Two decades since the opening of a mass grave of Serbs in Mrkonjic Grad

MRKONJIC GRAD – The marking of the 20th anniversary of the opening of a mass grave in Mrkonjic Grad, where the remains of 181 Serbian victims massacred during the aggression of the Croatian Army and the 5th Corps of the so-called Army of BiH were discovered, started today in Mrkonjic Grad with a memorial service and the laying of wreaths at the City Cemetery.The Republika Srpska Minister of Labour and Veterans’ Affairs, Milenko Savanovic, attended the memorial service and the laying of wreaths ceremony. He pointed to the fact that 20 years after the opening of the mass grave, no one has yet been brought to justice which speaks that the ICTY and the BiH Court are political institutions designed to try Serbs only.

“Only Serbs are tried, which additionally provokes, irritates and angers the families of those killed and the Serbian people in general. This speaks of what kind of society we live in and that the justice is far away from these parts,” Savanovic said.

He said that justice should be equal for all who committed crimes.

The president of the Republika Srpska Organisation of Families of Killed and Captured Soldiers and Missing Civilians, Nedeljko Mitrovic, said that it is sad that 20 years after the exhumation of one of the biggest mass graves, no one has been brought to justice for these crimes.

“All of us who in any way are dealing with this issue should ask forgiveness from the families of the victims because we did nothing. This cannot be forgiven, regardless of obstructions and destructions on the other side. We were not persistent enough,” Mitrovic said.

He stressed that one should insist that this crime be prosecuted and that this should be set as a condition for reconciliation and coexistence.

The Head of Mrkonjic Grad Municipality, Divna Anicic, says that everything is known about this crime and that the same story is told every year, but that nothing is happening, which is inadmissible.

“We all know that the case concerning the crimes committed in Mrkonjic Grad and the Western Krajina was at The Hague and that it was returned to the BiH Prosecutor’s Office which did not prosecute it even 20 years after the mass grave was opened,” Anicic said.

The exhumation of bodies from the mass grave started on April 1, 1996. The findings of pathologists show that all victims were bestially tortured and then killed.

Slobodan Radulj, a member of a team of experts who exhumed the bodies from the mass grave, said that the mass grave comprised of two ditches which were 100 metres long, where bodies in nylon sacks were aligned like sardines in a can.

“Evidence of torture was found in the graveyard as well, such as bloody clothing and footwear. A gas burner, barbed wire for binding the victims, spent casings were also found,” Radulj said.

The families of the victims are embittered since, despite all the evidence, they are still waiting for justice.

Zdravko Korac, who found his brother in the mass grave, says that massacred Serbs were buried in the mass grave.

“It was horrific. This was a massacre since the bodies were mutilated. The victims were cruelly tortured in various ways,” Karac said.

He added that the aim of this gathering is to inform the public and to force the BiH Prosecutor’s Office to finally start proceedings.

During the aggression of the Croatian Army and the 5th Corps of the so-called Army of BiH against 13 Western Krajina municipalities in Republika Srpska in September and October 1995, more than 120,000 Serbs were expelled from their homes.

After Republika Srpska regained the area of Mrkonjic Grad Municipality, the greatest mass grave was discovered at the Orthodox cemetery which contained, among others, ten women, 71 civilians, 97 Republika Srpska Army soldiers and three police officers.

Another 176 bodies were discovered in several smaller mass graves in this Municipality, and autopsies showed that all the victims were tortured and massacred.

No one has yet been brought to justice for these crimes.(SRNA)