The High Representative for Bosnia has asked Bosniak and Croat victims associations and the Bosnian Serb mayor to find a compromise which would allow a “dignified commemoration” for the families of those killed 20 years ago.Valentin Inzko visited the northern town of Prijedor on Tuesday, where he met the town’s mayor, Marko Pavic, and eight victims associations, in an attempt to ease the ethnic tensions caused by a refusal of the local government to allow non-Serb returnees the right to commemorate their dead.“There are different views about this situation, but I think there is a way of compromise which would respect both sides and ensure a dignified commemoration. These questions should be discussed again, and I have agreed a new meeting with both sides, where we will try to find a way,” said Inzko after meeting both sides separately.
In May this year, the mayor of Prijedor, Marko Pavic, had banned the gathering of the families of the victims, who wanted to commemorate the deaths of the Bosniaks and Croats killed in the town during the war, saying that such an event would “undermine the town’s reputation”.
Pavic objected to the Bosniak organisations which described the killings as genocide. Following the meeting with Inzko on Tuesday he said that he had not changed his mind.
“I told Inzko that we cannot accept labelling the happenings in Prijedor as genocide. I believe that the use of that word is a breach of our rights and a breach of law, because no court has ever found that genocide happened in Prijedor. All this would do is breed hatred in Prijedor all over again,” said Pavic.
Pavic added he would be willing to accept commemorations if the word genocide was removed from all documents and public speeches.
Inzko, however, said that Prijedor was one of the places where the biggest number of people was killed during the war, and the families of those killed have a right to dignity.
The High Representative has also met with officials from the Omarska mine, a site of the notorious camp for non-Serbs in Prijedor during the war.
At the beginning of May, representatives of Bosniak victims associations were prevented from entering the Omarska camp by Arcelor Mittal, a UK-based company and the largest steel producer in the world, which has purchased the mine. The company cited safety concerns as the reason for refusal.