News 09 May 17

Bosnian Ex-Prisoners Commemorate Wartime Camp Victims

Wartime prisoners marked the Day of Camp Inmates by gathering at former detention centres to commemorate those who died and to demand better treatment for those who survived.

Dzana Brkanic
BIRN
Sarajevo
Photo: Association of Camp Inmates of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The Association of Camp Inmates of Bosnia and Herzegovina marked the annual Day of Camp Inmates on Tuesday with a commemoration in front of the former Rasadnik camp in Rogatica, paying tribute to all the detainees who didn’t survive their wartime detention.

They also called for better treatment for the survivors, who cannot claim compensation for what they suffered during the 1992-95 war.

“In the camps we were victims of torture, and today we are victims of the system,” said Jasmin Meskovic, the president of the Association of Camp Inmates.

Former camp detainees sued Bosnia’s Serb-dominated entity Republika Srpska for damages but the court ruled that the statute of limitations had run out and the ex-prisoners must pay the legal costs of the case.

“Those who survived the camps, who were hiding under the bodies of their loved ones, today are hiding from court enforcement officers who might knock on their doors and deliver them a decision for payment of court costs,” Meskovic said.

He said that the former camp inmates have been campaigning for years for a law on torture victims at the state level, because no compensation is available to them and many are also deprived of psychological and legal assistance.

Ex-prisoners from the Zenica-Doboj Canton also used the Day of Camp Inmates to launch an initiative to amend the federal law on social protection.

“Unfortunately, due to an omission made during the drafting of the law, camp inmates as a category primarily didn’t get the status of ‘civilian victims’, and they can’t enjoy of any of the defined rights. In this context, we ask for the recognition of the status of civilian victims,” the Association of Camp Inmates from Zenica said in a statement.

It is estimated that between 1992 and 1995, 200,000 people passed through the camps in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Three other associations representing former inmates, Prijedor '92, Kozarac and Bosanski Novi, visited the Stari Kevljani mass grave site in Prijedor, where most of those killed at the Omarska, Keraterm and Trnopolje camps were buried.

Mirsad Duratovic from the Prijedor '92 accused the Bosnian Serb authorities of preventing them from properly commemorating those who died.

“For more than 20 years after the war, we have not been allowed to place a memorial at the places of detention and starvation,” said Duratovic.

The Day of Camp Inmates was also marked in Brcko, Vogosca, Bihac and other locations around the country.

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