A group of activists are continuing their campaign to put up temporary memorials at places where crimes took place during the 1992-5 war – whether the local authorities like it or not.
As part of an initiative called “Unmarked Suffering Sites”, a group of peace activists in July put up nine more signs at new locations where they say war crimes occurred, either through capture, physical and mental violence or forced labour.
The activists erected signs near the Kazani pit on Mt Trebevic, into which a number of bodies of dead Bosnian Serbs were thrown by members of the Tenth Brigade of the Bosnian Army, the Kon Tiki or Kod Sonje boarding house in Vogosca, as well as a bunker behind the same building, which served as a detention facility for men and women – the women were mainly held at the house, while the men stayed in the bunker.
They also posted memorial signs at Veliki Park in Sarajevo, the Butmir Penal and Correctional Facility, better known as Kula, in Eastern Sarajevo, and at the Musala sports hall in Konjic, which was used as a detention facility for Bosnian Serbs and Croats during the 1992-5 war.
In the southern city of Mostar, they put up a sign at the Bijeli Brijeg stadium, as well as the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, Computing and Electrical Engineering, which during the war served as the headquarters for the military police arm of the Bosnian Croat Croatian Defence Council, HVO.
“The current location of the Municipal Court in Mostar was particularly interesting and ‘tricky’, as that is a guarded facility, so memorialization is literally not possible and allowed by law,” said Dalmir Miskovic, a member of the group told, BIRN BiH.
“But given that, as part of our initiative, we are only putting up non-permanent labels, we mustered out courage and put one up,” he added.
The group, which includes Tamara Zrnovic, Cedomir Glavas, Amer Delic and Ajdin Kamber, have marked 76 sites in Bosnia and Herzegovina so far. In cooperation with the Youth Initiative for Human Rights they have also marked three locations in Croatia.
They say their aim is not to place permanent memorials to wartime suffering but to inspire the local communities to mark the sites themselves, and commit themselves to eventually erecting permanent memorial signs.
Miskovic said their goal was also to erect signs that were as neutral as possible, simply calling for memorialization of unmarked suffering sites, given that such memorials were often still a taboo in some local communities in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
“We want to send a message that it would be good and constructive to speak about those things, and to mark such sites properly,” Miskovic said.
“Memorialization is a path towards building peace,” he added, voicing the conviction that such warnings will help “to prevent such unfortunate events from happening again”.
All the sites of civilian suffering, as well as locations where crimes against soldiers and prisoners of war were committed, have been marked with the purpose of helping Bosnia face up the past and build peace and trust.
The group itself was created during a peace training event organized by the Center for Nonviolent Action Sarajevo/Belgrade, which has supported the work of the group ever since.
Before they mark a site, the activists obtain as much information as they can about it, and base their actions on court rulings that refer to it and statements by victims’ associations.
Such actions are particularly important, according to Miskovic, when so many local authorities often do their best to block the building of memorials to war-time crimes.
Milan Mandic, from the Association of Families of Missing Persons from the Sarajevo-Romanija Region, emphasized that same problem, noting that after his association initiated an action to place a memorial plaque in the northern town of Brcko, it was removed the same day.
On the territory of the Federation entity in Bosnia, within the former Ramiz Salcin army barracks in Sarajevo, it was not even possible to place a memorial board, he noted.
“We have come to a joint conclusion that for the sake of the future and young people, these boards are needed at all sites where detention camps were located and where detainees were killed,” Mandic said.
“Those [victims] were mainly civilians and innocent people who had nothing to do with the war. So, it would be good to do this as a warning – so such things never happen again in this area,” Mandic added.