World Bulletin/News Desk
A group of leading experts in the field of truth-seeking and memorialization sent a public letter calling on the authorities in the northern Bosnian city of Prijedor to acknowledge the war crimes committed in this city in 1992.
According to the statement issued on Wednesday by one of the organizations that initiated this action, the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) in New York, the letter was sent to the Mayor Marko Pavic, to the Bosnian government, UN Secretary General, EU representatives and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
“The discovery of a mass grave in the village of Tomasica, near the Bosnian town of Prijedor once again illustrates the dimensions of suffering endured by the citizens of Prijedor in the 1990s. The remains exhumed from its mass graves speak the difficult truth about the atrocities committed here and leave no room for denial. We invite the Mayor of Prijedor, to rise above narrow ethnic and political agendas and reach out to Prijedor’s most vulnerable citizens – victims’ families,” the letter signed by a group of truth and memorialization experts from around the world said.
The letter, co-signed by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Mendez; President of the International Center for Transitional Justice, David Tolbert; Executive Director of the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience, Elizabeth Silkes; and leading activists on the right to truth and memorialization from Argentina, Cambodia, Chile, Colombia, Guatemala, Lebanon, Northern Ireland, Peru, and South Africa, warns Prijedor authorities to stop with the practice of denial and to “uphold victims' universally recognized right to truth, which encompasses the basic right to grieve and honor their dead.”
Furthermore, the letter reminds the Mayor that crimes in Prijedor have been thoroughly documented in a number of trials before international and local courts, and that more than 30 people have been convicted.
The letter demands from Pavic to take "immediate and effective steps" to initiate the building of a memorial that will be “designed and built in consultation with victims and survivors: to allow the construction of a memorial to the victims of the Omarska detention camp: to encourage accurate, constructive, and peaceful public education about the events of 1992-1995, and to withdraw any measure that targets victims’ associations and human rights activists in Prijedor for exercising their freedom of expression.”
A mass grave was discovered in Tomasica in early September that is estimated to contain about 1,200 body remains, believed to be victims of genocide carried out by Serb forces in northern Bosnia.
During the first couple of months in 1992, the year Bosnian war began, Bosnian Serb forces took full control of the Prijedor area, and began with an "ethnic cleansing" which resulted in more than 3,000 deaths.
There are no memorials for these victims — mostly Bosnian Muslims and Croats — either In Prijedor, or surrounding areas.
Even more, Prijedor was notorious during the war for detention camps that were established by Bosnian Serb forces. Access to these places is restricted today while the victims have been prevented on several occassions to mark the place or to build a memorial.Last Mod: 09 Ekim 2013, 18:03