is clear: post-war reconstruction sidestepped Serbian villages and, as a consequence, the expelled Serbian population has nowhere to return to begin sustainable life. Enormous areas of the district of Srebrenica are either scorched earth because the villages that used to be there were razed, or they are covered with ruins unfit for human habitation. Western donors’ organizations have almost completely ignored the locations where Serbs used to live. In the opinion of Dr. Simić, which sounds quite reasonable, the motive for this situation is almost wholly political: “The fact that Serbian villages continue to be unreconstructed does not tell us that Western agencies love the Muslims and hate the Serbs. At play is no more than a coincidence of political interests. Were European development and reconstruction funds to start rebuilding Serbian villages, they would be rather hard pressed to admit that those villages had been destroyed. That would lead to the conclusion that it was the Muslims who destroyed them, which—in turn—would suggest that Muslims did indeed commit heinous crimes in the region. As a result, the thesis that only one community is guilty, in this case the Serbs, would have to collapse.” 
C. The discriminatory character of the reconstruction process
11. The Srebrenica municipality development plan shows unmistakable discriminatory tendencies by mainly favoring municipal areas inhabited by one of the communities, while systematically neglecting areas identified with the other. That discourages not just return but staying as well. The reconstruction process over the last fifteen years has been marked by the same philosophy. Annex I, attached herewith, “Quo vadis Serbian villages?,” presents a striking visual impression of the current status, fifteen years after the war. That status is the direct consequence of the consistent implementation of a one-sided policy of community reconstruction and revitalization in Srebrenica.
12. While doing field research in Srebrenica on issues of interest to our Project, we had many contacts with private individuals and local government administrators. Srebrenica Historical Project has received essentially identical information from various sources, and at first blush it sounds quite incredible. It is the following. When after peace was restored in 1995 international aid and reconstruction organizations established their presence in the region, they did not sidestep Serbian villages and channel vital reconstruction assistance away from them inadvertently or out of ignorance of the local situation. Many of them in fact explicitly conditioned their assistance by insisting that it go exclusively or for the most part to the Muslim community and that members of the Serbian community be excluded. One can speculate that this policy reflected their perception that in Srebrenica one side was the collective victim, while the other was the aggressor. But regardless of the motives which impelled it, if we only consider the consequences of such policy, its implementation in such an overtly discriminatory form is inhuman and unacceptable.
13. In any Western country, similar conduct would be considered not just socially unacceptable, but in many instances legally prohibited as well. It is customary in Western societies for the law to explicitly guarantee the equality of citizens. For instance, after the catastrophic storm which struck New Orleans, it is unimaginable that some relief agencies should have appeared from Africa to offer assistance on the explicit condition that it be distributed to African-American citizens only. That would not just be widely condemned, it would also be plainly illegal under the “equal protection under the law clause” of the U. S. Constitution. The constitutional principle of equality is in force in European Union countries and it is enshrined in Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Of critical importance in the present circumstances, it is mandated also in the constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Paragraph 4, Article II, prohibits discrimination on any grounds, and it specifically outlaws it on the grounds of national origin.
14. While closely studying the distribution of humanitarian assistance to communities affected by the war in Srebrenica, we noticed that many agencies apply an ethnically based discriminatory approach. Here are some examples:
(а) The British Lady Nott Foundation (see Annex 2) constructed 45 housing units for Muslims only in the local communities of Toplica, Ratkovići and Skenderovići. The housing project for Muslims in the hamlet of Jezero accurately depicts the way they work. Completely new turn key homes were built for Muslims, equipped with furniture and all amenities. Serbian homes, often just meters away, which during the war Muslims destroyed or rendered uninhabitable, were completely avoided by the humanitarian agency from abroad.
(b) OIC, Organization of the Islamic Conference, constructed 50 homes in the municipality, but for Muslims only, and it distributed material assistance following the same principle.
(c) The Pakistani government donated about 700 agricultural machines in the municipalities of Srebrenica, Bratunac, and Milići (most of them in Srebrenica), but for Muslims only.
(d) The Austrian organization, Hilfswerk, constructed about 200 housing units, most of which were donated to Muslims.
(е) The Austrian organization BHB donated about 100 prefabricated homes, but to Muslims only.
(f) The Tuzla Cantonal Government invested 3 million convertible marks (Bosnia’s currency, about 1.5 million euros) into housing construction and infrastructural projects to benefit exclusively the Muslim community.
(h) The UNDP office in Srebrenica has been implementing its project in the municipalities of Srebrenica, Bratunac and Milići for the last six years. About half of the resources are spent in Srebrenica. So far they have spent nearly $10 million in Srebrenica, of which 80% was channeled to the Muslim community.
(i) CRS is an organization that is present in the municipality for the last six years. It has spent about 10 million KM ($5 million euros), 90% of which was funneled into projects benefiting the Muslim community. This agency donated homes for families living in alternative accommodations, did some infrastructure reconstruction work, gave individual financial assistance, and donated agricultural equipment. In terms of housing renewal, CRS rebuilt 250 homes for Muslims, and 25 for Serbs.
(j) The Dutch government invests about 10 million KM in Srebrenica every year and so far its investment is close to 100 million. Over 80% of those resources are destined for Muslims.
(k) The Danish relief organization, DRC, has been involved in housing reconstruction for the last four years, 90% of which has gone to Muslims. They reconstructed 120 homes for Muslims, 12 for Serbs.
(l) Caritas (the Catholic relief organization, see Annex 3) does mainly housing reconstruction and minor electrification projects. It has been active in Srebrenica for five years. Out of about 200 homes reconstructed by Caritas, 80% belonged to Muslims.
(m) UNHCR does housing reconstruction and alternative housing accommodations. In 80% of the cases, its clients are Muslims.
(n) CEER has been involved in housing reconstruction and economic support for five years. Seventy percent of their clients are Muslim.
(o) The list of potential aid beneficiaries of the MLJPI relief organization, based on an official Srebrenica municipality document (see Annex 4) speaks eloquently about the projected beneficiaries of their assistance. Most of the names on that list are Muslim.
15. When statistical data concerning the reconstruction of destroyed and damaged housing in the district of Srebrenica are summarized, the result is that 1755 homes have been constructed or rebuilt for Muslims, and only 564 for Serbs, the ethnic imbalance of the reconstruction process to the detriment of the Serbian community becomes clear. Our Project has a list of about 5000 Srebrenica district residents from the Serbian community who were expelled from their villages and settlements during the conflict and now reside elsewhere, but are unable to return and resume their lives which were interrupted by the war because their homes and properties are still in the original devastated condition. The housing, infrastructural, and economic conditions favoring sustainable return do not exist. The current, unfavorable, situation will persist until there is a decisive intervention from outside to change discriminatory policies toward the Serbian community and to raise the distribution of reconstruction and humanitarian assistance in Srebrenica to a level that is acceptable under international standards.
 For the electronic version of the book, please refer to: http://www.srebrenica-project.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=20&Itemid=18
 Dr Ljubiša Simić, The Martyrdom of Serbian Srebrenica, ibid., p. 25.
 It should be noted that par. 1 Article II of the Bosnia-Herzegovina constitution guarantees the “highest level of internationally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
 Srebrenica Municipality Information, December 2, 2009: “Condition of returnees and internally displaced persons” (O stanju i životu povratnika i interno raseljenih lica)