Press Release: Pioneer Street Massacre 14.06.1992-14.06.2010

Press Advisory

VIŠEGRAD GENOCIDE MEMORIES BLOG / WOMEN VICTIMS OF WAR, BOSNIA

Survivors of one of 20th Century’s most horrific crimes “short-changed” by Karadzić trial

Image: The house in Pioneer Street(Pionirska ulica) where 59 Bosniak civilians were burnt alive by Bosnian Serb soldiers on June 14, 1992. (ICTY photo)

On June 14 a small group of survivors and relatives of victims will revisit the site of one of the 20th Century’s most horrific crimes to commemorate the day when a group of seventy Bosnian Muslim civilians – women, children and the elderly – were locked into a house in Pionirska Street in the historic eastern Bosnian town of Višegrad and 59 of them were burned to death.

In the summer of 1992 Bosnian Serb soldiers led by Milan Lukić terrified the Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) population of the small but strategically located town with a ferocious campaign of murders, mass rape and disappearances, including the Pionirska massacre.  It was not until July 2009 that Lukić, a post-war fugitive in Argentina, was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague for this and other brutal crimes committed during the ethnic cleansing of Bosnia’s Drina Valley.

After eighteen years’ wait, this year survivors and relatives will have the small satisfaction of knowing that the man responsible for a crime described by sentencing ICTY Judge Patrick Robinson as “ranking high in the all too long, sad and wretched history of man’s inhumanity to man” is finally behind bars, serving a life sentence.

Even so, they feel themselves at the receiving end of “short-change justice” from the ICTY.  The man they hold ultimately responsible for the ethnic cleansing of Višegrad, Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzić, is no longer facing charges for the massacre at Adem Omeragić’s house.  Prosecutors in The Hague, pressed for time as the Tribunal approaches the end of its mandate, have drastically slimmed the charge sheet.

Radovan Karadzić can now forget the victims of Pionirska Street but the survivors will continue to honour their memory.  The commemoration will take place outside the house in Pionirska Ulica, Višegrad, at 12 p.m. on 14 June.

For further information about the Pionirska Street commemoration and interview arrangements please feel free to contact Bakira Hasečić of Women Victims of War, tel. +387 61 272 000 (Bosnian) / email: udruzenjezenazrtva_rata@bih.net.ba / website: http://www:zena-zrtva-rata.ba

or Višegrad Genocide Memories Blog editor – email: visegradgenocide@gmail.com (English/Bosnian)

[Ends]

—–

Notes for editors:

The entire Bosniak population of Višegrad was “ethnically cleansed” between May and July 1992.  3000 were murdered or disappeared, another 8000 were expelled.  In the thirteen years since the war only a small percent have returned to their former home.

The town’s historic 16th century Mehmed Pasha Sokolović bridge, a UNESCO World Heritage site memorialised in the works of the town’s Nobel Literature Prize-winning son Ivo Andrić, was the scene of some of the most brutal crimes committed by the Bosnian Serb regime.

Photographer and Višegrad survivor Velija Hasanbegović’s gallery of photographs taken at the ceremony on 29 May at Mehmed Pasha Sokolović Bridge to commemorate the start of the 1992 massacres can be seen at the Radio Sarajevo website at http://www.radiosarajevo.ba/media/s/visegrad/index.html

ICTY President Judge Patrick Robinson summed up the crimes of Milan and his cousin Sredoje Lukić as follows:

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.”  (ICTY Press Release, 20 July 2009 at http://www.icty.org/sid/10188)

** On June 27 the Bikavac house fire will also be commemorated in Višegrad.**  Around 60 Bosniak civilians were burnt alive. Only one woman managed to escape with severe burns – Zehra Turjačanin, described by Judge Patrick Robinson after she testified in The Hague as a sad and tragic but at the same time heroic person.  “Witnesses … vividly remembered the terrible screams of the people in the house, “like the screams of cats”. The Trial Chamber … found that at least 60 Muslim civilians were burned alive.” (ICTY Judgment Summary, 20 July 2009 at http://www.icty.org/x/cases/milan_lukic_sredoje_lukic/tjug/en/090720_judg_summary_en.pdf)

Milan Lukić’s base in the Vilina Vlas hotel was one of the most notorious of Bosnia’s grim “rape camps”.  Milan Lukić is currently in Scheveningen Prison in the Netherlands, pending appeal.

Stories and photographs of the victim are posted at the Višegrad Genocide Memories blog at https://genocideinvisegrad.wordpress.com/

The ICTY Prosecutor’s marked-up indictment for the Radovan Karadzić war crimes trial is at http://www.icty.org/x/cases/karadzic/ind/en/markedup_indictment_091019.pdf

6 Responses to “Press Release: Pioneer Street Massacre 14.06.1992-14.06.2010”

  1. András Says:

    Milan Lukić is not yet serving the life sentence to which he was sentenced by the Trial Chamber. For the time being, he is still in the custody of the UN war crimes tribunal. He has filed an appeal and his sentence will not be final until the Appeals Chamber issues its judgement.

    http://www.icty.org/case/milan_lukic_sredoje_lukic/4

    If the Appeals Chamber upholds the verdict and the sentence, Lukić will be transferred to a prison in one of the European states that have signed agreements to enforce the sentences imposed by the Tribunal.

  2. Time served while waiting appeal will hopefully count towards all the rest of his life.

  3. You’re using wrong figures of the victims in both live pyre massacres. Please see my coments at this link:
    http://srebrenica-genocide.blogspot.com/2010/06/visegrad-massacre-pionirska-street.html

  4. visegrad92 Says:

    Considerable evidence was received concerning the Pionirska street incident. The evidence shows that a group of 70 Muslim civilians, most of whom came from the village of Koritnik and included many members of the Kurspahić family, were taken by a group of armed Serbs to Jusuf Memić’s house on Pionirska street, where they were robbed at gunpoint. Women and some children were then strip-searched, after which a number of women were taken away, stating upon being brought back to the house that they had been raped. Later in the evening, the group of victims was transferred to the nearby house of Adem Omeragić, where they were locked into a ground-floor room. The evidence shows that the carpet of the room had been prepared with an accelerant. After a while, a lighted, explosive device was placed in the room which ignited an intense fire when it exploded. As the victims tried to escape the flames through the two windows of the room, they were shot at by the armed men outside the house. Other explosive devices were also thrown into the room. Witnesses VG078 and VG101, who had escaped and were hiding close by, could hear shots coming from Adem Omeragić’s house. VG101 said to VG078:

    “These people are killing our mother, our mother-in-law, and our brother’s two children. They didn’t do anything wrong”.

    Only a handful of people survived, and all of those who are still alive came to testify before the Trial Chamber. However, 59 people were burned alive.

    – Milan&Sredoje Lukic Judgement

  5. “The evidence shows that the carpet of the room had been prepared with an accelerant.” It was done in cold blood.

  6. A copy of the message I posted as a comment to your report on the commemoration of the Pionirska Street fire:

    I’m just posting the information about the commemoration of the Bikavac fire on Sunday in case you don’t have time.

    27 June (Sunday) is the anniversary of the Bikavac house fire in 1992 and this year, the same as for the Pionirska Street fire, will be the first commemoration since Milan Lukic’s conviction.

    If anyone in Sarajevo might want to attend the commemoration – or knows any members of the foreign press / diplomatic community who’d be interested – there’ll be a bus leaving Sarajevo at 8 am.

    For further details contact Bakira Haseccic at Women Victims of War, Zena Zrtva Rata tel. +387 61 272 000 / email: udruzenjezenazrtva_rata@bih.net.ba / website: http://www:zena-zrtva-rata.ba or Višegrad Genocide Memories Blog editor – email: visegradgenocide@gmail.com

    Zehra Turjacanin, who must be one of the bravest people on the planet and whose testimony helped convict one of the 20th century’s most brutal criminals, was the only survivor. Her evidence to the ICTY is at http://www.icty.org/x/cases/milan_lukic_sredoje_lukic/trans/en/080925ED.htm

    It’s not to be read ahead of doing something light-hearted.

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