SARAJEVO, October 10 (FENA) – It is high time for political leaders to reach an agreement on marking the places of suffering throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina, it was stated in a response from the Office of the High Representative (OHR) to a request from a group of American citizens of BiH origin that the High Representative Christian Schmidt should use the Bonn powers to ensure that the surviving victims of war have the right to mark such places.
“Respecting the suffering of war victims among all nations is an important step on the path to reconciliation, and this process has been going on for too long,” the OHR told FENA.
However, representatives of the victims’ association are of the opinion that it is a shame that even after almost 30 years, many places where crimes of rape, imprisonment, torture and killing took place, have never been marked. They claim that the domestic leaders will never agree on this and that the only way to memorialize such places is for the High Representative to impose such a decision.
Mirsad Duratović, president of the Banja Luka Regional Association of Detainees and former Omarska, Manjača and Trnopolje detainees, told FENA that the surviving detainees have send the same appeal to the High Representative during the August 6 anniversary of the closing of the Omarska war camp.
“Of course, any new initiative and support is welcome and can contribute to the faster realization of this request of former detainees and the families of the killed detainees,” he pointed out.
Duratović emphasizes that a memorial plaque has already been erected in the infamous Keraterm camp, where more than 3,000 people were imprisoned, and in the Trnopolje camp, which is remembered by about 23,000 detainees, the renovation of the part of the building where the memorial room will be opened will begin soon.
“The opening of the memorial room is planned for the next anniversary of the closure of the concentration camp Trnopolje in 2022,” says Duratović.
A representative of the Association of Foča 92-95 War Victims, Midheta Kaloper-Oruli, considers it inadmissible that there is no memorial in Foča where, as she underlined, genocide was committed against the non-Serb civilian population and where a third of the killed and missing were women who were brutally tortured, raped, abused, and only then killed.
She emphasized that there is no memorial plaque in the Foča Penitentiary, where 709 people were imprisoned, 322 of whom were killed, nor at the so-called Bridge of Death, where Fočans was brutally killed and thrown into the Drina River.
Kaloper-Oruli reminded that in 2018, the Association, in cooperation with the UN Development Program (UNDP), launched a project to place a plaque on the Partizan camp, but that there is still no plaque.
Kaloper-Oruli claims that placing a memorial plaque at the site of the suffering is a human and moral obligation and a reminder that such crimes should never happen to anyone again.
President of the Association of Victims and Witnesses of Genocide, Murat Tahirović, told FENA that the Law on Missing Persons of BiH defined the marking of the place of suffering.
“Article 20 of that law enables the families of victims or associations to request from the Institute for Search for Missing Persons a certificate on the basis of which the municipal body is asked for permission to erect a memorial,” Tahirović explained.
He emphasized that according to the Law on Missing Persons of BiH, it is possible to place a memorial only in places where a mass or individual graves have been found.
However, he added, the law does not provide for the marking of other places of suffering and killing, such as detention camps or places of mass executions where no mass graves have been found. According to him, the solution is to impose a law on the rights of victims of torture at the level of BiH or by some other regulation.
“Certainly, the initiative sent to the High Representative in BiH is a step towards resolving this issue, but here the greatest responsibility lies with the BiH institutions, which must finally take over and deal with this problem,” Tahirović concluded.