BIRN: Bosnia Maps 150 Wartime Detention Sites



A new web database shows 150 detention camps and sites used during the 1990s conflict, part of a project to map all the places where civilian and military prisoners were held in wartime.

The Association for Transitional Justice, Responsibility and Remembrance and the Centre for Democracy and Transitional Justice on Thursday presented the web database which has so far documented 150 places where around 30,000 people were detained and around 5,000 killed.

Dzenana Karup-Drusko, president of the Association for Transitional Justice, Responsibility and Remembrance, explained that the aim of the project was to identify and document all detention sites, as well as to provide a list of the names of detainees who were killed or died during forced labour and those who were subjected to torture or inhumane treatment.

“It is an undeniable fact that places of detention were opened after the start of hostilities in 1992 on all sides. The rule, rather than the exception, was that all persons were detained, even those that did not take part in hostilities, and even women. Women who very often became the victims of rape,” said Karup-Drusko.

The total number of all the camps and detention sites that operated from 1992 to 1995 is still unknown, she said. The project took data from all the detainees’ associations in Bosnia and Herzegovina, according to whose estimates there were around 1,350 prison camps and other places of detention. A total of 656 of them detained Bosniaks, 523 Serbs and 173 Croats.

The sources used for the mapping were court judgments, books, publications, reports, media articles and interviews. The project will now continue to map the rest of the sites, Karup-Drusko said.

The two NGOs that created the online database are members of the Coalition for RECOM, an initiative campaigning for the formation of a regional fact-finding commission into the Yugoslav wars which is supported by more than 2,000 civil society organisations.

RECOM advocate in Bosnia and Herzegovina Dino Mustafic, a renowned theatre director, said the project could uncover new facts about the conflict.

“Although the perpetrators of many of the crimes in these places have been convicted, the fact is that many of them are still free. There are also detention camps for which no one has been held responsible. What is more, there are numerous places of detention about which the general public does not even know,” said Mustafic.