Bosniaks from Serbia and Montenegro urged the authorities to find out who seized 19 people, who have never been seen alive again, from a station in Bosnia during wartime.
The Bosniak National Council of Serbia asked Prime Minister Ivica Dacic on Wednesday to form an independent commission to determine who was responsible for the crime against non-Serbs at the train station in Strpci in Bosnia exactly 20 years ago.
“According to some evidence from the Hague Tribunal, and according to the data that some NGOs have, it is certain that former Yugoslav state, army and police officials, as well as Yugoslav railway officials, knew that the ‘Avengers’ terrorist organisation was preparing this action and they didn’t do anything,” the Bosniak National Council of Serbia said in a statement.
The civilian passengers - 18 Bosniaks and one Croat - were seized from a train travelling from Belgrade to the Montenegrin town of Bar, allegedly by the Avengers, a Bosnian Serb paramilitary unit.
The bodies of only three of those abducted have been found so far.
The only person to have been convicted of involvement in the abductions so far was Avengers member Nebojsa Ranisavljevic, who was jailed for 15 years by a Montenegrin court in 2002.
The Hague Tribunal sentenced Milan Lukic, the leader of the Avengers, to life in jail for war crimes against civilians in the Bosnian town of Visegrad between 1992 and 1993, but not for the Strpci abductions.
Serbia’s deputy prosecutor for war crimes, Bruno Vekaric, said that from the beginning of the investigation, the prosecution faced serious obstacles including “cover-ups”.
“However, the investigation that we are currently running is giving us hope that we can get some results and that we will bring to justice the perpetrators and those who knew about the crime and didn’t prevent it,” Vekaric told local media.
Serbia however has refused to grant the families compensation because the abductions took place in Bosnia and those responsible are not considered enemy fighters by Belgrade.
The anniversary of the abductions was also commemorated on Wednesday in the Montenegrin capital, where representatives of the Forum of Bosniaks of Montenegro laid flowers at a monument to victims of the 1990s conflict in Podgorica’s Pobrezje Park.
“I think that these three states (Bosnia, Montenegro and Serbia)… shouldn’t allow the perpetrators of the crime to remain unpunished,” said Husein Tuzovic, the organisation’s president.
A representative of the victims’ families, Ragip Licina, complained that the authorities still hadn’t fulfilled their promises to build a new memorial to the victims in Montenegro’s municipality of Bijelo Polje this year.
“Those [promises] are just illusions, stories for small children,” he told Montenegrin daily Vijesti.
The municipality of Prijedor in north-west Bosnia, where some of the abductees came from, also organised a commemoration on Wednesday for nine families whose loved ones were abducted.