Göttingen/Sarajevo, 06. August 2012
On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the closure of the [Bosnian] Serb concentration camp at Omarska (6.8.1992), Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) / Gesellschaft für bedrohte Völker (GfbV) is calling on the Indo-British steel company ArcelorMittal to allow the construction of a memorial with unrestricted public access at the iron ore mine in Western Bosnia. "ArcelorMittal must provide survivors and relatives with a suitable location where they can honour the memory of the victims", the international human rights organisation's founder, Tilman Zülch, maintains. "The company should also be employing Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats to work for it, not just Serbs, in order to help end the discrimination that non-Serbs continue to suffer in the part of Bosnia currently under Serb administration." Zülch urged all European governments along with the United States, international institutions and business organisations to call on ArcelorMittal to take the necessary action. With 60 subsidiaries in 24 countries and approximately 310,000 employees, ArcelorMittal is the world's largest steel manufacturer. The company owns 51 per cent of the Omarska mine, which is located in the so-called Republika Srpska entity of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
On Monday several thousand former refugees and their relatives will gather at Omarska to honour the memory of those who died in the three concentration camps in the area around Prijedor. 3227 individuals were reported missing and at least that number are believed to have been killed. The remains of approximately 2000 have been recovered. There are believed to be more mass graves still unexhumed within the area of the Omarska mine. Despite numerous requests from relatives and survivors the company's management continues to deny them access to the site. Exceptionally, survivors will be allowed to visit the mine on 6 August. The company refuses to allow the construction of a memorial allegedly to avoid antagonising the mine's Serb work force and the risk of damaging the "harmonious community relations" in Prijedor. This is a shameful refusal on the part of ArcelorMittal's millionaire chairman, Lakshmi Mittal, who has provided 16 million pounds to fund the construction of the Orbit Tower commemorating the London Olympic Games and attracted publicity through his participation in the Olympic torch relay," Zülch observed critically.
Between 24 May and 27 May 1992 Serb civil and military authorities jointly established concentration camps at Omarska, Keraterm and Trnopolje in the Bosnian municipality of Prijedor. Approximately 33,000 local Bosnian Muslims and and Bosnian-Croats were beaten, tortured and raped in the camps. The municipality's non-Serb population - 49,351 Bosnian Muslims and 6316 Bosnian Croats - were forced to leave and dispersed across the globe. At the beginning of August 1992 the existence of the three concentration camps was "revealed" to the public by the noted British and American journalists Roy Gutman, Penny Marshall, Ed Vulliamy and Ian Williams. The publication of images of haggard and emaciated concentration camp detainees shocked the world. On 6 August 1992 Omarska and Keraterm were closed. Since the autumn of 1992 STP/GfbV has supported many of the survivors granted refugee status by Germany. In spite of discrimination by the Serb authorities, approximately 4500 Bosnian Muslims and 400 Bosnian Croats have now returned home to Prijedor. The majority of the returnees live in the villages surrounding Prijedor itself.
One of the 36 women who were detained at Omarska has described the situation in the camp as follows. "There were approximately 7000 to 8000 men there. We were kept in the canteen all day long. We had to sit on two radiators and watch the gamut of torture, killings, rape, the destruction of the defenceless, taking place before our eyes. In front of me I was able to see the White House and the Red House. We could see the whole camp, the killings and the victims. They forced us to clear up the mess and mop up the blood. … They humiliated and brutalised us. They were our (Serb) neighbours, old friends, the witnesses at our marriages, people whom we knew well. I saw them force two brothers to kill one another simply because they were the offspring of a mixed marriage. One of them was named Igor, the other Sanel. One was made to kill the other. They made fathers kill their sons and sons kill their fathers. They forced them to eat grass like animals, to drink urine ... The entire Prijedor elite was there - doctors, engineers, professors, anyone who was anyone in the town..."
The director of STP's/GfbV's Sarajevo office, Fadila Memisevic, will be taking part in the commemoration ceremony at Omarska on 6 August. She can be contacted at Omarska on tel. (+387) 611 890 34. Ms Memisevic speaks Bosnian and German.
You can also contact Belma Zulcic in our office in Sarajevo on tel. (+387) 33 213 707.
STP's / GfbV's founder and General Secretary Tilman Zülch can be contacted on tel. (+49) 551 - 499 06 0.