An elderly Bosniak refugee who returned after the war was ordered to pay compensation to a Serb family who occupied her house in a village near Visegrad and renovated it in her absence.
Seventy-one-year-old Muniza Oprasic has appealed for help after the district court in Eastern Sarajevo ordered her to pay 10,000 euro to the Serb family who lived in her house in the village of Okrugla in Bosnia’s Serb-dominated Republika Srpska entity for about seven years until 2003, while she was a refugee.
“I cannot understand how this can happen,” Oprasic told BIRN.
“That was my home. Why did they go into my home at all? They lived there for seven or eight years and now they want me to pay. This is terrible and it is how we returnees to Visegrad are living in Republika Srpska,” she said.
Oprasic said that she did not have enough money to pay the compensation, so the court decided to take part of her pension.
“I have 320 [Bosnian] marks’ [160 euro] pension and they said they will take half or maybe 100 marks [50 euro]. I can’t handle that. I need medicine, I have bills. I am asking for help from anyone,” she said.
Almir Salihovic from the March 1 Coalition, which represents returnees to Republika Srpska, told BIRN that he sees the verdict as an “indicator of the systematic discrimination against Bosniak returnees”.
“This is not the only case in which the laws are being used to discriminate against the rights of non-Serbs. We know of cases in Gacko and Bijeljina where Bosniak land is being taken. The Serb system is pressurising us,” said Salihovic.
He said that he was frustrated with the lack of response to the court ruling from Bosniak politicians and the international community.
“We as a coalition cannot do anything substantial. We will try to gather funds to help this woman in some way. Maybe to buy wood, but we can’t do much more,” said Salihovic.
The president of the Visegrad municipal assembly, Suljo Fejzic, also told local media that he was unhappy with the decision.
“This sends a very bad message – Bosniak returnees are being told they are not welcome,” he said.
According to verdicts at the UN-backed war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Bosnian Serb forces took control of Visegrad in May 1992 and began one of the most notorious campaigns of the conflict to rid the town of its Bosniak population. Several hundred of them are estimated to have returned since the war.