Though not well known outside of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) except for those who were deeply affected by the atrocities, August 6 marks the closure of one of the most notorious concentration camps during the genocide of non-Serbs, mostly Muslims, between May and August, 1992. Once an operational mining complex, this facility was the site for torture, rape, murder, and abuse by nationalist Bosnian Serbs seeking to cleanse BiH and claim it for themselves. It is estimated that 700 prisoners were killed, with a few thousand unaccounted for. Today, remains of many unaccounted are still being sought. As of 2004, ArcelorMittal, the world's largest steelmaker based in London, continues to operate its mining operations there.
The brutality of the camp is particularly disturbing. Survivors meet at the former site in recognition of what happened there, and to speak out on behalf of the victims as they seek justice for all who suffered.
A primary motivator for me to write my forthcoming novel that begins in the camps of Prijedor, is to be part of the movement of Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) and allies seeking justice.
The genocide, of which is more commonly referred to though incorrectly in my esteem as ethnic cleansing, resulted in 100,000 deaths, 50,000 rapes and acts of sexual violence, and millions displaced. Omarska and the other camps of Prijedor were devised in the early stages of the Serb campaign. Thankfully, reporters discovered these horrific places and worldwide condemnation forced their closure, though several other camps around BiH remained.
Today, denial and revisionism that exists in much of Serbia and the Republic of Serbia, situated in BiH itself as a result of the Dayton Peace Accords of 1995, are deeply embedded into the fabric of these two entities.
It is important to understand what happened in Omarska and the other houses of torture and death. Victimhood resides in those who perpetrated these heinous crimes, and their supporters. It is mind boggling how the deniers have turned this around to say that their criminals were actually heroes defending the oppressed Serbs in Bosnia. There is no truth to this, and the preponderance of evidence proves them wrong. Authoritarian rule in what was left of Yugoslavia, and vicious propaganda, resulted in the worst atrocities on European soil since the Holocaust.
Interestingly, a recent law was imposed in BiH that now considers denial of the Srebrenica Genocide as a crime. It is a good start, but this needs to be expanded to cover all war crimes that took place in any part of BiH.
ArcelorMittal has aligned itself with the local Serb government of Prijedor, and will not provide a more significant commemoration than allowing a small plaque and an annual gathering on August 6. Several years ago, the company was committed to recognition of the atrocities that took place in its complex, but it has long-ago abandoned that promise.
As long as it takes, justice must always be sought, and the memories of those lost never forgotten.