Gastarbeider in Sarajevo

Na ruim twee jaar en veel verhalen in het Bosnisch uit Nederland, zoals beloofd op mijn afscheidsborrel, ook verhalen in het Nederlands uit Bosnië. Veel plezier. S.


The Blood Mine

The Dark Side of Arcelor Mittal and Survivors Quest for Justice in Bosnia and Herzegovina

By Elmina Kulasic

MPP 2011

Ima da ga bude – it will have to be!” A heartbreaking phrase uttered through a shaky voice and eyes full of tears by Satko Mujagic, an Omarska concentration camp survivor.

Satko’s agony and personal quest for justice began 20 years ago on May 24, 1992 in a small town Kozarac – my hometown as well. It was supposed to be a sunny day but instead the town was surrounded and besieged. Satko as a civilian, together with the majority of inhabitants from Kozarac including my family, was detained for 200 days in surrounding concentration camps of which approximately three months have been in Omarska.   

Omarska, a notorious death camp for non-Serbs in the Prijedor municipality, was discovered in August 1992 by British journalists Ed Vulliamy and Penny Marshal which caused widespread outrage throughout the international community. The skeleton-like images reminded the world of the Second World War and the Holocaust. The images and the truths about the concentration camps were one of the key triggers which culminated in the establishment of the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY). The crimes against humanity committed in Omarska and other surrounding death camps have not gone unpunished by the ICTY and local Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) courts.

The commitment to the return of refugees guaranteed by Annex 7 of the Dayton Peace Accords, which ended the war in BiH, has constructed a somewhat positive image around Kozarac and Prijedor. A number of refugees have returned, the steady economic progress together with foreign reminances has enabled them to rebuild their homes – to an extent, and the local authorities in Prijedor have given permission for the Kozarac Memorial to be built. However, these are only some of the few examples of post-conflict reconstruction and reconciliation. Unfortunately, the genocidal campaign carried out in Kozarac and Prijedor in 1992 is still very much present today in 2012. The local authorities have constructed a policy of denial and have refused to acknowledge the crimes committed. Nevertheless, the darker side of this issue and compliance with the policy of appeasement and denial is the world largest steel conglomerate which now owns 51% of the industrial mine complex where the Omarska concentration camp was situated  – Arcelor Mittal. 

On January 14, 2005 during a meeting with Omarska concentration camp survivors in Rotterdam, the former CEO for Europe of Mittal Steel agreed that access to the former concentration camp will be granted under the condition that a request for entry is sent prior to the visit. The agreement also included the preservation of the “White House,” where the detainees were tortured and killed, and the construction of the Omarska Memorial Center. In the last couple of years the agreement about the preservation of the “White House” was breached. The house was painted covering all traces of blood and evidence of torture, while the construction of the Omarska Memorial Center has been completely abandoned. Furthermore, the notorious chair on which the detainees were tortured went missing. The agreement regarding access to the concentration camp was respected until this year’s change of Arcelor Mittal policy; denial of access to the former concentration camp.  

The access to the former concentration camp was not only denied to the victim’s families, it was denied to a group of students from Munich, researchers from Goldsmiths University of London and to the Four Faces of Omarska, a peace activist’s organization from Serbia 

It is disturbing that a well established and world know corporation such as Arcelor Mittal is in the forefront when it comes to the denial of the Omarska concentration camp. On the one hand it is praising itself for its social and corporate responsibility to the local community; while on the other it is breaching its 2005 agreement with the concentration camp survivors. At the same time, while it “donated” thousands of pounds to the construction of the ArcelorMittal Orbit in London, it has yet to donate a cent to the construction of the Omarske Memorial Center. 

The struggle of the Omarska concentration camp survivors to commemorate and remember their loved ones as well as to have access to the sites were the crimes have been committed is overwhelming in every single sense. Not only do they have to deal with the loss of their loved ones; they also have to deal with corporate denial of the crimes. Nevertheless, with the involvement of the survivors, local and international non-governmental organizations as well as a number of political actors the truths will prevail. Thus, if anything is certain at this point it is that the painful echoes of the notorious concentration camp Omarska will be heard, remembered and commemorate in Prijedor – with or without Arcelor Mittal’s permission.


Gastarbeider in Sarajevo
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