Prijedor Genocide perpetrated against Bosnian Muslims and Catholics

May 31st, 2016 Seattle International White Armband Day Commemorating the Prijedor Genocide

On April 30th, 1992 Muslims and Catholics were removed from the town of Prijedor, with the goal of exterminating them from the municipality. Serb paramilitary units with the Yugoslavian army under supervision of Serbia and Montenegro leadership, took over the town with full force, imposing checkpoints and designated movement times for the civilians of Prijedor. The Serb flag was raised and the fire and torment of genocide took full reign for the victims in Bosnia.

It started with blockade, cutting off any form of social and communicative living. As of 24 May 1992, the first concentration camp was established, Omarska. Shortly after that, Trnopolje and Keraterm, all notorious for their gruesome acts against Bosniaks and Croats. Beaten, starved, and then killed, bodies were collected near the town tennis grounds and later taken to the Tomašica mine.

In August 1992, Ed Vulliamy and two other British journalists took pictures and reported on the Omarska concentration camp in northern Bosnia.  Fikret Alic came to symbolize the horrors of the Bosnian conflict.

Continuing into June and July, civilians were constantly transported off of buses into the camps or taken to be executed.  On 31 July 1992, three buses full of camp inmates were taken out of the same camp; their bodies were found in a natural pit at Hrastova glavica in the territory of Sanski Most. On 6 August 1992, attempting to conceal the atrocious situation in this camp, around 1,500 camp inmates were transported from Omarska to camp Manjača near Banja Luka, and around 1,200 of them to camp Trnopolje.

Mass grave at Hrastova glavica during exhumation and during Prijedor genocide commemoration

Genocide and other crimes against humanity in the territory of Prijedor municipality continued from 1992 through 1995, where Serb forces executed around 4,000 civilians, mainly Bosniaks. Bodies lay on sides of streets and prisoners were forced to collect the bodies of their once neighbors, friends, and family members.

Bosnian and Croat culture was demolished, mosques and catholic churches destroyed, and famous monuments demolished, turning the land into garbage dumps.

One atrocity that was validated by the International Court is the murder of Muhamed Sudžuka, who was nailed to the door of the local mosque by Zoran Žigić.

In another incident, the Imam of the mosque in Čarakovo, Imam Sulejman Dizdarević, was killed in front of his mosque, along with 18 other Bosniaks, whose bodies were then burned. How many were burned alive, no one knows.

Mental and psychological abuse was rampant as family members were transported to unknown locations, never to be heard from again. Many families in Prijedor, to this day, have not been able to locate their family member, even with thousands of bodies exhumed from mass graves.

Crimes of rape were repeatedly committed throughout Prijedor and Bosnia the entire period of the war. Women and young girls were taken to camps, into houses, police stations, and other places. Ages from 12 to the elderly were victims of sexual and physical abuse; men and pregnant women not excluded. Many times, girls were taken by Serb soldiers and never seen again.

In addition to Prijedor, atrocities were committed in Hambarine, Biščani, Ljubija and Kozarac, amounting for at least 1,500 additional killings.

An international conference was held in Prijedor to provide transparency about the Tribunal’s efforts to shed light on the violations of international humanitarian law during 92-95. The conference brought attention to the fact that perpetrators of such atrocious crimes would be held responsible for their acts, in a court of law. This set a precedent that communicated to the world that those who commit “persecution on political, racial and religious grounds” will be held responsible. Yet on March 24th, earlier this year, the Tribunal could not find Radovan Karadzic guilty of genocide in Prijedor and other municipalities. The International legal system continues to fail Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Nizama Djuderija speaking at Shorline Islamic Community of Bosniaks about events that took place during the Prijedor genocide

May 31, 1992 is the day Serb forces ordered marking all non-Serbian houses with white flags and ordered all non-Serbs who leave their houses to wear white armbands. Minutes after, brigades systematically set up and began firing shots. All sense of normal life was ended. A last glance, touch, and breath was all that mattered, for your life was in the hands of Serb forces. Let us take in that situation completely for a moment. It is the only way we can leave it in remembrance. It is the only way we will allow it to never happen again.

Reading of the names of 102 children in Prijedor genocide in front of the Saravjevo Cathedral marked 21 May. 2016 – White Armand Day, image borrowed from oslobodzenje.ba

Written and research composed from International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and Institute for Research of Genocide Canada by VoBG volunteer – Nizama Djuderija.

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