top of page

Tensions arise over war commemorations in Bosnia

By Reuters

A building is seen at the former Trnopolje detention camp near Prijedor, Bosnia and Herzegovina November 13, 2017. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File Photo

Aug 4 (Reuters) - Serbia and Bosnia's Serb Republic on Friday marked the 1995 exodus of Serbs from Croatia in a Bosnian town notorious for Serb war crimes during the Bosnian war, triggering outcry from survivors and human rights activists.

The memorial was held in the northern town of Prijedor where the first Serb-run detention camps for non-Serbs were opened at the start of the Bosnian war in 1992 and more than 3,000 Catholic Croats and Muslim Bosniaks were killed and buried in mass graves.

"This is an ugly political message," said Gordana Katana, a journalist and activist from the Serb Republic's city of Banja Luka. "This is an attempt to find a balance in the crime."

Each August since 1995, Serbia and Croatia separately mark the anniversary of the military operation Oluja (Storm), which Croatia sees as its decisive victory in the 1991-95 independence war, and which Serbia commemorates as the ethnic cleansing of about 200,000 Serbs from Croatia.

The former socialist Yugoslav federation begun crumbling in 1991 with the declarations of independence by Slovenia and Croatia, followed by wars - first in Croatia and then in Bosnia waged by Belgrade-backed nationalist Serbs who wanted to carve their ethnically pure Serb states in the two countries.

In August 1995, the Croatian army took clawed back almost all of the territory taken by breakaway Serbs in a four-day operation, when some 200,000 ethnic Serbs fled to Bosnia and Serbia from the advance of Croatian forces.

Many Bosniak survivors feel hurt that victims from another state are commemorated in the town in which Bosniak victims have been ignored. Local Serb authorities have for years rejected pleas to raise a monument to the 102 children killed in Prijedor.

"It is not right to commemorate the Oluja victims in Prijedor, it is the politicization of the crime," said Satko Mujagic, who was detained at the age of 20 in two Serb-run camps near Prijedor.

Serb Republic nationalist President Milorad Dodik, who has offered to Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic to organise the memorial in Prijedor, dismissed the criticism.

"It is monstrous to dispute our right to mark the events commemorating our victims," Dodik said.

Reporting by Daria Sito-Sucic; Editing by Louise Heavens

© 2023 Reuters. All rights reserved.

Follow Genocide Watch for more updates:

  • Grey Facebook Icon
  • Grey Twitter Icon
  • Grey YouTube Icon
bottom of page