Bosnian Bus Kidnapping Anniversary Commemorated by Victims’ Families

21. October 2020.14:30
Sixteen Bosniak men and one woman were seized by paramilitaries from the Bosnian Serb ‘Avengers’ unit and then abused and killed at a notorious hotel in Visegrad during the war in 1992.

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Sjeverin. Foto: BIRN BiH

Relatives of the victims who were kidnapped on October 22, 1992 will drop 17 roses from a bridge in the village of Mioca in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where their family members were abducted from a bus, into the river Lim in a symbolic gesture to commemorate the 28th anniversary of the crime on Thursday.

Ahead of the anniversary, they said that they are still hoping that the remains of their loves ones will someday be found.

The victims, Bosniaks who were travelling by bus from Sjeverin in Serbia, were abducted from the vehicle in Mioce and taken to the Vilina Vlas hotel in Visegrad, where they were abused and killed by members of a Bosnian Serb paramilitary unit called the Avengers. Only one victim’s body has been found so far.

Mevludin Hodzic, whose father and aunt were among the victims, said he only found out the details of what happened after the war ended, when photographs showing his aunt’s suffering were used as evidence at a trial in Belgrade.

“The pictures were so distressing that they have never published them. She was raped, tortured, abused to the maximum extent. She was around 30 years old at the time,” Hodzic said.

Bakira Hasecic, the head of the Women, Victims of War association, said that the Bosniak captives from Sjeverin were beaten to death.

“It happened in the hall of the Vilina Vlas hotel. A red ashtray, which is still there, can be seen on one of the photos. I know that because I went there several times and looked at it,” Hasecic said.

“The hallway was covered with blood and so were the stairways at the Vilina Vlas,” she added.

She expressed regret that no locals have come forward to give information about where the victims might be buried.

“Unfortunately, Visegrad is still silent about the location of those bodies,” she said.

It is suspected that many Bosniak women and girls were held at the Vilina Vlas hotel during the war, sexually assaulted and then murdered.

“There is not a single room in that hotel where at least one woman was not raped and someone killed,” Hasecic said.

A Belgrade court convicted four members of the Avengers paramilitary unit of committing crimes against the Bosniaks from Sjeverin who were abducted and killed.

The Vilina Vlas now operates as a spa hotel and was promoted by Bosnia and Herzegovina’s tourism authority as a holiday destination over the summer.

The Serbian peace group Women in Black will mark the anniversary of the abductions in Belgrade on Thursday in an attempt to inform more people in the country about what happened 28 years ago.

“We are trying, to the extent that it is possible, to awaken compassion and empathy in them, which is not that simple in Serbia, even towards victims who come from their own people, let alone those from other ethnic groups. It goes from indifference to complete denial,” said Stasa Zajovic, one of the founders of Women in Black.

Azra Husarić

This post is also available in: Bosnian (Bosnian)