A house in the eastern Bosnian town of Visegrad, in which dozens of people were burned alive by convicted war criminals Milan and Sredoje Lukic is about to be destroyed due to the construction of a road.
On October 12th I wrote an article on the continued struggle of Victims Associations in Visegrad to stop the destruction of the house on Pionirska Street, the site of the live pyre which took the lives of 59 people. The house and the site has been subject to an ongoing dispute, that has now culminated with the decision to demolish the house on 24th of December 2013, on the same day a crew is set to enter the Straziste Memorial and Cemetry and remove the word; Genocide from the Memorial.
This story appeared on Bosnian news site Klix.ba 18.12.2013.
Municipal – Construction Inspector for the Municipality of Visegrad approved a request for the destruction of a newly renovated house in Visegrad, the house on Pionirska Street is to be destroyed on 24th of December, on Christmas Eve. The house, property of one ; Sumbula Zeba was on the 14th of june 1992 a scene of a live pyre which took the lives of 53 Bosniaks from the Visegrad area. The reconstruction and renovation of the house, is thus of great significance not only to the victims’ families, who consider the house to be as close to a graveyard for their loved ones as they will ever get, but also to the returnees who alone worked on the house as well as to the owner of the house.
Since the very beginning of the renovation, those that participated on it have been subjected to various forms of obstructions, bans and have been called to different interviews and hearings by various local inspection services as well as investigators from the local police station in Visegrad. All this according to Bakira Hasecic, who has been leading the reconstruction and was given power of attorney by the owner of the house Sumbula Zeba. Hasecic is also the president of the Women Victims of War Association.
According to Hasecic: “Milan Lukic was sentenced to life imprisonment for the crimes committed here, while his cousin sentenced to 27 years, while we today still have to deal with various obstructions coming from the local SDS branch here in Visegrad.”
The crime in question is commonly referred to as the Pionirska Street Live Pyre. After the local municipal inspectors approved the demolition, a formal complaint was filed against it, however the complaint was rejected.
“It seems obvious that the authorities’ in Banja Luka did not see the complete documentation on this case, if they had they would have seen that the house which was burned down during the war, was a scene of live pyre and that in that fire 53 civilians died. There is also a law on the rights of refugees in which it says that no one needs to apply for a permit from the municipal building inspection when renovating unless they intend to completely change the character of the building and/or extend the foundations of the building. This house was rebuilt on its original foundation and we did not in any way stray from the rules” according to Hasecic.
Because of the violations of human rights in Visegrad, a delagtion comprised of members of the OHR, the US Embassy and OSCE visited Visgerad today and the house on Pionirska Street, after that they meet with local leaders.
“The reason for our visit is so that we can see for our self’s what is going on here, and to learn more about the situation concerning the house, the regulatory process, and I am convinced after being here, that there are no problems here and that is what we will report to the Office of the High Representative in Sarajevo, said Peter Appleby the head political officer of the OHR. He added that representatives of the international community were worried about the approval for the demolition of the house on Pionirska Street saying that the process needs to be handled by the book, which takes time, and that time should be set aside to do this properly, which also means a right to file a an official complaint.”
“I´ll talk to the mayor and the deputy of the deputy of the municipal assembly and convey my stance on the issue and that of my colleagues from the international community that we believe that there is a way to find a compromise solution. This is not just a question of the rule of law, this is also about human rights, and above all about return of refugees and reconciliation and that is something that we all should get behind. “
Workers from a local company “Komunalac” are also set to remove the word : Genocide from a memorial to the victims of the Visegrad Genocide at the Straziste cemetery, the planned removal is set for the same day as the demolition of the house on Pionirska Street. According to the head of the Islamic Community in Visegrad, Bilal Memisevic the gates of the cemetery will be closed on that day, since access to the cemetery is only permitted to those who have family members buried there.
“We´ll try to tell the local authorities in Visegrad that we will not use force to repeal anyone but, we will point to the fact that force has been used against us. We consider the cemetery at Straziste to be holy ground and nobody who did not notify us of their presence in advance or does not respect Islamic Law is not permitted there. I cannot believe that the house on Pionirska Street will be destroyed, the same way that I cannot believe that the Bosnian community as a whole and those with any kind of say on this matter would allow something like this to happen. My opinion is that the house in Pionirska Street needs to be defended even if we have to do so physically.” According to Memisevic.
Representatives from various bosniak NGO´s told the press that they would do everything to protect the Memorial at Starziste.
“We´ll follow the events on the ground closely thru our partners from other associations, and we will take appropriate measures. We hope the outcome will be a positive one, but we are prepared in case things don´t turn out as well as possible “All this according to the representative of the NGO´s Senadin Voloder.