Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Hope Fades for Lost Children of Bosnia’s War

Hope Fades for Lost Children of Bosnia’s War

Original story posted by Balkan inisight, I found this article to be powerful and must be shared...

More than a thousand children are listed as missing from Bosnia’s 1992-5 war – almost certainly lying in unknown graves – and with each year that passes, hopes fades of discovering their remains.
Aida Mia Alic
In July 1995, Dzemka Pasic left her home with bag in her hands and memories of her life in Srebrenica, eastern Bosnia.

She went to the UN base in Potocari with the other fleeing people from the town in a long column, while her teenage sons went with other men through the woods, hoping to save themselves from the incoming Bosnian Serb army under General Ratko Mladic.

Behind her in the town, she left behind all that she had. In the woods was what she loved the most, her two sons, Muhamed and Muamer.

“The first was born in 1976, and the second in 1978. I parted with them at the gas station,” she said.

“They went and left and I went to Potocari. As the youngest son left…he peeped back at me... They were still children… I have not found them yet, nor have I heard anything about them,” she added.

Muhamed and Muamer Pasic are two just two of the names kept in the records of missing citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina, together with the names of more than 1,000 children that have never been found.

There is still no official and complete information on the number of children who were murdered or who went missing, presumably murdered, in Bosnia’s 1992-5 war.

Bosnia’s Institute for Missing Persons, INO, says each day it gets less and less information on possible potential mass graves. They are concerned that some children will never be found.

Even babies died:

According to the Sarajevo-based Research and Documentation Centre, IDC, 3,372 children were killed or went missing in the war, mostly in the areas of Srebrenica and Sarajevo.

Most were between 15 and 18 but some were newborn babies, only 48 hours old.

“I cannot give their complete names - they are filed as a ‘baby’ or as ‘baby Kurspahic’ in the records because their parents did not have time to give him or her a name,” Amor Masovic, a director of the Institute for Missing Persons, said.

According to the Medjasi Children’s Embassy, there are few locations in Bosnia where children were not victims of war.

“Not only were children killed in the most brutal way but even kindergartens and schools were used for war crimes. Schools were the scenes where children were murdered,” Dusko Tomic, the Secretary General of the Children’s Embassy, said.

War crimes committed against children in Bosnia are mentioned in about 30 local and international court verdicts, mostly involving cases of rape and detention of civilians in buildings such as former schools, community centres and sports halls.

The highest number of verdicts involving juveniles as war crime victims relate to crimes committed in Srebrenica, Kalinovik, Sarajevo and Vlasenica. Tomic says insufficient attention is paid to child victims of war.

“Verdicts for children are scarcely taken into account because many children [victims] were registered under the [names of adult] other victims,” Tomic said.

“Many crimes against them have not yet been discovered.”

The Prosecution Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina says the suffering of children is included in various indictments. With the information obtained with the help of the Children's Embassy they have begun verifying data in the hope of tracking down the perpetrators, they say.

The apparent deaths of the two sons of Dzemka Pasic from Srebrenica are among those unexplored crimes.

Wounded for life:

Other child victims of the Bosnian war were not killed but were wounded, or raped.

Neira Tahto was wounded aged seven in 1992 near the schoolhouse in Kovaci, in Sarajevo’s old town, by a bomb that killer her aunt.

“I’d gone with my aunt to the doctor because I had a cold but when we were near the clinic a grenade fell on the school,” she recalled. “One piece of shrapnel hit my aunt on the forehead and two of them hit my leg.”

Almost 19 years on, Tahto says the event has left a lasting mark on her and her family.

“I remember that event every day because I live still nearby and walk near that place every day,” she said.

“I wasn’t aware of the gravity of the situation when it happened. It was only later that I understood how this tragedy had affected my loved ones, and of course, myself.”

According to the IDC, during the siege of Sarajevo more than 14,000 people were killed, including over 600 children, but many more were injured.

So far, the Hague Tribunal, the ICTY, has sentenced two former commanders of the Sarajevo Romanija Corps, SRK, of the Army of Republic of Srpska, VRS, Stanislav Galic and Dragomir Milosevic.

They received life imprisonment and 29 years’ jail respectively for crimes that inflicted suffering on civilians, including children, in Sarajevo.

Psychologists say that crimes inflicted on children leave deep scars.

Jasna Bajraktarevic, a psychologist, says that unlike grown persons, who have more developed defence mechanisms, children perceive such events in a specific way.

“It is difficult for children to separate the crimes that occurred to them from their own personality. A loss of identity and sense of guilt springs from a sense that they themselves provoked what happened to them,” Bajraktarevic said.

This applies especially to children who were victims of torture, or who were mentally, physically and sexually abused.

According to the verdicts of the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, a number of girls were detained in various facilities in the town of Foca, in eastern Bosnia, where they were raped and held as sex slaves. Some were as young as 12.

Protected witnesses who testified before the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina about crimes committed in Foca said that some Bosnian Serb soldiers had boasted of taking girls’ virginity.

So far, seven persons have faced trial before the Hague Tribunal and the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina for rape and for keeping young women and girls as sex slaves.

They were sentenced to a total of 153 years in prison. Only one pleaded guilty.

Bajraktarevic says that in sexual and physical abuse cases, victims often take on more responsibility than the perpetrators of the crimes.

“In cases of sexual and physical abuse, the victims often take on a lot more responsibility [for the crime] than the perpetrator, which disturbs the development of their personalities,” she said.

Hope fades:

Of the total number of missing children to date, Amor Masovic explained, only one has been deleted recently from the record after it was discovered that it had survived.

The others names have been deleted from the missing children’s list after their bodies were located in mass graves.

However, Masovic said that the Institute for Missing Persons receives less and less information these days about potential grave sites. There is a growing fear that many children will never be found.

“In some cases, conscience prevails and people are willing to disclose information about a mass grave and thus help is given,” Masovic said.

“They don’t do this to help us, and maybe in the first place not even to help the family searching for a lost relative, but to help themselves and release a terrible burden and a terrible secret,” Masovic added.

Dzemka Pasic still hopes to find the remains of her two sons, so that they can be buried in Potocari among other victims of the Srebrenica massacre.

“I imagine how old they would have been now, and how I would have grandchildren by now,” she said.

“I had just two of them and I am all alone now,” she added. “God willing they will be found one day... but there is nothing yet.”

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