Visegrad Muslims remember victims of Ratko Mladic’s 1992 Bosnian massacres
HUNDREDS of Muslims gathered in the Bosnian city of Visegrad to honour loved ones killed in 1992 massacres by the forces of arrested war crimes suspect Ratko Mladic.
AFP May 29, 2011
“I almost fainted when I learned of Mladic’s arrest, I was so happy,” said Safija Omerovic, a grandmother who came to throw roses from the Visegrad bridge for family members killed in this western Bosnian town at the start of the 1992-1995 Bosnia war.
Visegrad is famed as the site where, between April and June 1992, Bosnian Serb forces killed 1500 civilians, according to the Bosnian Institute for Missing Persons, and dumped their bodies into the Drina river.
Omerovic, 76, said she lost at least 30 relatives in the massacres.
“My son, my brother, his three sons, my mother, nephews,” she said, though she smiled at the thought that Mladic is finally behind bars.
Mladic, accused of masterminding the 1995 Srebrenica massacre and other atrocities during the war, was arrested on Thursday after 16 years on the run. He is expected to be transferred next week to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague, where he faces charges of war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.
Visegrad and its surroundings, where Muslims accounted for 60 per cent of the population of some 21,000 before the conflict, were the scene of particularly cruel crimes.
People were confined in houses and burnt to death, while several hundred women were raped, victims’ associations say. Those who survived were expelled from their homes.
Every May, the victims’ families gather at the Ottoman-era Visegrad bridge to throw roses in the river Drina in remembrance.
“The Drina is the biggest mass grave in the Balkans,” said Bakira Hasecic, who heads an association for rape victims in Visegrad.
Local imam Jusuf Karaman never found his brother, Safet, who was imam of the Visegrad mosque at the start of the conflict.
“According to all indications I had, he was brought to this bridge, his throat was slit and his body later thrown in the Drina,” he said.
“I hope that after Mladic’s arrest, the atmosphere will change for the better and that Muslims will be encouraged to return to their homes in Visegrad,” he said.
He said a little more than 1000 Muslims now lived in Visegrad, part of the Serb-run Republika Srpska in Bosnia, the mass expulsion during the conflict.
The bodies of more than 700 victims in Visegrad are reported missing and efforts are still being made to recover them.
Last year, forensic experts took advantage of the opening of a dam for the first time since the conflict to recover some bodies from Lake Perucac, where many eventually ended up.
“We will soon be presenting the results of the identifications of about 150 victims whose remains were found,” the head of the Bosnian Institute for Missing Persons, Amor Masovic, told AFP.
At the ceremony, 80-year-old Biba Kariman said there had been no news of her son since the conflict.
“They took him away. I don’t know what they did to him. His body was never found,” she said, wrapped in a white scarf. “All I hope for Mladic is that God gives him what he deserves.”