“Where logic ends, Bosnia begins,” says Resad Trbonja, who defended Sarajevo as a teenage soldier in a war that ripped his city apart.

A three-day visit to Bosnia confirms that reason can be a scarce commodity while lies are a mineral that keep one part of the country nourished.

July 1995 will stir the memories of many adults in the UK. Tory Prime Minister John Major defeated Cabinet rival John Redwood to stay on as party leader. Robson and Jerome topped the charts with their version of Unchained Melody. And maverick US golfer John Daly won the British Open.

In the same month the world stood by as over 8,000 Muslim men and boys from Srebrenica – a small, overpopulated town in Eastern Bosnia – were murdered in the worst atrocity on European soil since the Second World War.

The genocide was the final chapter in a grisly four-year war. Bosnia, which had been a multi-ethnic republic that was home to Muslims, Serbs and Croats, declared its independence from a disintegrating Yugoslavia in 1992.

Bosnian Serbs, armed by the Yugoslav army, resisted by laying siege to Sarajevo – the capital city – and ridding parts of northern and eastern Bosnia of Muslims in an attempt to create Greater Serbia or ‘Serboslavia’.

The strategy directed by Bosnia Serb figureheads – political leader Radovan Karadzic and his military henchman Ratko Mladic – was straight out of the Nazi handbook – concentration camps, forced evacuations and villages burned to the ground. Muslims were, and still are, referred to disparagingly as “Turks”.

Srebrenica, which was a supposed safe area overseen by Dutch peacekeepers on behalf of the United Nations, was the most notorious act of horror. After entering the town Mladic issued a warning to the Muslim population: “Survive or vanish.”

It was never a serious choice and the slaughter commenced. A peace deal was signed later in the year – the Dayton Agreement – which created two autonomous entities in one country. The Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina is mostly populated by Muslims, while Republika Srpska is dominated by Bosnian Serbs.

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Potocari cemetery, near Srebrenica (Picture: John Young Media)

However, although anniversaries and memorials keep the massacre of Srebrenica’s male population in the public eye, the suffering of the women left behind has not received the same attention.

After the genocide it was the mothers, grandmothers, sisters and aunts who grieved, looked for their loved ones in mass graves and sought justice.

Another part of the struggle has been highlighting the crimes committed against women. Up to 50,000 females were subjected to sexual violence, including rape, slavery and forced impregnation, during the wider war. In Višegradska Banja, a village south of Srebrenica, Bosnian Serb authorities established a rape camp at a spa hotel called Vilna Vilas.

My trip – organised by the Remembering Srebrenica charity, led by former Church of Scotland moderator Lorna Hood, and co-ordinated by Trbonja – provided access to the women who are trying to tell the truth about what happened, as well as exposing the lies spewed out in the toxic aftermath.

Nobody has done more to pursue justice than 69-year-old Munira Subasic. She moved to Srebrenica in 1961, but was separated from her family when Mladic and his troops captured the town. She lost over 20 family members, including her husband, son, two brothers and brothers-in-law.

Subasic founded Mothers of Srebrenica in 1996, an organisation whose initial aim was to locate and identify the remains of the 8,373 victims. She was instrumental in opening the mass Potocari graveyard near Srebrenica – set up to honour the dead – and her group has taken the United Nations and the Dutch Government to court.

Speaking at an office in the Cengic Vila district of Sarajevo, she says: “My youngest son is buried next to his father. I only buried two little bones, as these two bones were found in two separate mass graves.

“Women are the ones who carried the burden of the war. And even though they killed our husbands, they didn’t kill us and we talk on behalf of them. We fight for justice and fight for truth.”

Subasic says over 60 children were born as a result of rape, but many women “keep silent” about the crime due to feelings of shame.

She gives an example: “Two years ago a mother came to us. She said ‘can you please lock the door, I need to tell you something’. She said ‘I was raped, I have never said it to anyone and you are the first’.

“And she never came back here. We called her to come here. She called and said ‘I can’t look into your eyes’. She was so ashamed.”

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Hotic (left) and Subasic (right) Picture: John Young Media

Kada Hotic, another central figure in Mothers of Srebrenica, lost over 50 relatives, including her son, husband and brothers. She said little for the first half an hour of the meeting, but then spoke plenty.

Her words were directed at the perpetrators: “We are shaking the consciousness of the people who are responsible for what happened to us, to start talking and to tell us the truth.”

On what it was like for neighbours who had lived together peacefully to suddenly turn on each other, she said: “My best friend becomes my worst enemy just overnight.”

Trbonja, who has carried out dozens of tours this year alone, says something similar: “You choose your best man because he is your brother from another mother. He would be the first man to enter your house and rape your wife. People lost their senses.”

Bakira Hasecic, who is the high-profile figurehead of the Association of Women Victims of War, is a 10-minute bus ride away in Sarajevo.

In early 1992, just as war broke out, Hasecic was in her house in Visegrad – south of Srebrenica – when a local police chief and Serb soldiers entered, raped her daughter and carried out the same crime on her.

Hasecic heard her sister was taken to a detention camp in nearby Vlasenica, after which she was raped and murdered. Her body parts were found in separate mass graves. Her organisation campaigns for the rights of women who were victims of sexual violence during the entire war, not just in Srebrenica.

A scroll on her office wall breaks down Bosnia into over 60 territories and marks areas of “mass and systematic rape and sexual abuse” with a red dot. A majority of the locations have a dot.

She says rapes were used as “tool and a weapon” and relays what happened when she came back to Visegrad after the war: “We saw our murderers and rapists as police officers. They were smiling at us.”

Hasecic recounts what she heard the men say after she returned: “Did you come here because you want more? Did you come here because you want us to finish what we started?”

She adds: “When I was raped they were saying ‘you are not going to give birth to Turks any more, but Serbs’.”

She says 53 girls were raped in one night, a crime that required “strategic planning”. In another case she says an 11-year-old girl was taken from her mother, imprisoned, raped and murdered after being dropped from the sixth floor.

Her campaign has made her a target. She says there have been “two or three attempts” on her life, but adds calmly: “I’m not afraid of dying.”

However, women in Srebrenica and wider Bosnia not only have to cope with the crimes of the past, but also endure taunts in the present.

History lays out a blueprint for countries scarred by genocide to follow. An unconditional apology. Reparation. Reconciliation. Germany has taken full responsibility for the Holocaust and is the exemplar of international contrition.

Republika Srpska is at the other end of the spectrum. Although key figures in the previous Bosnian Serb regime have been indicted for genocide – former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic died before being held to account – judgments have been disputed and the radioactive stew of ‘Srebrenica denial’ is a staple for nationalist politicians.

Srebrenica, which is now part of Republika Srpska, has a genocide denier for a mayor. Mladen Grujicic, a Serb who believes Karadzic is a hero, once said: “When they prove it to be the truth I’ll be the first to accept it.”

He echoed his line earlier this year: “Each victim has their own weight and importance and this must be respected. But I can’t agree with the qualification of the crime.”

Grujicic’s twisted revisionism reflects the views of more senior Bosnian Serb politicians. In 2015 Milorad Dodik, the president of Republika Sprska, described the massacre as the “the greatest deception of the 20th Century”.

In Visegrad, no memorial exists for rape victims, but the authorities in the Republika Sprska town honoured the pro-Bosnian Serb Russian volunteers during the war by unveiling a monument nearby.

For the women who seek justice, denial compounds the suffering and rubs salt onto an open wound. Subasic says: “It’s like being harassed and killed again.”

She explains: “The truth is most important. Without truth, there is no trust. Without trust, there is no reconciliation.”

Hotic agrees: “Denial makes us feel miserable.”

Hasecic makes a cutting point about who the state values financially: “It’s better to be a war criminal than a victim.”

In a gruesome twist for the women, children inherit the poisoned world view of the political leaders. As an autonomous entity, Republika Sprska schools do not teach pupils about the genocide. Dodik, said recently: “Here it is impossible to use schoolbooks from the Federation [Bosnia’s other entity] in which it is written that the Serbs committed genocide and held Sarajevo under siege. It’s not true and it will not be studied here.”

Hasan Hasanovic, a Srebrenica survivor who works at the Potocari memorial centre as a curator and translator, talks about how he lost his father, uncle and twin brother as part of the genocide. Sitting in front of a giant screen in the centre that plays harrowing real-time footage of the Bosnian Serb invasion he is incredulous about what is not discussed in classroom.

“We need young people to be taught that it was genocide,” he says. “They [the Bosnian Serb authorities] have never given up on the Milosevic heritage.”

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Hasan Hasanovic (Picture: John Young Media)

Across the road from the memorial centre stands one of the iconic images of the massacre. The Potocari cemetery is home to thousands of burial plots, each white pillar glistening in the sun like a miniature Washington Monument.

Nedzad Avdic, another Srebrenica survivor, is waiting for us in the shade. In 1995, he was rounded up and shot in the back, but cheated death. He, like Hasanovic, moved back to the town and lives there with his wife and children.

“It’s not easy to raise your daughters here,” he says, with understatement.

Avdic says his dream would be for a lecture to be given in Srebrenica on the genocide, but such a prospect is “not possible”.

While the Bosnian Serb authorities used murder in the 1990s in a bid to create Greater Serbia, the suspicion persists that some figures in positions of power want to further the same goal by making life unbearable for Muslims.

“During the war they were killing people, but now they do some other things,” Avdic says.

Part of this trip was about learning "lessons” from Srebrenica and the itinerary was neatly ordered to give a clear understanding of what happened in the enclave.

From a visit to the Podrinje Identification Project in Tuzla, which examines bones in the hope of giving closure to bereaved family members, to a tour of the Potocari cemetery, it was impossible not to grasp the significance of the worst event in recent European history.

However, an unavoidable lesson is that the genocide – and many of the deaths in the wider Bosnian war – would have been avoided were it not for international passivity.

By July 1995 the UN was 50 years old, NATO had turned 46 and the European Economic Community was a sprightly 37. A total of 133 years of experience could easily have saved Bosnia’s Muslims, if the will had existed.

The reality was a four-year collection of criminal blunders by the UN: an arms embargo was imposed on the territories of the former Yugoslavia, even though the Bosnian Serbs were already armed; Srebrenica was designated a “safe area”, but the peacekeepers were not given the necessary mandate or resources; and support from NATO was not called in until it was too late.

If the Bosnian Serb forces have blood on their hands, a stain is permanently etched on the conscience of the multilateral institutions set up to protect people.

Hasanovic says: “The international community have made so many mistakes. And they also left this burden of the past for future generations to deal with.”

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The Podrinje Identification Project (picture: John Young Media)

Genocide is not stopped by dropping food parcels into a country, or by debating mealy-mouthed resolutions in international talking shops. The Bosnian Serbs should have been defeated militarily, but were instead allowed under the Dayton Agreement to hold onto land they had ethnically cleansed.

In his 1999 report, former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan issued a mea culpa on behalf of the organisation: "The cardinal lesson of Srebrenica is that a deliberate and systematic attempt to terrorise, expel or murder an entire people must be met decisively with all necessary means, and with the political will to carry the policy through to its logical conclusion," he said.

Twenty-two years on from the end of the war, Bosnia is not so much at a crossroads as trapped on a circular road without an exit.

Its two-headed political structure – a key legacy of Dayton – is dysfunctional, youth unemployment is rampant and business start-ups are worryingly low.

Hasanovic says: “Young people only dream about leaving this country.”

However, such an assessment may be too bleak. Sarajevo, with its buzz and vibrancy, is a diamond and would sparkle even brighter if it was part of the European Union.

As for Subasic, the fight goes on. Mothers of Srebrenica believe the Netherlands should be held responsible for the deaths of Bosnian Muslims at the enclave. An appeal judgement in the case is imminent.

“The most important thing is that we have given them no peace for the last 20 years,” she says.

Hasecic also has grounds for optimism and says a memorial plaque will be unveiled soon in honour of the female victims. Justice, and logic, are coming.