In the process of building a monument to civilian victims of genocide in Prijedor, “Friends of Prijedor” delegation and the Genocide Research Institute in Canada held a meeting in Chicago’s city administration.
Earlier, they urged for a memorial for the 3,167 victims of the aggression perpetrated by the Bosnian Serbs against non-Serbs in Prijedor Municipality which began in 1992.
The atrocities that were committed have been extensively documented in the proceedings of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, and in published books and other reports. There have been numerous convictions of the perpetrators, including on appeal, for the crimes that were committed in Prijedor Municipality. However, while the perpetrators have been glorified, for example, in a memorial adjacent to Trnopolje concentration camp, family members of the victims have not been permitted to erect a memorial either in Trnopolje, or in the location of Omarska concentration camp, or in the center of Prijedor. Repeated efforts to erect a memorial have been frustrated by the Prijedor Municipal Assembly.
With the public glorification of the perpetrators, the prohibition of a memorial for the victims is clearly discriminatory. This prohibition constitutes a human rights violation, as well as a violation of Annex 7 of the Dayton Peace Accords. Annex 7 guaranteed the right of refugee return “without risk of intimidation, persecution, or discrimination.” The parties agreed to create “social conditions conducive to the voluntary return and harmonious reintegration of refugees and displaced persons, without preference for any particular group.”
The discriminatory prohibition of a memorial for the victims is a form of humiliation and psychological intimidation that discourages refugee return, impeding the original intention of Annex 7, and preventing the possibility of local reconciliation that such a memorial could facilitate.
In villages in the Prijedor area, such as Biscani, Hambarine, and Kozarac, civilian homes, along with mosques, were shelled and burned. In this process, civilians were wounded and murdered. Witnesses reported houses being burned with civilians still inside. Groups of civilians were seized and transferred to concentration camps, including Omarska, Keraterm, and Trnopolje. In the camps, detainees suffered interrogations, inhumane conditions, food deprivation, humiliation, beatings, and murder. Women faced rape. Detainees held in the “white house” at Omarska faced heinous treatment: “many detainees died as a result of these repeated assaults on them in the white house.”
In his recent book, Death in the White House, Mirsad Causevic, who was tortured in Omarska, writes, “I watched my friend’s skull cave in from a heavy blow, as his blood spattered everywhere. …I felt a sharp blow to my left kidney…I looked around and saw my attacker wearing the uniform of a policeman… He hit me again. And again, until I could not take it anymore and collapsed to my knees with a cry of pain…he moved on to my head. I felt the warmth as blood spurted from my face…I passed out.”This was the first of endless beatings he experienced in Omarska: “Everyday brought new indignities, new cruelties, as dozens would perish to satisfy their bloodlust.” Mirsad witnessed others being beaten to death.