Archive for July, 2010

Visegrad attack named “terrorism”

Posted in Uncategorized on July 29, 2010 by visegrad92

Image: Adem Huskic

Adem Huskic, member of Parliament in Bosnia and Herzegovina, strongly condemned the terrorist act in Visegrad perpetrated against representatives of Missing Persons Institute.

”Nothing can be hidden, everything surfaces, in that way the bones of innocent victims of terrorist surfaced these days.Time will show, if this, without any doubt terrorist act will be forgotten and pushed under the carpet like the terrorist acts from the nineties.”  Huskic wrote in his statement to the press.


Image: Amor Masovic

Agence France-Presse
28 July 2010

Bosnian police play down shots fired at forensic experts

BANJA LUKA, Bosnia-Herzegovina, July 28 (AFP) — Police said Wednesday shots fired at Bosnian forensic experts searching for the remains of wartime victims were probably stray bullets from a hunter, not a murder attempt.

The head of Bosnia’s Institute for Missing, Amor Masovic, who was in the boat that was fired upon, however, accused the police of getting it wrong.

“It is extremely unprofessional to issue such a statement without ballistic expertise,” Masovic told AFP.

“We will demand that the hunter be found. It was a murder attempt,” he insisted.

But police said a bullet found in the boat carrying the team of forensic experts as they worked at a lake was in fact a “stray bullet … from a hunting weapon.

“It was most likely a hunter who was hunting in that region and opened fire,” a statement said. Police said they trying to find the shooter.

Bosnian forensic experts reported to police on Tuesday that an unidentified gunman opened fire on them as were searched the lake for the remains of Muslims killed at the start of the country’s 1992-1995 war.

Ten people had been on board their boat but no-one was hurt in the incident on the Perucac lake, near the eastern town of Visegard. Police found one bullet at the site.

The search for Muslims killed in 1992 in Visegrad started a week ago.

So far the remains of some 24 victims were found in the lake, Masovic said.

Visegrad was the site of one of the most notorious ethnic cleansing campaigns led by Bosnian Serb forces who expelled and killed a number of the town’s Muslims at the beginning of the 1992-1995 war.

Bosnia’s war between its Croats, Muslims and Serbs claimed some 100,000 lives.

It left the country split into two entities — the Serbs’ Republika Srpska and the Muslim-Croat Federation. The region of Visegrad remained in the Serb-run half.

Missing persons institute investigators shot at in Bosnian Serb entity

Posted in Uncategorized on July 27, 2010 by visegrad92

VGM comment:A few days ago the dam in Bajina Basta shut down its activities due to repairs so the water level of the Drina river lowered causing several skeletons to show up on the river banks. During the genocide in Visegrad, hundreds of bodies of Bosniak victims were dumped into the Drina river. This attempt to terrorize representatives of Missing persons institute and ICMP show that the local community is very well aware of the fate of their former neighbours.

“It then emerged that in June 1992, a Visegrad police inspector, Milan Josipovic, had received a macabre complaint from the manager of Bajina Basta hydroelectric plant across the Serbian border, asking whoever was responsible to please slow the flow of corpses down the Drina. They were clogging up the culverts in his dam,…”

The Warlord of Visegrad, Ed Vulliamy,Nerma Jelacic, The Guardian, Thursday 11 August 2005

Image: The damn in Bajina Basta and the Perucac lake near Visegrad.

Jul 27, 2010 (BBC Monitoring via COMTEX) — [Announcer] Investigators of the Bosnia-Hercegovina Institute for Missing Persons and personnel of the International Commission for Missing Persons [ICMP] were shot at today from Blace village in Visegrad municipality, immediately after they had got out of a boat on the Perucac Lake, the institute has announced. The police said an investigation was under way.

[Reporter Sevda Curo] Around 1300 [1100 gmt], employees of the Institute for Missing Persons working in the field in Visegrad, reported to the police that they had been shot at. There were no casualties in the shooting which the institute believes came from Curevici village.

[Amor Masovic, B-H Institute for Missing Persons] Today, while leaving a boat in which we travelled from Zepa, after six investigators and ICMP representatives had disembarked, shots were fired at the boat pilot and a bullet hit the place where he was sitting, five centimetres from him. Tomorrow we are continuing our investigations although it is evident that we are not welcome here.

[Passage omitted: Serb Republic police confirm shooting was reported]

[Reporter] The team of the Institute for Missing Persons is carrying out investigations at the Perucac Lake where bodies of at least 20 people have so far been found.

Source: BHTV1, Sarajevo, in Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian 1700 gmt 27 Jul 10


Performance piece on denial of Visegrad crimes.

Posted in Uncategorized on July 26, 2010 by visegrad92

Kym Vercoe/version 1.0

“It was a sunny day, perfect for washing. And so, on a balcony from which so many had jumped to avoid horror, I washed my underwear and hung it out in the sun to dry. It was a beautiful day, and Višegrad was a beautiful place. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I feel somewhat differently now.”

seven kilometres northeast is a new performance from version 1.0’s Kym Vercoe, exploring the discomforting entanglements of place, tourism and atrocity. The work is triggered by a visit to the famous Mehmed Paša Sokolović Bridge. Completed in 1571, this bridge forms a literal and metaphorical historical link across the border between east and west, and was made famous in Nobel-prize winning author Ivo Andrić’s novel The Bridge over the River Drina.

The nearby Vilina Vlas Spa Resort in Višegrad, Bosnia, was recommended in a tourist guidebook, and so on her visit to the bridge in 2008, Vercoe checked in. Upon arriving, she washed her clothes before heading out to see the sights. The visit was a great success, filled of tourist adventures and slivovitz-fueled conversations with locals. Upon returning home, she discovered to her horror that the Vilina Vlas Spa Resort was a notorious rape camp during the recent conflict in Bosnia, a significant fact conveniently omitted from the tourist guidebook. The travelogue shifts, turning to a darker reflection upon how places bear traces of the atrocities that occur within and around them, the unspeakable and unbearable acts that current residents are only too happy to see erased.

Devised and performed by Kym Vercoe
Video artist: Sean Bacon
Dramaturgy: Deborah Pollard
Producer: David Williams


– – –

IWPR story about town’s silence over grisly past prompts idea for performance piece on revision and denial of history.
By IWPR – International Justice – ICTY
15 Jul 10

When Australian actress and playwright Kym Vercoe traveled to Visegrad in 2008, she spent time admiring the green cliffs that cradle the eastern Bosnian town, and walked across the 500-year old stone bridge that stretches gracefully across the Drina river – the same one she read about in the famous Ivo Andric novel The Bridge on the Drina.

On returning to her home in Australia, she did some research on the picturesque little town she had visited during her trip. One article that came up in her internet search was called Visegrad in Denial Over Grisly Past, written by IWPR journalists Rachel Irwin and Edina Becirevic in December 2008.

The article examined how more than a decade after the Bosnian war, few Serb residents are ready to confront the horrors that were perpetrated there.

The story described the crimes committed by Bosnian Serbs in the town during the 1992-95 conflict – including the mass murder and rape of Bosniak civilians – and the wall of silence that surrounds the subject.

The piece said numerous witnesses testified in trials at the Hague tribunal about the way Bosnian Serb paramilitary forces would take Bosniak men to the middle of the old stone bridge, shoot them, and then throw their bodies into the Drina.

At the time the story was written, Bosnian Serb paramilitary leader Milan Lukic was standing trial at the tribunal for burning alive over 100 Bosniak residents of Visegrad, among other crimes. He was later found guilty on all counts against him and sentenced to life in prison.

Vercoe described the IWPR article as a “punch in the gut” and a “reality check” for her.

As a way to process what she experienced in Visegrad – and what she learned afterwards – Vercoe is creating a performance piece due to premiere in Sydney this October.

While the show is not yet finished, she says it will be a “story-telling piece”, and will include a variety of media, including video, and hopefully also a live music component, for which she is working with a singer from Sarajevo.

“The work I make is about accountability, acknowledgment and also giving voice to people who become hidden in our society,” Vercoe explained. “So I guess these sentiments are driving me again now.”

She explained that a key theme of the performance will be the “revision of history and the denial of history”. This issue is especially pertinent in Australia, she said, because of the country’s continued struggle to acknowledge the widespread mistreatment of indigenous peoples.

“There are people [in Australia] who literally re-write history, desperately believing that past atrocities are lies and an attempt to get money from the state,” Vercoe said.

“So on one level, I hope that by exploring my questions around Visegrad, I make people question how history is used to distort fact, to benefit some people over others and to perpetuate prejudices.”

Vercoe returned to Visegrad in May for further research and to pay tribute to those killed during the war. Her feelings, however, continued to be complicated.

“I noticed I was feeling very judgemental towards the [Bosnian Serb] men in the town,” she said. “I was looking at every man thinking…what’s your story?”

However, she remembered one Bosnian Serb man featured in the IWPR piece who did not deny what happened in the summer of 1992, even calling the old stone bridge the “biggest graveyard”.

He told Irwin and Becirevic that he hid Bosniak children in his house until they could be transferred to Bosnian government-held territory.

“Each one of those Serbs I met could have been a murderer but, then again, he could have been the one from [the IWPR] story, or someone like him,” Vercoe said.

Vercoe went back to the old stone bridge, where a Bosnian Serb man offered to take picture of her with her camera, apparently believing she was a tourist admiring the view. They were standing in the same spot where so many people are said to have been shot and pushed to their deaths.

She said this experience had her on the verge of tears, and compelled her to think about why – unlike in Sarajevo or Srebrenica – there were no memorials around town for the 3,000 Bosniak victims.

“In Visegrad, the past has been whitewashed,” Vercoe said. “This helps to explain why as a tourist in 2008, I assumed that Visegrad was always a predominately Serbian town and there was no major campaign [of ethnic cleansing] there. Can you believe how wrong I was?”

Lazar Drasko:Witness at The Hague

Posted in Uncategorized on July 20, 2010 by visegrad92

Lazar Drasko, the war-time prosecutor in Visegrad was a witness in the Mico Stanisic and Stojan Zupljanin case. Here are some of the most interesting parts of his testimony:

Image: Lazar Drasko, war-time prosecutor in Visegrad.

Vacant Muslim houses for Serb settlers

Q.   Before you arrived in Visegrad, do you recall hearing announcements over the radio coming from the Visegrad municipal authorities?

A.   My in-laws said to me that they had heard that.  That they were inviting people to come there, that there were vacant houses, that houses would be distributed.


Settling Serbs in Visegrad

Q.  You mentioned that these announcements that your family heard over the radio were calling for people to come to Visegrad.  What  ethnicity were they trying to attract to Visegrad?  What ethnic group?

A.   Exclusively Serbs.  They were saying that Visegrad had been ethnically cleansed of Bosniaks or Muslims they were called at the time  and that we could can get their houses.  So that many people from the Neretva Valley went there.  But not only they; also people from Sarajevo, or Zenica, or Travnik.  Over 20.000 people came to Visegrad from all over.  And, of course, accommodation had to be found for all of them, and they had to be fed.  It required organisation, and they were also drafted into the army.  Many left for Serbia later.  They expected the fall of Gorazde.  There were announcements to that effect.  The Serbs from Gorazde were also expected to come to Visegrad.


Pionirska Street Live Pyre

A. I looked for an apartment in town — or, rather, down-town in the vicinity of the prosecutor’s office, an apartment of any kind.  And I  saw there was a house that was partly burnt in Pionirska Street, but the facade was good.  Only one room had burned down.  But they were saying, No, this is not good enough for you.  Let’s go to another place.  And we found an older house which was damaged, but it could be — it could be renovated.  And I said, Why is this better?     This one is better because nobody was killed here.  You don’t want to live in a house where people were killed and live among their ghosts and have people on your conscience.


Military officials on war crimes in Visegrad

Q.   Before you left for Visegrad, while you were still in Bileca, did you have any conversations with military officials about crimes that were occurring in Visegrad against the non-Serb population?

A.   Well, here’s what they said to me, especially Josip: Lazar, I don’t recommend that you go there; crimes were committed there. The Bosniaks were cleansed away.


On paramilitary units and foreign fighters

A.   But they  were — there were groups coming in all the time.  Some were called  locusts.  Somebody said that they are some gypsies from Belgrade.  Sorry, I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings, but that’s what they were     called.  I know that they roamed the area, but they left very fast, in ten or 15 days. Another group was called Garavi, but they were locals.  They were called that because they were smear their faces black before going into action.  I know that the — that Seselj’s Men had been released from prison.  They were called Seselj’s Men; they were locked up for various criminal offences, and they were sent to Bosnia to make havoc there. They didn’t even fight; they only stole and raped.  I even had a criminal report because they had raped a girl.  I didn’t know which other units there were.  There were also the Russians.  A guy had brought a unit that had been in Afghanistan.  They only wanted to fight Muslims.  They said they wouldn’t fight Croats. They prayed to God, some of them drank a bit.  There was a Cossack whowas killed.  There was a doctor who got killed.  Valery Pikov [phoen] was an engineer, and he had reserves about Russian soldiers and volunteers. He had an apartment in the state of Russia.  He was a civilised man.  But very few of them stayed behind — stayed.  They mostly went away fast.


+ Visegrad Genocide Denial

+ What is Visegrad Genocide?

Visegrad: On the Trail of Vasiljevic

Posted in Uncategorized on July 8, 2010 by visegrad92

By Marija Arnautovic – International Justice – ICTY

When I was a child, every time I heard someone mention Visegrad – a small town in eastern Bosnia famous for its beautiful 16th century Ottoman bridge – I would think of Ivo Andric’s novel The Bridge Over the Drina.

This was the book all citizens of the former Yugoslavia were proud of because Andric won a Nobel prize for it. Although this was before the 1992-95 war and I had never been to Visegrad, I felt as if I already knew the place as it was so well described in Andric’s novel.

However, the image of Visegrad I pictured in my head as a child had nothing to do with the Visegrad I saw after the war. On each visit, I felt great discomfort because I couldn’t shake off the thoughts of terrible crimes that occurred in this town during the conflict.

I went three times on various assignments as a reporter after 2003, most recently in May to do a story on the return of convicted war criminal Mitar Vasiljevic to Visegrad and how it affected local Serbs and Bosniak returnees.

Vasiljevic, sentenced by the Hague tribunal to 15 years in prison for the crimes he committed against Bosniak population in Visegrad in 1992, returned to the town on March 12 this year after serving two-thirds of his sentence. His supporters in Visegrad welcomed him as a hero with music and processions of cars, the onlookers all cheering his name.

According to the Hague tribunal, around 3,000 Bosniak civilians were killed in Visegrad during the war, including 600 women and 119 children. Some of the most horrific crimes of the Bosnian war took place in this town in June 1992, when 140 Bosniaks were burnt alive in houses in Pionirska Street and Bikavac.

The reports I wrote on Visegrad before my most recent visit were mainly positive stories about Bosniak returnees who had decided to come back to this town despite all the hardship they suffered here during the war.

But the story I set out to do in May of this year was different. I knew I would have a hard time persuading people to talk about how Vasiljevic’s return and the hero’s welcome he received affected them. However, the wall of silence I encountered when Vasiljevic’s name was mentioned surpassed even my expectations.

When I tried to do a vox-pop on the streets of Visegrad – a journalistic form I am particularly fond of because it allows me to get ordinary people’s opinions – I nearly ended up empty-handed. I stopped around 30 passers-by, asking them questions about Vasiljevic, but as soon as I mentioned his name, most of them would wave a hand and walk away. Those who did stop to talk to me said they knew nothing about this hero’s welcome that was organised for him.

I knew from my own and my colleagues’ experience that people in Visegrad didn’t want to talk about war crimes. This was once a predominantly Bosniak town, but most Bosniaks fled it at the beginning of the war, after terrible crimes were committed against them. Today, Visegrad is inhabited mostly by Serbs, and very few Bosniaks have gone back to the town itself – most of them now live in the villages around Visegrad.

The silence surrounding those crimes still seems impenetrable; no-one wants to talk about what happened here in 1992 – neither local Serbs, nor Bosniak returnees. My impression was that Serbs found it easier to live in denial than to face the difficult truth, while Bosniaks were probably afraid to speak openly about the crimes committed there.

It is because of these crimes and the widespread denial that Visegrad today is a grim place, nothing like the Visegrad from my childhood’s imagination. People I met on the street did not smile. It was as if they were all carrying a heavy burden on their shoulders, one they were not even aware of.

I have heard many times that denying a crime is a defence mechanism which helps individuals or a whole society escape from unpleasant reality. But it is hard for me to accept that 15 years after the Bosnian war, people in Visegrad still haven’t summoned the courage to finally come to terms with their past. This process cannot be postponed forever, and sooner or later Bosnian Serbs in this town will have to accept the truth. But judging from the wall of silence I witnessed in Visegrad this May that will not happen any time soon.

Whenever I visit Visegrad, I lean over the beautiful Ottoman bridge and look into the Drina river, trying to remember the scenes from Andric’s novel which captured my imagination so much when I was a child. While I was standing on the bridge this May, a photographer offered to take a photo of me. I smiled at him and kindly declined the offer. I couldn’t bring myself to have a photo of me taken on a bridge which, not so long ago, was a scene of terrible crimes, crimes no-one in Visegrad wants to talk about.

Marija Arnautovic is an IWPR-trained reporter in Sarajevo.