With Šešelj’s Release from the Hague, Can There be Justice on the Ground in Bosnia?

 

David Pettigrrew shows solidarity with Bakira Hasecic at Straziste Cemetery in Visegrad. Photo by Markéta Slavková
David Pettigrew shows solidarity with Bakira Hasecic at Straziste Cemetery in Visegrad. Photo by Markéta Slavková

This is a guest post by Professor David Pettigrew. This article was published in Bosnian on Al-Jazeera Balkans 9-12-14

The recent release of ultranationalist demagogue Vojislav Šešelj1 from his detention at the Hague, for “compelling humanitarian reasons,”2 raises new questions about the legacy of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). Šešelj is charged, for example, with having “made inflammatory speeches in the media” and with having “espoused and encouraged the creation of a homogeneous ‘Greater Serbia,’ by violence, and thereby participated in war propaganda and incitement of hatred towards non-Serb people.”3 Upon his arrival in Belgrade following his release, Šešelj re-affirmed his commitment to pursuing a “Greater Serbia,” and brazenly asserted that he would never return voluntarily to the Hague. In addition to his “extreme ethnic rhetoric,” Šešelj is charged with “Persecutions” as a Crime Against Humanity, including murder, torture, and deportation.4

There is no doubt that the work of the ICTY is profoundly important, but Šešelj’s release indicates the troubling limits of the judgments of the Court. For example, even if Radovan Karadžić would be convicted on both counts of Genocide, the entity of Republika Sprska, with its political and cultural policies of genocide denial and the glorification of war criminals, would continue to exist, thereby circumscribing the limits of judicial processes in matters of justice and human rights.

In addition to the difficulties of achieving meaningful justice at the ICTY, there are frustrating obstacles to achieving “justice on the ground” in Republika Srpska. For example, the authorities in Republika Srpska have declared their intention to demolish the Pionirska Street house. The destruction of the house would erase all traces of the crimes that were perpetrated in 1992 when innocent women and children were burned alive both in the Bikavac neighborhood and in the Pionirska Street house. These were crimes, it must be said, that were described by the ICTY as “the worst acts of inhumanity that a person may inflict upon others.”5

Nonetheless, the authorities in Republika Srpska have designated the Pionirska Street house for demolition as part of a municipal road construction project, even though the foundation of the house is quite obviously far removed from the adjacent roadbed. A “red tape” was placed around the house by the authorities, announcing the condemnation of the property and prohibiting access.

In response to the plans to destroy the house and erase any evidence of the crimes, Mrs. Bakira Hasečić, President of the Association of Women Victims of War, organized an effort to restore the Pionirska Street house, a restoration that was to include a memorial museum for the victims in the basement where they were viciously murdered. Mrs. Hasečić’s efforts, however, led to her being the target of criminal investigations for “illegal construction,” and for crossing the “red tape,” or, what could be termed the “red line.”

At this point the final appeal to prevent the destruction of the house has been exhausted and Mrs. Hasečić is still being targeted for investigation and prosecution. Thus, Mrs. Hasečić is being targeted and persecuted a second time: she was first targeted and persecuted in 1992 as a result of the genocidal policies of Mr. Šešelj and Mr. Karadžić, and now she is targeted and persecuted once again as part of the apartheid politics of Republika Srpska; apartheid politics masquerading as the “rule of law.”

On March 18, 2014, I crossed the “red line” of the “red tape” at the Pionirska Street house in solidarity with Mrs. Hasečić, in order to respect and honor the memory of the victims of the crime, one of two crimes that the International Criminal Court insisted, stand out “for the viciousness of the incendiary attack, for the obvious premeditation and calculation that defined it, for the sheer callousness and brutality of herding, trapping and locking the victims in the two houses, thereby rendering them helpless in the ensuing inferno, and for the degree of pain and suffering inflicted on the victims as they were burnt alive.”6 The question now, is whether, as Vojislav Šešelj is receiving a hero’s welcome in Belgrade and is affirming the ideology of a “Greater Serbia,” the international community will find the resolve to support Mrs. Hasečić and to save the Pionirska Street house from demolition.

In his comments in Prague on October 30, 2014, the High Representative Valentin Inzko stated that “the international community needs to change” and that it must be “much more united,” and “more prescriptive” in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The High Representative insisted that Republika Srpska would not be allowed to secede and that Srebrenica would never be situated in a separate country.7 The High Representative also described genocide denial as “unbelievable,” and the glorification of war criminals in Republika Srpska as simply “unacceptable.” Such a glorification of war criminals is equivalent, in his opinion, to “hate speech.” He emphasized that Bosnia and Herzegovina needs to enact laws against genocide denial and hate speech.8

In response to Šešelj’s release from the Hague, and to his avowal of ultranationalism and hate speech, let us seek justice on the ground in Republika Srpska. If the right to the freedom of cultural expression guaranteed by the core International Human Rights documents does not include the right to memorialize and mourn the victims of a genocide, and to be protected against discrimination in this regard, then the documents would have no meaning.9 Survivors have also been prohibited from installing memorials to the victims of atrocities in Foča and Prijedor.

Accordingly, in the spirit of Mr. Inzko’s recent comments in Prague, I invite the High Representative and representatives of the international community to join me in crossing and defying the “red tape” at the Pionirska Street house in Republika Sprska, in the sense that this “red line” is the line of genocide denial, hate speech, discrimination, persecution, psychological intimidation and dehumanizing exclusion. Let us cross the red line together in remembrance of the victims, in solidarity with the survivors, and in support of human rights. When efforts to achieve justice are frustrated at the Hague, let us support human rights and justice on the ground in Republika Srpska.

Vojislav Šešelj is charged, among other crimes, with the “deliberate destruction of homes…cultural institutions, historic monuments and sacred sites.”10 Tragically, without some form of unified action, the anticipated demolition of the Pionirska Street house will be nothing less than the cruel re-enactment, in 2014, of the genocide that occurred between 1992-1995. The destruction of the Pionirska Street house will re-enact the Bosnian Serb Army’s practice of destroying homes, mosques and cultural institutions in civilian towns and villages, such as occurred from Kozarac (Prijedor Municipality) to Klotjevac (Srebrenica Municipality), and in many other locations. The international community was unable to stop the murder of civilians and the destruction of their homes from 1992 – 1995. The question is whether the international community will unite and act now to protect Mrs. Hasečić from further criminal investigation and prevent the destruction of the Pionirska Street house.

David Pettigrew, PhD

Professor of Philosophy, Southern Connecticut State University,

Member, Steering Committee, Yale University Genocide Studies Program,

International Team of Experts Institute for Research of Genocide Canada,

Board Member, Bosnian American Genocide Institute and Education Center, Chicago, IL

NOTES:

  1. International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Third Amended Indictment, Šešelj (IT-03-67-T), December 7, 2007, accessed November 28, 2014, http://www.icty.org/x/cases/seselj/ind/en/seslj3rdind071207e.pdf
  2. International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, ORDER ON THE PROVISIONAL RELEASE OF THE ACCUSED PROPRIO MOTU (IT-03-67-T), Trial Chamber III, November 6, 2014, accessed November 28, 2014, http://www.icty.org/x/cases/seselj/tord/en/141106.pdf
  3. International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Third Amended Indictment, Šešelj (IT-03-67-T), §10, b and c, December 7, 2007, accessed November 28, 2014.
  4. International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Third Amended Indictment, Šešelj (IT-03-67-T), §22, 24, 26, 27, 28-33, December 7, 2007, accessed November 28, 2014,
  5. International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Judgement, §1061, Trial Chamber III, July 20, 2009, accessed November 28, 2014, http://www.icty.org/x/cases/milan_lukic_sredoje_lukic/tjug/en/090720_j.pdf
  6. International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Judgement, Milan Lukić-Sredoje Lukić (IT-98-32/1-T), Judgement, §740, Trial Chamber III, July 20, 2009, http://www.icty.org/x/cases/milan_lukic_sredoje_lukic/tjug/en/090720_j.pdf
  7. Inzko, Valentin. “Panel Presentation and Discussion.” “Conference on “European Integration of the Western Balkans” Council for International Relations in Cooperation with Ministry of Foreign Affairs Czech Republic, Prague. 30 Oct. 2014. Speech. http://www.rmv.cz/cz/detail-clanku/integrace-balkanu-do-evropske-unie-mezinarodni-konference/#.VFkrmUv0gTN
  8. Ibid.
  9. The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights affirms that “the ideal of free human beings enjoying freedom from fear and want can only be achieved if conditions are created whereby everyone may enjoy his economic, social and cultural rights, as well as his civil and political rights.” http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CESCR.aspx

The International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination, Part I, Article 2 (2.) states that “Parties shall, when the circumstances so warrant, take, in the social, economic, cultural and other fields, special and concrete measures to ensure the adequate development and protection of certain racial groups or individuals belonging to them, for the purpose of guaranteeing them the full and equal enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms.” Article 5, (e) specifies Economic, social and cultural rights, including “(vi) The right to equal participation in cultural activities.” While the Pionirska Street house faces demolition in Višegrad, a statue that honors the perpetrators of the genocide has been installed in the middle of town, clearly indicating a discriminatory policy with regard to the cultural practice of memorialization. http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CERD.aspx

 

  1. International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Third Amended Indictment, Šešelj (IT-03-67-T), §17 j, December 7, 2007, accessed November 28, 2014, http://www.icty.org/x/cases/seselj/ind/en/seslj3rdind071207e.pdf

Mladić Plaque in East Sarajevo: A Continuation of the Genocide

 

Erecting Plaques to Genocidaries : In Honour of Ratko Mladic
Erecting Plaques to Genocidaries : In Honour of Ratko Mladic

 

This is a guest post by David Pettigrew, PhD Professor of Philosophy, Southern Connecticut State University. I am honoured to share this on my blog, Bosnian version of Professor Pettigrew´s text was published today by Al Jazeera Balkans

 

In June there were reports that a commemorative plaque honoring Ratko Mladić had been installed in the hills above Sarajevo.  When I returned to Sarajevo from Srebrenica, where I had witnessed the 19th annual commemorative burials of the victims of the genocide on July 11, I made plans to locate the commemorative plaque. I had to see it, as one says, with my own eyes. The plaque is located, as is the park, on Vraca Hill, just above Grbavica. The plaque was installed in a wall that borders Vraca Memorial Park, a park that commemorates the citizens of Sarajevo who died during World War II.1 As one climbs by car on Derviša Numića Street above Grbavica, a road sign announces that one is leaving Sarajevo Canton, and another sign announces that one is entering the Town of East Sarajevo, which is located within Republika Srpska.  The plaque is on the left side of the road, just another 50 meters further ahead.

In April 1992, the memorial park was seized by the Bosnian Serbs for its value as strategic high ground from which to attack the city of Sarajevo.2 The terraces of the memorial park extend to the northeast, looming above the city, and according to news reports as well as indictments based on eye-witness accounts, the park offered a position from which snipers could terrorize the citizens of Sarajevo.3 According to my sources there was a tank position located approximately 150 meters to the west of the park along Teočačka Street.  So this is the historical and geographic context of the location where we find that Mladic’s commemorative plaque has been installed: between a sniper position and a tank position.

Further, it should not escape our attention that this plaque glorifies an indicted war criminal who, as part of an “overarching joint criminal enterprise,” sought “to spread terror among the civilian population of Sarajevo through a campaign of sniping and shelling.”4 A relevant ICTY Judgement states that, “Evidence on the record also indicates that other senior members of the Bosnian Serb leadership, alleged to have been members of the JCE [Joint Criminal Enterprise], possessed genocidal intent. For example, in discussing Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats, Ratko Mladić, the Commander of the Army of the Republika Srpska Main Staff, is alleged to have said that ‘[m]y concern is to have them vanish completely’.”5 Hence, the commemorative plaque honoring Mladić is a brutal provocation directed at all Bosniaks and non-Serbs, and, given its location, it is an insult to the memory of those who were the victims of the siege of Sarajevo, a siege that murdered over 11,500 persons, including hundreds of children.

However, this glorification of Mladić in East Sarajevo is not an isolated incident. On July 9, when 175 coffins containing the human remains of the victims of the Srebrenica genocide arrived in Potočari in preparation for the commemorative burials on July 11, a statement was released by Milorad Dodik, the President of Republika Srpska, in which he denied the ruling of genocide for Srebrenica; declared that Mladić and Karadžić were leaders in the Serb fight for freedom; and insisted that the Serbian people would continue to honor them in the years ahead.6 Perhaps the commemorative plaque for Mladić takes its place in a tradition that includes the glorification of Gavrilo Princip who, in the opinion of the Bosnian Serbs, was a freedom fighter and hero. A park and statue honoring Princip was dedicated recently, also in East Sarajevo.7

This recent crop of memorials for Mladić and Princip reminds us of the fact that in Republika Srpska, survivors of the genocide who are non-Serbs have been frustrated in their efforts to install their own memorials in memory of the victims.  In Višegrad, for example, the Bosnian Serb authorities threatened to destroy or remove such a memorial in a private Muslim cemetery, and then, on January 23, 2014, they forcibly entered the cemetery under heavy police protection and ground the word “genocide” from the stone memorial. In Prijedor and Foča, sites of concentration camps and rape camps, survivors have been forbidden from installing memorials.

Moreover, the memorials to Mladić and Princip, for example, should not be understood simply as part of a Bosnian Serb  “counter narrative,” as though the memorials represent “one side,” while the other side (or sides) have their own narratives. To suggest that there are two or three equivalent narratives is reminiscent of the assessments during the genocide that there were two or three warring sides whose violent acts were morally equivalent. Such an assessment was morally repugnant because it was a betrayal of the truth, and because it contributed to the policy of nonintervention and inaction on the part of the international community, inaction that led finally to the genocide in Srebrenica.

Indeed, far from being a “counter narrative,” the plaque glorifying Ratko Mladić can be seen, most significantly, as nothing less than a continuation of the genocide that was perpetrated from 1992-1995.  Raphael Lemkin, who coined the term “genocide,” wrote that genocide has two phases: “one, destruction of the national pattern of the oppressed group; the other, the imposition of the national pattern of the oppressor.”8 The commemorative plaque in honor of Ratko Mladić is just such an imposition involving the public glorification of a man who was responsible for so much suffering, with no concern for the feelings of the survivors, no shame, and no sense of human decency. The imposition of the national pattern of the genocidal oppressor assumes that the first phase of genocide has been successfully accomplished. In other words, it assumes that the multicultural world that existed in the past no longer exists, and assumes further that the ultranationalist cultural narrative of the Serbs can now be imposed on the terrain with impunity, continuing to actively negate the world that once was.

Another example of the imposition of such an exclusionary cultural pattern involves the construction of Serb orthodox Churches in Bosniak villages in Republika Srpska. A Church in Budak, within Srebrenica municipality, for example, has been constructed in a village of Bosniak returnees, next to a secondary mass grave that has been exhumed, on the route of the peace march, and situated in such a way that the steeple looms in the distance over the Potočari Memorial Cemetery.  Perhaps nowhere is the impulse to impose a separatist culture of genocide denial more obvious than in Višegrad, where, having removed the word “genocide” from the memorial, the local authorities are seeking to raze the Pionirska Street house where approximately 60 women, children, and elderly were burned alive.  They seek to destroy the building in order to erase the traces of the heinous crimes, to recast the landscape and rewrite history in order to say that it never happened.

All this raises a question as to why the international community and, specifically the Office of the High Representative in Sarajevo, have been willing to permit such provocative gestures and discriminatory policies in a society in need of pathways to justice, reconciliation and healing.  This is certainly not the time for inaction that would appease ultranationalist politics and cultural practices that constitute no less than a continuation of the genocide.  The High Representative needs to act now to prohibit genocide denial as well as to prohibit the glorification of war criminals. These would be just two of the initiatives that the High Representative should address immediately in order to set Bosnia and Herzegovina on the path toward becoming a unified multicultural nation as well as part of the European Union. Inaction would amount to complicity in the ongoing genocide.

 

 

 

David Pettigrew, PhD Professor of Philosophy, Southern Connecticut State University,

Steering Committee, Yale University Genocide Studies Program,

International Team of Experts Institute for Research of Genocide, Canada,

Board Member, Bosnian American Genocide Institute and Education Center, Chicago, IL, USA

 

August 20, 2014

 

 

Notes

 

1. Vraca Memorial Park in Sarajevo has been designated as a National Monument of Bosnia and

Herzegovina. The official decision for the designation of Vraca Memorial Park as a national

monument identifies provisions for its protection and rehabilitation. Article III sets forth two

“Protection Zones” and inveighs against all actions that “might damage” or “jeopardize” the

preservation of the National Monument. Accessed August 15, 2014,

http://kons.gov.ba/main.php?id_struct=50&lang=4&action=view&id=2559

2. It bears mentioning that, in April 1992, the Bosnian Serbs seized the Vraca Police Academy and secured Grbavica, below the hill, for what was perhaps their most dramatic strategic incursion into Sarajevo during the siege. This is precisely what John Burns called, in an October 6, 1992, New York Times article, “a principle Serbian salient into the city.” John F. Burns, “Serbian Guns Resume Heavy Shelling of Sarajevo,” New York Times, October 6, 1992, accessed August 15, 2014,

http://www.nytimes.com/1992/10/06/world/serbian-guns-resume-heavy-shelling-of-sarajevo.html

3. For example, see §232 of International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Judgement,

Dragomir Milošević (IT-98-29/1-T), Trial Chamber III, December 12, 2007, accessed August, 6, 2014,

http://www.icty.org/x/cases/dragomir_milosevic/tjug/en/071212.pdf

Another reference to an eyewitness account can be found in Goran Jungvirth’s report “Journalist Recalls Siege of Sarajevo,” Institute for War and Peace Reporting, October 8, 2011, Accessed August 15, 2014, http://iwpr.net/report-news/journalist-recalls-siege-sarajevo: “This week, the prosecution also called two witnesses to testify about sniper attacks on trams full of civilians in Sarajevo. Alma Mulaosmanovic described how she and others were wounded on a tram in February 1995, when she was 18. The gunfire came from the Serb-controlled areas of Grbavica and Vraca, she said. According to the witness, incidents like this happened on a daily basis in Sarajevo in 1994 and 1995, terrorising the city’s population.”

4. International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Fourth Amended Indictment, Mladić

(IT-09-92-PT), Trial Chamber I, accessed August, 6, 2014, http://www.icty.org/x/cases/mladic/ind/en/111216.pdf

5.International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Judgement Summary, Karadžić (IT-9SSI18-AR98bis.l), Appeals Chamber, July 11, 2013, accessed August 15, 2014.

http://www.icty.org/x/cases/karadzic/acjug/en/130711_judgement_summary_rule98bis.pdf

6. “OHR mirno posmatra: Dodik najavio priznanje za Karadžića i Mladića, ponovo negira genocid i

http://www.klix.ba, accessed August 15, 2014, http://www.klix.ba/BiH,” vijesti/ohr-mirno-posm-dodiknajavio-priznanje-za-karadzica-i-mladica-ponovo-negira-genocid-i-bih/140710004

7.In a news article in b92 news portal, we read: “The statue was unveiled by Serb member of Bosnia-Herzegovina Presidency Nebojša Radmanović, Bosnia’s Serb entity, RS, President Milorad Dodik, and the mayor of East New Sarajevo, Ljubisa Ćosić. Shot was a prelude to what some Europeans were preparing for years, and Serbs emerged from that war as winners,’ Radmanović said during the ceremony on Friday… Addressing the ceremony … Mayor Ćosić said that Princip was ‘a hero of the Serb people.” “Monument to Gavrilo Princip unveiled in East´Sarajevo,” http://www.b92.net, accessed August 15, 2014,http://www.b92.net/eng/news/region.php?yyyy=2014&mm=06&dd=27&nav_id=90812

8.Raphael Lemkin, Axis Rule in Occupied Europe: Laws of Occupation – Analysis of Government -Proposals for Redress (Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1944), p. 79.

 

 

 

Here are some photos taken by  Professor Pettigrew from Vraca Hill

Open Letter To ICTY President Theodor Meron

 

The Old bridge ( Na Drini Cuprija) Višegrad
The Old bridge ( Na Drini Cuprija) Višegrad

 

This is a guest post by professor David Pettigrew.

Dear President Meron:

I am writing to you to express a grave concern about the ICTY’s prosecution of Mr. Radovan Karadžić, particularly regarding the removal of Višegrad and other municipalities from the indictment.

Approximately one year ago, on July 11, 2013, the Appeals Chamber reversed the Trial Chamber’s acquittal of Mr. Karadžić for genocide in the municipalities named under Count 1 of the indictment, and reinstated the charges against Mr. Karadžić under Count 1.1

The Appeals Chamber noted that “statements on the record … suggest that Karadžić possessed genocidal intent. For example, Mr. Karadžić is alleged to have said that his goal was ‘to get rid of the enemies in our house, the Croats and Muslims, and not to be in the same state with them [anymore]’ and that if war started in Bosnia, Muslims would disappear and be annihilated.”2

Thus, with the reinstatement of the charges under Count 1, it appeared that Mr. Karadžić would be prosecuted for the crime of genocide for atrocities committed in municipalities such as Prijedor and Višegrad, and that, through the legal process, there would be the possibility of a conviction for genocide under Count 1.

Moreover, the reinstatement of Count 1 for genocide was profoundly significant since, as the Appeals Chamber Judgement Summary stated, “the case concerns events that occurred between 31 March 1992 and 31 December 1992 in certain municipalities of Bosnia and Herzegovina claimed as Bosnian Serb territory…”3 In other words, the area “claimed as Bosnian Serb territory” was nothing other than the territory that is known as “Republika Srpska.” Accordingly, in the event that there is a conviction on the charge of genocide under Count 1, there would be confirmation that genocide was not only committed in Srebrenica, but that the genocidal intent of Mr. Karadžić pertained to the entirety of the territory of Republika Srpska. The profoundly important implication of this confirmation would be that Republika Srpska was founded upon a genocidal intention and that its territory was secured through genocidal atrocities. 4

However –and here is the matter of my concern– according to the October 8, 2009 Trial Chamber decision regarding the reduction of the scope of the Karadžić case, a reduction purportedly designed to insure that the trial would be conducted in “a fair and expeditious manner,” “the Prosecution proposed to remove eight municipalities in their entirety from the presentation of evidence.”5 The municipalities that were removed from the indictment included, Bosanski Petrovac, Kalinovik, Kotor Varoš, and Višegrad.  The removal of the selected municipalities from the indictment is evidenced by a line that is drawn through, or “struck through” the name of each of the selected municipalities. For example, Višegrad appears as such in the Prosecution’s Marked-up Indictment.

In its written decision the Court stated that “the preclusion of evidence pertaining to certain crime sites or incidents is not meant to suggest that the associated charges are of lesser importance than others.”6 However, “striking through” Višegrad, and removing the municipality from the indictment seems to fly in the face of the Court’s own ruling with respect to the crimes committed therein.  In his Judgement Summary for Milan Lukić and Sredoje Lukić of 20 July 2009, regarding crimes committed in Višegrad, Judge Robinson stated that:

The Pionirska street fire [June 14, 1992] and the Bikavac fire [June 27, 1992] exemplify the worst acts of inhumanity that a person may inflict upon others. In the all too long, sad and wretched history of man’s inhumanity to man, the Pionirska street and Bikavac fires must rank high. At the close of the twentieth century, a century marked by war and bloodshed on a colossal scale, these horrific events stand out for the viciousness of the incendiary attack, for the obvious premeditation and calculation that defined it, for the sheer callousness and brutality of herding, trapping and locking the victims in the two houses, thereby rendering them helpless in the ensuing inferno, and for the degree of pain and suffering inflicted on the victims as they were burnt alive. There is a unique cruelty in expunging all traces of the individual victims which must heighten the gravity ascribed to these crimes.”7

Having read Judge Robinson’s statement, and, having personally witnessed the exhumation of the human remains of victims from Višegrad in August 2010 when I accompanied the Bosnian Missing Persons Institute and the International Commission on Missing Persons in the course of their mission, it would not have occurred to me that it was in the interest of justice to remove Višegrad and the crimes committed therein from the indictment.

In your recent address to the U.N. Security Council, you spoke briefly about a range of expectations and implications of the ICTY’s decisions in relation to justice, peace and reconciliation.8 Your thoughtful reflections raise a question about the effect that the Court’s actions (or inactions) may have on certain perceptions. It seems, indeed, in the present context, that the absence of a conviction for genocide in Prijedor and the absence of a charge for genocide in Višegrad may well have emboldened the Bosnian Serb majority in those municipalities in their denials of the atrocities that were committed and in their suppression of the commemoration of the atrocities.

In Prijedor, for example, survivors have been forbidden from using the term “genocide” in public gatherings and have, moreover, been prohibited from installing memorials to the victims. In 2006, the local administration in Prijedor effectively prevented the installation of a memorial in the “White House” building that was part of the Omarska Concentration Camp. On December 1, 2005, ArcelorMittal, the current owner of the Omarska mining complex had actually agreed to allow the memorial to be installed and to provide financial support, but the Prijedor administration resisted the installation.

In Višegrad, the authorities threatened to destroy or remove a memorial to the victims in a private Muslim cemetery. Then, on January 23, 2014, the authorities forcibly entered the cemetery and ground the word “genocide” off the memorial.  It could be said that the Bosnian Serb-dominated municipality had effectively “struck through” or had “struck out” the term “genocide” from the memorial in the same way Višegrad had been struck through in the Prosecution’s Marked-Up Indictment.  If the intention was different, the result was the same.

In the meantime, it should not escape our attention that memorials to the perpetrators have been installed in Trnopolje (Prijedor), and Višegrad, and that only recently a memorial plaque honoring Commander Ratko Mladić, was installed in the hills above Sarajevo.

Hence, in the event that the prosecution of Mr. Karadžić culminates in a conviction for genocide under Count 1 in the named municipalities, it would be imperative, in the interest of justice, that the Court’s Judgement include a clear statement to the effect that while the conviction for genocide refers to a set of selected municipalities (the municipalities that remained in the indictment), in its essence, and in truth, the conviction for genocide under Count 1 would be a conviction for a genocidal intention that applied to the entirety of  the area “claimed as Bosnian Serb territory.”

If such a statement can be included in the Court’s Judgement, then those municipalities that were arbitrarily removed from the indictment would be inscribed once again in the essential scope of the conviction, an act of inclusion that would respect and respond to the singularity of the suffering that occurred throughout Republika Srpska as a result of the genocidal intention of the overarching joint criminal enterprise of its founding leadership.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

David Pettigrew, PhD Professor of Philosophy, Southern Connecticut State University,

Steering Committee, Yale University Genocide Studies Program,

International Team of Experts Institute for Research of Genocide, Canada,

Board Member, Bosnian American Genocide Institute and Education Center, Chicago, IL, USA

With the endorsement of:

Sanja Seferović-Drnovšek, J.D., M.Ed.,

Chair
person, Bosnian American Genocide Institute and Education Center (BAGI) Member, Illinois Holocaust and Genocide Commission;

Prof. Emir Ramić, Chairman,

Institute for the Research of Genocide, Canada (IRGC);

Prof. Dr. Rasim Muratović, Director,

Institute for the Research of Crimes Against Humanity and International Law, University of Sarajevo;

Satko Mujagić, Association of Victims and Witnesses of Genocide;

Ajla Delkić, Executive Director,

Advisory Council for Bosnia and Herzegovina;

Hamdija Čustović, President, Congress of North American Bosniaks (CNAB);

Bakira Hasečić, President, Association of Women Victims of War;

Selena Seferović, Director, Bosnian Library Chicago;

Prof. Dr. Senadin Lavić, President,

Bosniak Cultural Association, “Renaissance”;
Dr. Hariz Halilovich, Senior Lecturer,

Office of the Vice-Provost (Learning and Teaching),

Monash University, Victoria, Australia;

Dr. Marko Attila Hoare,

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences,

Kingston University, London;

Anes Džunuzović, Udruženje ”Mladi Muslimani” [Young Muslims];

Mr. Sc. Sedad Bešlija, Active Bosniak Network.

Statement Concerning the January 23, 2014 Desecration of the Stražište Memorial

The Old bridge ( Na Drini Cuprija) Višegrad
The Old bridge ( Na Drini Cuprija) in Višegrad

 

This is a guest post by David Pettigrew. Shortly after professor Pettigrew´s visit and his report The Guradian published a lengthy article by Julian Borger on the situation in Višegrad.

Višegrad, March 18, 2014

By my presence in the Stražište Cemetery today in Višegrad, I condemn genocide denial in Republika Srpska and specifically condemn the removal of the word “genocide” from the memorial to the victims of the genocide in the Stražište Cemetery, a removal carried out by the municipal authorities in Višegrad on January 23, 2014. On that day, the authorities forcibly entered the Muslim cemetery and defaced the memorial by scraping the word “genocide” from the stone memorial. Under the circumstances, this was a cowardly and heinous act of desecration and denial.

In May 2012, sixty victims of the genocide were laid to rest in Stražište cemetery.  Their human remains had been exhumed from the Drina River and Lake Perućac beginning in August 2010. At that time, repairs on a nearby dam had caused the river level to drop. It then became possible for the first time to find the victims who had been murdered on the Ottoman bridge and thrown into the river in 1992.  Perhaps the perpetrators thought they had hidden the evidence of their crimes once and for all. However, due to the heroic efforts of Bosnia’s Missing Person’s Institute and the International Commission on Missing Persons, the bones of the victims were recovered from the riverbed.  I accompanied the government exhumation team and I witnessed the discovery of the human remains. These were the victims who were laid to rest in the Stražište cemetery in 2012 when the memorial to the victims of the Višegrad genocide was installed.

When removing the word “genocide” on January 23, 2014, the local authorities suggested that they were operating under the “rule of law.” But they fail to recognize that their “rule of law” is discriminatory as well as a violation of human rights. Such a “rule of law” imposed by one ethnic group (Serb) upon another ethnic group (Bosniak or non-Serb) in Višegrad, is discriminatory in the same way that the Nuremberg Laws in Nazi Germany1 discriminated “legally” against the Jews, and in the same way that the “Jim Crow Laws”in the United States2  –from approximately 1876 to 1965– discriminated “legally” against Black Americans. It should not escape our attention that the Bosnian Serb majority in Višegrad achieved its current political authority precisely as a result of the genocide that occurred from 1992-1995.

The “rule of law” that authorized the defacing of the Stražište memorial is clearly discriminatory in the sense that a monument to the perpetrators of the genocide stands prominently and undisturbed in the center of the town of Višegrad. Further, such a discriminatory “rule of law” is also operative elsewhere in Republika Srpska, since Bosnian Serbs have erected their own memorials, which are located provocatively nearby the sites of the concentration camps –such as the one at Trnopolje (Prijedor)– while Bosniaks have been prevented from doing so.

The removal of the word “genocide” from the Stražište memorial is, moreover, a violation of every core human rights instrument regarding the fundamental human right to take part in the cultural life of one’s community.  Such conventions must certainly protect the social and cultural practice of memorializing the victims of genocide in a private religious cemetery.

My colleagues and I (Sanja Seferović-Drnovšek, Chairperson, Bosnian American Genocide Institute and Education Center in Chicago IL; Prof. Emir Ramić, Chairman Institute for the Research of Genocide Canada; and Prof. Dr. Smail Čekić, Director, Institute for the Research of Crimes Against Humanity and International Law, University of Sarajevo), have proposed that one way to protect human rights regarding the preservation of cultural memory would be to recognize the sites of genocide, whether in Foča, Omarska, Trnopolje, Višegrad, or elsewhere, as “national” properties, in the same way that the Potočari Memorial Cemetery has been established and preserved as a national site in memory of the victims of the Srebrenica genocide. By establishing these memorial sites as national lands, the survivors would be empowered to create memorials and commemorate the genocide in these specific “places of pain,”3 free of the denial and the suppression of the truth.

For their part, the authorities in Višegrad have signaled their insensitive and discriminatory intention to destroy the Pionirska House, which is the only existing “memorial” to the murder of innocent civilians by Bosnian Serb forces in Višegrad in 1992. In this case, the authorities are using the excuse of a road construction project to allow them to demolish and erase the only remaining evidence of the Pionirska and Bikavac crimes, crimes which the ICTY described as horrific, vicious, callous, brutal, and uniquely cruel.4

In the light of the documented suffering of the victims of the genocide in Višegrad, and of the victims throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina, the actions and intentions of the authorities in Višegrad can be characterized as indecent and shameless. In addition, those actions and intentions can be identified as “apartheid.” Indeed, the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid condemns “Any legislative measures and other measures calculated to prevent groups from participation in the political, social, economic and cultural life of the country and the deliberate creation of conditions preventing … the right to freedom of movement and residence, the right to freedom of opinion and expression…”5   Recent reports indicate that such discriminatory practices in Republika Srpska are affecting non-Serbs in a number of other respects, including taxes, property rights, residency, voting rights, and psychological intimidation affecting the right of return. Those discriminatory practices are a primary impediment to human rights and restorative justice as well as to national and regional economic development.

 

Let us stand in solidarity today with those who endured the genocide, and in memory of the victims as we request that the international community recognize and undertake its responsibility to protect, through all appropriate diplomatic, political and legal avenues, the Bosniak and non-Serb populations who are subject to persecution, psychological intimidation and discrimination in Republika Srpska.

Let us request that all necessary measures be taken to hold the authorities in Republika Srpska accountable for crimes against humanity under international law for willfully persecuting and discriminating against Bosniaks and other non-Serbs in their effort to secure the goals of the genocidal aggression and exclusion that took place from 1992 to 1995.

Sincerely,

David Pettigrew, Ph.D.,

Professor of Philosophy

Southern CT State University

Member, Steering Committee, Yale University Genocide Studies Program,

International Team of Experts Institute for Research of Genocide Canada,

Board Member, Bosnian American Genocide Institute and Education Center, Chicago, IL

Višegrad, March 18, 2014

1 “The Nuremberg Race Laws.” United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Web. 18 March 2014.

2 “Jim Crow Laws.” Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site. National Park Service. Web. 18 March 2014.

Open Letter to Ambassador Samantha Power Regarding the Demolition of the House on Pionirska Street

The house on Pionirska Street. Photo: Luca Bonacini
The house on Pionirska Street. Photo: Luca Bonacini

The Honorable Ambassador Samantha Power
Permanent U.S. Representative to the United Nations
United States Mission to the United Nations
799 United Nations Plaza
New York, N.Y. 10017

Dear Madame Ambassador:

We are writing to express our concerns about the plans of the Višegrad municipality to destroy the Pionirska house, one of the houses in Višegrad where the Lukić cousins trapped approximately 60 innocent Bosniaks in the basement of the house and burned them alive. The municipality also plans to remove the term “genocide” from a memorial to the victims of the genocide that has been erected in the Muslim cemetery in Višegrad. The recent municipal order authorized these destructive actions to take place on December 24, 2013.

The Pionirska house was one of two sites in Višegrad where, in 1992, innocent civilians–predominantly women and children– were forced into houses and burned alive. The ICTY called these crimes the “worst acts of inhumanity that a person may inflict upon others.” The Court continued:

In the all too long, sad and wretched history of man’s inhumanity to man, the Pionirska street and Bikavac fires must rank high. At the close of the twentieth century, a century marked by war and bloodshed on a colossal scale, these horrific events stand out for the viciousness of the incendiary attack, for the obvious premeditation and calculation that defined it, for the sheer callousness and brutality of herding, trapping and locking the victims in the two houses, thereby rendering them helpless in the ensuing inferno, and for the degree of pain and suffering inflicted on the victims as they were burnt alive. There is a unique cruelty in expunging all traces of the individual victims which must heighten the gravity ascribed to these crimes. (From the ICTY Judgment Summary for Milan Lukić and Sredoje Lukić, 20 July 2009)

The house at the site of the Bikavac fire was completely destroyed. The only “memorial” to the victims of these heinous crimes stands today at the Pionirska site. That is the very memorial to the victims that the Višegrad municipality plans to destroy.

Further, in the summer of 2010, work on a nearby dam caused the level of the Drina River to drop. Bosnia’s Missing Persons Institute and the International Commission on Missing Persons were therefore able to exhume the human remains of victims who had been murdered on or around the Mehmed Paša Sokolović Bridge in Višegrad in 1992, and thrown into the river. On May 25th 2012, 60 of those victims who had been identified were buried in the Muslim Stražište cemetery. At that time, the memorial for the victims of the genocide in Višegrad was erected in the cemetery. This is the only intentional memorial to the victims of the genocide in Višegrad.

Each of these sites (the Pionirska house and the Stražište memorial) serve to mark what Dr. Hariz Halilovich has called in his recent book “places of pain,” places that give form to the collective cultural memory of the genocide that was suffered by Bosniaks and other non-Serbs. The plan to destroy or deface these memorials is part of a systematic effort in Republika Srpska to deny the genocide.

It must be stated that similar efforts to deny and suppress the truth of the genocide are routinely practiced in the city of Prijedor and the surrounding area. The Mayor of Prijedor has attempted to prevent commemorative gatherings and has forbidden the use of the term “genocide.” Survivors of the concentration camps, for example, are only allowed to gather at the infamous Omarska camp one day each year. Further, survivors have been forbidden from erecting memorials at the sites of the former concentration camps. Bosnian Serbs, however, have erected their own memorials, which are located provocatively nearby the camps, such as the one at Trnopolje. In Višegrad, as well, a statue has been erected to the perpetrators in the middle of town, a statue that has become a gathering site for divisive ultranationalist rallies. Thus, the prohibition of memorials to the Bosniak victims in Višegrad and elsewhere reveals a policy of discrimination and apartheid in Republika Srpska.

It has not escaped our attention that what will probably be the largest mass grave to be exhumed since the end of the genocidal aggression was discovered in September 2013 at Tomašica, near Prijedor. Close to 500 victims have been found thus far. The grave covers an area of 5,000 square meters and is said to be 10 meters deep. A mass grave, a crime scene of this magnitude, could only have escaped attention this long due to the culture of denial and silence that permeates Republika Srpska.

We would like to propose that the only way to protect human rights regarding the preservation of cultural memory, as well as the right of return, would be to “federalize” these places of pain, whether in Foča, Prijedor, Trnopolje, Višegrad, or elsewhere, in the same way that the Potočari Memorial Cemetery was established and has been preserved in memory of the victims of the Srebrenica genocide. By establishing these memorial sites as federal, or as national property, the survivors would be empowered to create memorials and commemorate the genocide in these specific “places of pain,” free of the denial and the suppression of the truth.

We write to you now because of the current threat to the Pionirska house and to the Stražište memorial, but also because of the proliferation of efforts to intimidate and exclude non-Serbs from Republika Srpska. In recent months, for example, an ultranationalist billboard was installed in Vlasenica on the road to Srebrenica. The billboard bears the image of Ratko Mladic, as well as the message: “General, We are Waiting For You… Serb Vlasenica.” On the other side of the billboard, three phrases are visible: “Serb language, Serb Government, Orthodox Faith.”

These brutal actions to destroy or deface memorials to the genocide are part of a systematic effort in Republika Srpska to intimidate Bosniaks and non-Serbs who have returned to their former homes, and to prevent additional refugees from returning. Further, the destructive acts scheduled for December 24th will strike a decisive blow against efforts seeking justice and reconciliation. Such orchestrated efforts to intimidate Bosniaks from returning to Republika Srpska are a violation of Annex 7 of the Dayton Peace Accords. Annex 7 affirms “that refugees and displaced persons are permitted to return in safety, without risk of harassment, intimidation, persecution, or discrimination, particularly on account of their ethnic origin, ” and calls, moreover, for the prevention of any activities that would “hinder or impede the safe and voluntary return of refugees and displaced persons.” The intimidation of those who would seek to return to their former homes is, as well, a violation of the “right to freedom of movement and residence within the border of the State,” a human right affirmed by numerous core human rights instruments.

Finally, we write to you, because, in your book, “A Problem from Hell”: America and the Age of Genocide you chronicled and lamented the reluctance of the United States to intervene to prevent genocide. You wrote: “…time and time again, decent men and women chose to look away” (xvi). We implore you, at this time, not to look away. We ask you to coordinate a diplomatic intervention, in the spirit of the doctrine of “the responsibility to protect,” to protect and preserve the Pionirska house and the memorial in Stražište cemetery.

We encourage you to organize a diplomatic effort to recognize the places of pain, the sites where Bosniaks and non-Serbs were incarcerated, tortured, raped and killed during the genocide, as national property or land, so as to protect and preserve those sites. Let us stand, finally, with the courageous returnees and activists in Višegrad as we affirm their fundamental human rights and confront ultranationalist efforts to continue the dehumanizing exclusion of Bosniaks and non-Serbs from Republika Srpska, exclusions that are nothing less than the continuation of the genocide that occurred between 1992 and 1995.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

David Pettigrew, Ph.D.,
Professor of Philosophy, Southern Connecticut State University,
Member, Steering Committee, Yale University Genocide Studies Program,
International Team of Experts Institute for Research of Genocide Canada,
Board Member, Bosnian American Genocide Institute and Education Center, Chicago, IL;

with

Sanja Seferovic-Drnovsek, J.D., M.Ed.,
Chairperson, Bosnian American Genocide Institute and Education Center (BAGI);

Prof. Emir Ramic, Chairman, Institute for the Research of Genocide, Canada (IRGC);

Prof. Dr. Smail Cekic, Director, Institute for the Research of Crimes Against Humanity and International Law, University of Sarajevo;

Mirsad Duratovic, President of the Association of Detainees “Prijedor 92”;

Dr. Senadin Lavic, President, Bosniak Cultural Association, Sarajevo

New Haven, 22 December 2013

Professor of Philosophy, Southern Connecticut State University, David Pettigrew at Stražište cemetery
Professor of Philosophy, Southern Connecticut State University, David Pettigrew at Stražište cemetery

U sjećanje žrtvama Višegradskog genocida: Neka istina dovede do pravde

Pet1

Autor: Profesor David Pettigrew

Danas stavljam vijenac na mezarju Stražište u znak sjećanja na žrtve genocida u Višegradu. Ovaj izvještaj sam realizirao u saradnji sa Institutom za istraživanje zločina protiv čovječnosti i međunarodnog prava Univerziteta u Sarajevu te Instituta za istraživanje genocida iz Kanade, a bosansko-američkog Instituta genocida i edukacijskog centra iz Čikaga. Koristim ovu priliku da im se zahvalim im na podršci. Posebno zahvaljujem prof. dr. Smail Čekiću za njegovo pažljivo planiranje i pomoć.

U maju 2012. godine, šezdeset duša je ukopane na Stražištu. Njihovi ostaci su ekshumirani iz rijeke Drine i jezera Perućac u augustu 2010. U to vrijeme, popravci na obližnjoj brani izazvali su pad vodostaja rijeke. Stoga je postalo moguće po prvi put, a možda i posljednji, naći žrtve koje su ubijene na osmanskom mostu i bačene u rijeku 1992. godine.

Možda su počinitelji mislili da su sakrili dokaze o njihovim zločinima jednom i zauvijek. Međutim, zahvaljujući herojskim naporima Institut za nestale osobe Bosne i Hercegovine i Međunarodne komisije za nestale osobe, kosti žrtava pronađene su u koritu rijeke. Znam to jer sam se pridružio vladinom timu za ekshumaciju i sam sam svjedok otkrića ljudskih ostataka. To su bili vrlo žrtve koje su ukopane na Stražištu, a u čije sam sjećanje došao danas u Višegrad.

Važno je napomenuti da su brojni građani nesrpske nacionalnosti u Višegradu pretrpjeli mnoge zločine za vrijeme genocidne agresije 1992-1995. U dva navrata bošnjačke žene, djeca i starci su potrpane u kuće koje su nakon toga spaljene do temelja. Oni su nestali u plamenu. Ovi slučajevi ostat će zapamćeni kao tragedije u Pionirskoj ulici (14. juna 1992) i Bikavac (27. juni 1992).

U slučaju presude dvojici počinitelja, predsjednik MKSJ, sudac Patrick Robinson je napisao da je “U isuviše dugoj, tužnoj i jadnoj povijesti čovjekove nehumanosti prema čovjeku, požari u Pionirskoj ulici i Bikavacu moraju imati visoki rang. Potkraj dvadesetog stoljeća, stoljeća obilježeno rata i krvoprolića na kolosalnih razmjera, ovi strašni događaji se ističu po svojoj pokvarenosti, radi očitog umišljaja i pripreme, kroz zamke i zaključavanje žrtve u dvije kuće, što ih je učinilo bespomoćnim u buktinji koja je uslijedila, a za stupanj boli i patnje nanesene žrtvama, kao što su živa spaljena. Postoji jedinstvena vrsta okrutnosti i sakrivanja tragova pojedinih žrtava koja podižu zapravo stepen ozbiljnosti koji se pripisuje ovim zločinima.”

U Višegradu su se nalazili i najzloglasniji pritvorni centri i kampovi za silovanja. Također, najveći postotak žrtava u Višegradu bili su žene i djeca.

Danas se sjećamo višegradskih žrtava, kao što se sjećamo žrtava srebreničkog genocida iz jula 1995 . godine, kao i prijedorskih žrtava iz poznatnih ratnih logora u Omarskoj, Keratermu i Trnopolju. Sjećamo se i brojnih drugih žrtava ratnih zločina od Bihaća do Sarajeva, od Mostara do Bijeljine.

Danas mi osuđujemo politiku negiranja genocida u Višegradu i entitetu Republika Srpska, danas na mezarju u Stražištu. Ono se oslikava u poruci na mezarju gdje stoji: “U sjećanje žrtvama višegradskog genocida: Neka istina dovede do pravde.”

Želimo odati priznanje građanima i aktivistima koji su podigli ovaj memorijal i uredili mezarje, kako bi ono govorilo istinu o genocidu. Ti građani su nas inspirirali zato što su oni ostavili svoja srca otvorenim i nadu da će istina dovesti do pravde. Zahvaljujemo im na hrabrosti, a našim dolaskom ovdje mi stajemo uz njih i branimo pravo svih izbjeglih i raseljenih lica na povratak u njihove kuće bez straha od zastrašivanja, proganjanja i diskriminacije.

Izražavamo nadu za budućnost i jedinstvenu multikulturalnu Bosnu i Hercegovinu, koja će funkcionirati kao demokratsko društvo, poštujući vladavinu prava i uz punu integraciju sa regijom. To dugujemo i žrtvama genocida u Višegradu.

S poštovanjem,

David Pettigrew, doktor nauka,

Profesor filozofije, Southern Connecticut State University,
Nadzorni odbor – Yale University Genocide Studies Program,
Međunarodni tim eksperata Instituta za istraživanje genocida u Kanadi
Bosansko-američki Insitut i edukacijski centar o genocidu u Čikagu

Izvještaj o Višegradskom Genocidu se moze naci i na stranici Helsinskog Odbora za Ljudska Prava u Srbji

Pet2

Pet3

Pet4

Pet5

Pet6

Pet7

Pet8

Pet9

Pet10

Pet11

Pet14

Remembering the Victims of the Višegrad Genocide

Pet1

This is a guest post by my friend, Professor David Pettigrew

Statement for Višegrad Stražište Cemetery, July 16, 2013.
“To the Memory of the Victims of the Višegrad Genocide: May Truth Lead to Justice.”

I am placing a wreath today at the memorial in Stražište cemetery in solemn memory of the victims of the genocide in Višegrad. I am doing so in cooperation with the University of Sarajevo Institute for the Research of Crimes Against Humanity and International Law; the Institute for Research of Genocide, Canada; and the Bosnian American Genocide Institute and Education Center, Chicago, IL, USA. I thank them for their support. I am also grateful to be joined in Višegrad by local citizens and activists including Bakira Hasečić and Bilal Memišević. Finally, I thank Prof. Dr. Smail Čekić for all his help with planning and arrangements.

In May 2012 sixty souls were laid to rest in Stražište cemetery. Their human remains had been exhumed from the Drina river and Lake Perućac beginning in August 2010. At that time, repairs on a nearby dam had caused the river level to drop. It then became possible for the first time, and perhaps for the last time, to find the victims who had been murdered on the Ottoman bridge and thrown into the river in 1992. Perhaps the perpetrators thought they had hidden the evidence of their crimes once and for all. However, due to the heroic efforts of Bosnia’s Missing Person’s Institute and the International Commission on Missing Persons, the bones of the victims were recovered from the riverbed. I know this because I accompanied the government exhumation team and I witnessed the discovery of the human remains. These were the very victims who were laid to rest in the cemetery in 2012, and whose memory we honor today.

It is important to note that non-Serbs in Višegrad suffered many atrocities during the genocidal aggression from 1992 to 1995. On two separate occasions Bosniak women, children, and elderly men were forced into houses that were set on fire. They perished in the flames. These are known and will be remembered as the Pionirska Street (June 14, 1992) and Bikovac (June 27, 1992) tragedies.

In the case that convicted two of the perpetrators, presiding ICTY Judge Patrick Robinson wrote that “In the all too long, sad and wretched history of man’s inhumanity to man, the Pionirska street and Bikavac fires must rank high.

At the close of the twentieth century, a century marked by war and bloodshed on a colossal scale, these horrific events stand out for the viciousness of the incendiary attack, for the obvious premeditation and calculation that defined it, for the sheer callousness and brutality of herding, trapping and locking the victims in the two houses, thereby rendering them helpless in the ensuing inferno, and for the degree of pain and suffering inflicted on the victims as they were burnt alive. There is a unique cruelty in expunging all traces of the individual victims which must heighten the gravity ascribed to these crimes.” Also, on this occasion, we must recall that one of the most heinous detention centers and rape camps was located in Višegrad. Finally, it must be said that in Višegrad the highest percentage of the victims of the aggression and war crimes were women and children.

We remember the Višegrad victims today, as we also remember the victims of genocide in Srebrenica, following the recent commemoration of the July 1995 genocide, as well as the victims of the genocide in Prijedor municipality who were murdered, and who suffered as well forcible displacement and imprisonment in concentration camps. We remember, indeed, the victims of the war crimes that were committed from Bihać to Sarajevo; from Mostar to Bijeljina.

Today we condemn and we resist the culture of genocide denial in Višegrad and in Republika Srpska by laying our wreath at the memorial in the Stražište cemetery. Our wreath reads: “To the Memory of the Victims of the Višegrad Genocide: May Truth Lead to Justice.” We would also like to recognize and honor the citizens and activists who created this memorial in the cemetery in order to tell the truth about the genocide. These citizens and activists have inspired us because they have kept their hearts open to the hope that the truth will lead to justice. We thank them for their courage. By our presence we stand with them and we affirm the right of all refugees and displaced persons to return to their homes without risk of intimidation, persecution or discrimination. We would like to express our hope for the future of a unified multicultural Bosnia and Herzegovina, operating as a democratic society under the rule of law, and fully integrated within the region. We owe nothing less to the victims of the Višegrad genocide.
Thank you,

David Pettigrew, PhD

Professor of Philosophy, Southern Connecticut State University,
Steering Committee, Yale University Genocide Studies Program,
International Team of Experts Institute for Research of Genocide, Canada,
Board Member, Bosnian American Genocide Institute and Education Center, Chicago, IL, USA

This statement has been published by Helsinki Committee For Human Rights in Serbia

Pet2

Pet3

Pet4

Pet5

Pet6

Pet7

Pet8

Pet9

Pet10

Pet11

Pet14