Bosnian Activists Mark Wartime Detention Camp Sites

16. March 2021.12:12
A group of activists put up temporary memorial signs to mark former detention centres at schools, industrial buildings and a nightclub where prisoners were held during the Bosnian war in the 1990s.

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Warehouses of the former barracks of Yugoslav People’s Army in Sevarlije, Doboj Photo: Initiative “Marking the Unmarked Sites of Suffering”

Activists from the Centre for Non-Violent Action have continued their campaign to put up memorial signs at unmarked wartime locations across Bosnia and Herzegovina by marking five buildings this month in Doboj, Odzak and Orasje where prisoners were detained during the 1990s conflict.

They put up temporary signs at a former Yugoslav People’s Army barracks warehouse and the former Percin Disco nightclub in Sevarlije near Doboj, at the Strolit Foundry and former Brotherhood and Unity school in Odzak, and at the Donja Mahala school building in Orasje.

Over the past five years, the activists have so far marked 111 ‘sites of suffering’ around the country.

“By marking these sites, we intend to remind people and the general public that we too have a responsibility. We also want to achieve justice and bring the perpetrators to justice, as well as to mark these sites in an appropriate manner and preserve them from oblivion,” said Radomir Radevic, one of the activists involved in the Marking the Unmarked Sites of Suffering campaign.

The Centre for Non-Violent Action said the former Yugoslav People’s Army warehouse and Percin Disco were used by Bosnian Serb forces as detention facilities for Bosniak civilians in 1992 and 1993.

Detainees were allegedly held in inhumane conditions, made to do forced labour and abused. Detainees at the Percin Disco were taken to the front lines to be used as human shields, and at least 17 of them were killed.

Percin’s Nightclub, Doboj Photo: Initiative “Marking the Unmarked Sites of Suffering”

The Centre for Non-Violent Action said that from May to mid-July 1992, between 100 and 200 Serb civilians were held at the Strolit Foundry in Odzak, and around 700 Serb men, women and children were held at the Brotherhood and Unity school building by Croatian Defence Council military police.

Detainees at the two sites in Odzak were also allegedly held in inhumane conditions, made to do forced labour and abused.

“If there was a hell on earth, it existed in the detention camp in Odzak,” Vlado Dragojlovic, a former detainee and head of the Association of Detainees from Modrica, was quoted as saying by the Centre for Non-Violent Action.

“So there was total starvation, excessive abuse, both mental and physical, and the most brutal ways of killing people,” Dragojlovic said.

Croatian Defence Council military police also ran the Donja Mahala school in Orasje as a detention facility for Serb civilians in 1992, the Centre for Non-Violent Action said.People were detained, tortured, abused and killed at a wide variety of sites during the Bosnian war, including cultural centres, schools, courts, police stations and museums. Since the conflict ended, there has been no public indication of many of these sites’ wartime function.

Activists have argued that memorialisation still depends on political will in the Balkans, where people commemorate their ‘own’ victims but not those of other ethnic groups, whose suffering is ignored, forgotten, or even denied.

Lamija Grebo

This post is also available in: Bosnian