The ArcelorMittal Orbit, which was built for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, will be appropriated as a Memorial in Exile by survivors of the Omarska concentration camp.
|ArcelorMittal Orbit Photo by ArcelorMittal|
Three survivors from the Omarska camp, Satko Mujagic, Rezak Hukanovic and Kemal Pervanic, together with members of the Four Faces of Omarska group from Belgrade and Goldsmiths University, organized a press conference in London on Monday to raise awareness of the fact that the Prijedor victims do not have a place to commemorate their dead.
Omarska, a former Bosnian Serb run camp where at least 3,334 Bosniaks and Croats from Prijedor were imprisoned, is an iron ore mine which is now owned and operated by ArcelorMittal.
Organizers of the press conference claim that profits extracted from Omarska have been used to manufacture the ArcelorMittal Orbit, which they see as casting a “shadow of shame on Mittal, London and the Olympic Games,” which will start later this month.
Satko Mujagic, an Omarska survivor, told BIRN that the iron mine from Omarska might contain “human remains from Prijedor victims”, which is why he wants an exact copy of the White House – a prison within the former camp - to be constructed beneath the Orbit structure to commemorate those whose melted bones may have gone into its making.
“We are asking ArcelorMitall to give us full access to the site of the former Omarska camp. We expect Mittal to finally build the memorial in Omarska, as they had previously promised. Until then, we feel free to consider the London Orbit our memorial in exile”, said Mujagic.
However, Tobin Postma, a Media Relations Specialist for ArcelorMittal, told BIRN that contrary to what has been suggested, no materials from Prijedor have been used in the construction of the Orbit.
“The fact that ArcelorMittal, as a sponsor of the London 2012 Olympic Games, has facilitated the Orbit in the Olympic park is in no way connected to this sensitive issue in Bosnia and Herzegovina."
"We are proud of our contribution to economic development across Bosnia. We are the largest foreign investor in the country and employ over 3,850 people at our steel plant in Zenica and our mine in Prijedor,” said ArcelorMittal in a press release sent to BIRN.
Mujagic, however, maintains it is time that the old concentration camp where “men were killed and women were raped” was turned into a museum, and a new mine complex to exploit the iron ore built, replacing the mine which was used as a concentration camp and which could be considered a mass grave.
In his statement to BIRN, Mujagic said that Prijedor victims were forced to organize press conferences, because their telephone calls and their requests to meet ArcelorMitall representatives had all been ignored.
ArcelorMittal bought the Ljubija mining complex, that includes the Omarska site, in 2004. In 2005 the company promised to finance and build a memorial on the grounds of Omarska, but seven years later, a space of public commemoration has yet to be built.
In a press release on Tuesday, ArcelorMittal says that it acknowledges the legacy of the site at Omarska, and that it is ready to fund a suitable memorial.
“Unfortunately it is not possible for ArcelorMittal to establish a memorial on its own. Under the laws of Bosnia and Herzegovina, permission for memorials can only be given by the local authorities. ArcelorMittal cannot provide such permission, “ reads the statement.
This year representatives of ArcelorMittal denied access to the campgrounds and buildings to students from Munich, representatives of Goldsmiths University London, the Four Faces of Omarska group from Belgrade, and local NGOs who wanted to commemorate the 20th anniversary of crimes in the region.