This article appeared on Serbian portal e-novine 03-10-2013.
Bosnian Association of former Concentration Camp Prisoners and the Association of “Women Victims of War” announced that they are shocked and appalled by the events that took place last week in the eastern Bosnian town of Vlasenica. During the event called “The march of return- by road of salvation Sušica 2013” when a large poster of general Ratko Mladić was placed by the side of the road on the way out of Vlasenica. The poster read ; “General… We Are Waiting For You…Your Vlasenčani (citizens of Vlasenica)”…
Ratko Mladić is currently on trial at The Hague suspected for the crime of genocide in Srebrenica.
“We consider this to be a classic example of endorsement and glorification of war crimes and genocide, spreading of inter-ethnic hatred and intolerance as well as an attack on the victims of torture- former concentration camp prisoners, victims of sexual violence during the war. This also affects the families of those the victims and the missing and an attack on the consciousness and conscience of every normal citizen of this country” according to the statement by the associations…
The signatories’ state in their announcement that the message being sent to the victims or to those that have returned to their former homes in Republika Srpska is clear.
“ We remind everyone that Vlasenica was, as has been confirmed by verdicts against Dragan Nikolić, Predrag Bastah and Goran Višković a scene of a horrific crime carried out against the community´s non-Serb albeit mostly Bosniak population. Around 8000 people suffered through the agony of Sušica Concentration Camp, around 1600 of those have been killed or have disappeared without a trace and that hundreds of girls and women were raped. Altogether, the total number of killed and missing Bosniaks from Vlasenica is around 3000”
This is according to Association of former Concentration Camp Prisoners and the Association of “Women Victims of War” not an isolated event but an everyday occurrence in Republika Srpska. Both associations have submitted a more extensive list of information about this incident to the proper authorities and security services in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
“We expect the proper authorities and security services to act promptly and efficiently and that they inform the victims, the returnees as well as the general public who is responsible for this heinous act, this open spreading of inter-ethnic hatred and intolerance, endangering the security of the returnees to Republika Srpska by violating the Annex 7 of the Dayton Peace Accords. We also hope that the security services in Bosnia and Herzegovina will be able to, in a very near future if not prevent then at least adequately and efficiently prosecute those responsible for such incidents.” according to the statement.
Further information ( My note)
Dragan Nikolic :
was commander of the Serb-run Sušica Detention Camp in the municipality of Vlasenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1992. While in charge of the camp, he participated in creating and maintaining an atmosphere of terror and systematic sadism in the camp for the Bosnian Muslims and other non-Serb detainees. Nikolić personally killed nine people, and tortured and beat other detainees. Under his guidance women of all ages were raped or sexually assaulted..Nikolić was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment.
Source ; ICTY
Predrag Bastah and Goran Višković:
The accused Predrag Bastah and Goran Višković were found guilty because between April and late September 1992, as part of a widespread and systematic attack of parts of the JNA units, military, paramilitary and police forces of the Serb Republic of BiH directed against the civilian Bosniak and other non-Serb population of Vlasenica Municipality, with knowledge of such an attack and of the fact that their acts constituted part of the attack, as members of these forces, specifically Predrag Bastah as a member of the reserve forces of the MUP of RS, SJB Vlasenica and Goran Višković as a member of the Army of the Serb Republic of BiH, persecuted the civilian population of Bosniak and other non-Serb ethnicities on political, ethnic and religious grounds by participating in a joint plan and its contribution to the fulfillment of a common goal of depriving the lives of other persons (killings), unlawful imprisonment, psychological and sexual mistreatment, enforced disappearance, torture and other inhumane acts committed to inflict bodily and mental harm.
Source : The Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina
(Small correction, in my original post I wrote that the picture above is from the town of Foča, in fact it is from the neighbouring town of Gacko. The photographer, Jaques Cotard made the misstake of confusing Foca with neighbouring Gacko. )
After the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords which split the country into two enteties, Foča became a part of Republika Srpska. Both Vlasenica and Foča are in eastern Bosnia with 140 kilometers between the two towns. As you could read above Vlasenica was a scene of some of the worst crimes committed during the genocidal campaign carried out by radicals loyal to Radovan Karadzic in collusion with the Yugoslav Army and Serb security forces. Sadly the fate that befell Foča is no different.
On june 12th 2002 International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) upheld the guilty verdict for three Bosnian Serb soldiers; Dragoljub Kunarac, Radomir Kovač and Zoran Vuković. Previous year the Trial Chamber had found the three men guilty of :
crimes against humanity on the counts of enslavement, rape and torture as well as violations of the laws and customs of war on the counts of rape and torture. In the same decision, Radomir Kova~ was found guilty of crimes against humanity on the counts of enslavement and rape as well as violations of the laws and customs of war on the count of outrages upon personal dignity. Zoran Vukovic was found guilty of crimes against humanity on the counts of rape
The Trial chamber also concluded that:
One purpose of the campaign was, among others, to cleanse the Foča area of Muslims; to that end the campaign was successful. Even the town’s name was cleansed. Foča was renamed Srbinje ( a town for Serbs) and now lies in the territory of the Republika Srpska. There are hardly any Muslims left in Srbinje today. One target of that campaign, apart from the Muslim armed forces, were Muslim civilians. In the present case, especially Muslim women. The method employed was mostly expulsion through terror. On a general level, the terror expressed itself in the violent destruction of the religious symbols of the Muslims. All mosques in Foča were blown up and the ruins razed to the ground. Civilian Muslim men and women were rounded up in the villages surrounding Foca, and even as far as the neighbouring municipalities of Kalinovik and Gacko. The men were separated from the women and children
Rape as instrument of terror
In the trial of Dragoljub Kunarac, Radomir Kovač and Zoran Vuković the trial chamber also concluded that the Bosnian Serb Army and paramilitary units used rape as an intrument of terror according to the Trial Chamber´s verdict, Serb forces set up and maintained detention centers for Muslim ( Bosniak) women in the town of Foca. Such as Partizan Sports Hall which lies right next to the municipal police building in Foca, from the Sports Hall, women and girls were taken away to other locations to be raped, this was done according to the Trial Chamber on a regular basis. The Trial Chamber further stated that those meant to protect the women, meaning the local authorities not only turned a blind eye to the suffering of the women in Foca, but that they helped guard the women and even joined in on the abuse of the women when they would ask the local police help them.
The trial chamber goes on to say; that according to the evidence;
Muslim (Bosniak) women and girls, mothers and daughters together, robbed of the last vestiges of human dignity, women and girls treated like chattels, pieces of property at the arbitrary disposal of the Serb occupation forces, and more specifically, at the beck and call of the three accused.
In October 2011 PBS aired it´s Women, War, and Peace series, a five-part series about the struggle women face in conflict areas. The first installment of those series was called; I Came to Testify. A documentary about the women of Foča. The same women that had been subjected to various forms of physical abuse and rape by Bosnian Serb military forces. Narrated by Matt Damon, I Came to Testify tells the story of 16 Bosniak women that came to testify against their former captors, and changed the face the justice forever. Among those who they testified against were Dragoljub Kunarac, Radomir Kovač and Zoran Vuković.
I Came to Testify Women, War, and Peace