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Published: Saturday, 10/26/2013

Bosnian activists erect "guerrilla memorials" to victims of war crimes

REUTERS

SARAJEVO -- Bosnian activists put up "guerrilla memorials” overnight to Serbs, Muslims and Croats killed in the 1992-95 war, in protest at the denial of war crimes by authorities in the Balkan country.

In a synchronised action, they erected identical marble plaques in three towns across Bosnia in the early hours of Saturday.

The memorials in the southeastern town of Foca, the central town of Bugojno and the southern town of Konjic all bore the text: “So that it never happens again. In memory of the victims of war crimes committed in the area of (Foca, Bugojno or Konjic).”

When Bosnia tried to become independent of Yugoslavia in 1992, Bosnian Serbs launched a separatist war with the backing of the Yugoslav government in Belgrade.

Serbs fought Muslims (also known as Bosniaks) and Croats. Muslims and Croats were at war with each other later in the conflict.

In Serb-run Foca, local authorities have never allowed for a memorial to be raised for more than 1,600 Bosniaks who went missing after Serb forces overran the town in spring 1992. Many were later found in nearby mass graves.

There are no official memorials to the Croat civilians detained and killed by Muslim forces in Bugojno, nor for Serb men, women and children killed by joint Muslim-Croat forces in Konjic.

The 70 kg (150 pound) plaque in Foca was cemented to the pavement outside a sports centre where hundreds of Muslim women were enslaved and raped by Serbs.

Others were fixed in place in pedestrian areas of Bugojno and Konjic - but only with glue, said activists, because they did not have time to cement them in during the night raids.

“COLLECTIVE AMNESIA”

“These memorials were raised by the people,” said an activist of the group “Because It Concerns Me", whose members belong to different ethnic groups and come from across Bosnia.

“They (the authorities) can remove or destroy them but we shall put up new ones again. We'll show to nationalist elites that their attempt at collective amnesia isn't working.”

Nearly two decades after the war, in which around 100,000 people were killed, Bosnia is a single state but deeply divided between its three ethnic groups and floundering on the edge of the European mainstream it wants to join.

A large memorial has been built, following international pressure, to victims of the biggest single atrocity of the war - the massacre of 8,000 Muslims by Serb forces in and around Srebrenica in eastern Bosnia.

But local authorities have in the past dismantled memorials created by unofficial groups.

Activists chose Foca, Bugojno and Konjic because the U.N. war crimes tribunal has issued verdicts relating to war crimes in all three. Bosnia's war crimes court has jailed several people for the killings in Bugojno and Konjic.

“We want to shame our politicians and the international community,” said the activist.

“It is inconceivable that 20 years after the war they have not created memorials nor allowed the commemorations of the crimes and victims,” said the man, who declined to identify himself by name. (Editing by Andrew Roche)



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