BiH: twelve cases of enforced disappearance before the UN
Geneva / Sarajevo, 12 May 2010
TRIAL (Track Impunity Always – Swiss Association against Impunity) recently filed a communication before the United Nations Human Rights Committee concerning 12 cases of enforced disappearances carried out in Vogošća by Serb forces in June 1992. The NGO is acting on behalf of 25 relatives of the disappeared persons.
On 4 May 1992, during the first wave of enforced disappearances and “ethnic cleansing” perpetrated by Serb forces, Himzo Hadžić, Safet Hodžić, Mensud Durić, Rasim Selimović, Abdulah Jelašković, Sinan Salkić, Idriz Alić, Hasan Abaz, Hakija Kanđer, Emin Jelečković, Esad Fejzović and Đemo Šehić were arbitrarily deprived of their liberty in Svrake village, near Vogošća (BH), by members of the Serb army of the Republika Srpska (Vojska Republike Srpske – VRS) together with several hundred inhabitants of the same village.
A few days later, the women, children and elderly people were freed, whereas the men were taken to the “Nakina garaza” concentration camp where they were held prisoner for almost 20 days, after which several of them were released under the condition that they report twice a day to members of the VRS. After a few days, the reporting centre was changed to a concentration camp known as “Planjina kuća”, located in the municipality of Vogošća, where they were again kept as detainees. During their detention in this camp the men were subjected to ill-treatment and forced labour.
The first victim, Sinan Salkić, was released around 14 May 1992, under the condition that he reports three times a day to the Planjina kuća concentration camp. On the morning of 10 June 1992 three or four men came to his house and put him under arrest. Subsequent reports indicate that he was then executed and his body thrown into the river Bosna.
For their part, Himzo Hadžić, Safet Hodžić, Mensud Durić, Idriz Alić, Emin Jelečković and Hakija Kanđer were last seen on 16 June 1992 in Planjina kuća, when they were forcibly taken away on a truck by Serb soldiers to an unknown destination.
Rasim Selimović, Abdulah Jelašković, Hasan Abaz and Esad Fejzović were last seen in the same concentration camp on 18 June 1992 and have since disappeared without a trace.
The last victim, Đemo Šehić, having seen the first group of men being forcibly led away from Planjina kuća on 16 June 1992, tried to escape to the nearby village of Paljevo. However, he was allegedly captured and arbitrarily executed by members of the Serbian army.
What has become of these twelve men remains officially unknown to this date.
Almost 18 years later, no prompt, impartial, thorough and independent investigation has been undertaken by the authorities to locate the 12 missing men or to exhume, identify, and hand over their mortal remains to their families. No proceedings have been instituted, and no one has been prosecuted despite available evidence concerning the identity of the perpetrators. In addition, the relatives of those missing have undertaken several administrative procedures to obtain information about their loved ones, and have consistently raised these cases with the BiH authorities and the international organizations present in the country. To date, all of these initiatives have been in vain.
On 23 February 2006, the Constitutional Court of BiH ordered the relevant domestic institutions to disclose all available information on the fate and whereabouts of the twelve missing persons.
On 16 November 2006, the Constitutional Court issued a judgment that ruled that the concerned authorities had failed to enforce its previous decision. The result is that as of this day the victims’ relatives have received no information whatsoever from BiH authorities concerning their loved ones.
For Ema Čekić, the President of the Vogošća Association of Families of Missing Persons, who receives legal support form TRIAL, “It is now time for the authorities to take into serious consideration the demands of the victim’s close relatives. We have waited long enough; justice must be done”. According to Philip Grant, President of TRIAL, “The complete absence of any investigation or prosecution is a continual ordeal for the close relatives of those missing. It has become essential that the authorities take resolute action, now!”.
At the beginning of May 2010, TRIAL filed a communication before the Human Rights Committee on behalf of 25 close family members, requesting the Committee to rule that BiH violated several articles of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, notably the inherent right to life (article 6), the prohibition of torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment (article 7), the right to liberty and security of person (article 9), the right to be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person (article 10). These violations have been invoked in the name of those missing. Their close relatives also consider themselves victims of violations of the Covenant due to the indifferent attitude of the authorities to their pain and anguish, and to their inability to mourn properly and to bury their loved ones according to their customs and beliefs.
The General Context
According to sources, between 100,000 and 200,000 people were killed between 1992 and 1995 during the conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and an additional 25,000 to 30,000 were victims of forced disappearances. Almost 10,000 people remain unaccounted for since then.
Since its creation, TRIAL has petitioned the European Court of Human Rights in twelve cases involving Bosnia and Herzegovina. Six other cases were brought before the United Nations Human Rights Committee.
The organization is also active in cases of forced disappearances or torture in Algeria, Libya, and Nepal and represents more than twenty families before various international bodies.
- More on the case here.