The commemoration for civilians killed on the bridge across the Sava river between Brčko in BiH and Gunje in Croatia was attended by peace activists and war veterans from Bosnia and Herzegovina.
29 years ago, more than a hundred civilians were killed when the bridge connecting Brčko and Gunja, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia, was blown up.
On 30 April, wreaths were brought to the bridge and roses were cast into the Sava river to commemorate the victims and call for finding their remains and prosecuting those responsible. According to the victims’ association, the number of people who perished on the bridge was never precisely determined, but is over a 100 civilians. The remains of only three victims have been found to date. Also, no one has yet been prosecuted for this crime, which means that no court has determined who was responsible for the killing of the civilian victims.
The commemoration was organised by the Association of Families of Missing, Forcibly Displaced and Killed Bosniaks of the Brčko District of BiH in coordination with the Association of Families of Missing, Forcibly Displaced and Killed Croats, the Association of Prison Camp Survivors and the Association for Helping Victims and Survivors of Sexual Violence, and this year it was also attended by veterans of the Army of RBiH, the Croat Defence Council and the Army of Republika Srpska, together with peace activists from the region, organised by the Centre for Nonviolent Action Sarajevo-Belgrade.
“As war veterans, we are aware of the responsibility we carry and we come to places like this in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the region to honour the victims and show support and solidarity with their families. It is particularly painful, as is the case here, when the families are searching for the remains of their loved ones. Aware of the fact that the families require concrete assistance from state institutions in order to find their loved ones, we as their fellow citizens want to tell them that we will always support them in their efforts. Another important aspect is the prosecution of those responsible and clearly determining and condemning every crime, so we call on the prosecutors’ offices to step up and do more to prosecute those responsible,” said Adnan Hasanbegović, a war veteran of the Army of RBiH and member of the Centre for Nonviolent Action.
Most of the civilians who found themselves on the bridge at that time had been trying to get to Bosnia and Herzegovina from Croatia. Since the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina had already started, hundreds of civilians tried to go through Brčko to reach their homes and families in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The bridge had already been dynamited and damaged, but civilians were waiting in Gunja for the end of curfew so they could start across the bridge on foot in the early morning hours. The bridge was blown up a little before 5 a.m. while a column of civilians had been making their way across, having been let through by the Croatian authorities some 15 minutes before the end of curfew. The victims were from various parts of BiH, which made it difficult to determine the exact number of those killed, and the fact that their bodies ended up in the Sava river compounded efforts to find the missing.
Ramiz Ahmetović, president of the Association of Families of Missing, Forcibly Displaced and Killed Bosniaks of the Brčko District of BiH, said that they gather on the bridge every year as a reminder of the evil that happened there and to alert the coming generations to the past and the need to work on preserving and further building the peace that was achieved.
“The problem here is that even after 29 years, no indictment has been raised for this war crime and we have no indication that this will be done in the foreseeable future. Some of the circumstances of the crime are well-known, but this is a political matter, so when politicians agree, the indictment will be raised. According to certain available information, some of those responsible for the crimes continue to work in the administration, in the media, and it is clear that prosecuting the crime is not in someone’s interest. We are not strong enough to be able to influence anything except to state that if things continue like this, the families will not see justice, because they will die out. Then the question becomes who will need this justice, only history, as a record of what happened. That too is important, to know the truth, to know who did this, I cannot speak only of individual responsibility, that this was done by an individual, the responsibility lies with the authorities at the time,” Ahmetović said.
The associations mark the commemoration for civilians killed at the bridge in Brčko as the start of suffering of non-Serbs in this region.
“We would like to thank the associations that preserve the memory of those killed on the bridge, which is particularly important when the crimes have not yet been prosecuted, nor has the bridge been marked as a site where civilians were killed. This commemoration is all the more important because the victims were from various places across BiH. We hope to see an initiative to mark this atrocity from the other side of the bridge, in Gunja, Croatia, from where these poor people set off to meet their deaths,” said Davorka Turk from the Centre for Nonviolent Action.
Siniša Mijanić, a veteran of VRS from Šamac, said it was important to remember all sites of suffering and honour the victims.
“The war mostly claimed the lives of innocents, as it did that day in Brčko when innocent civilians were killed. People were killed on the bridge while they were making their way home to their families. As veterans of all the armies that participated in the conflicts in former Yugoslavia, we have come to pay our respects to the victims and to send a message of never again to future generations. Let us be aware that war never brought anything good to anyone. That many were disabled, many killed, and saddest of all, many many young lives were lost in the war,” Mijanić said.
Under the organisation of the Centre for Nonviolent Action, veterans from the region have attended commemorations in BiH in Gornji Vakuf, at Site 715 near Zavidovići, in Stog near Vozuća, in Novi Grad/Bosanski Novi, Sanski Most (Hrastova glavica), Sijekovac near Brod, Laništa near Brčko, Trusina near Konjic, Ahmići near Vitez, Grabovica near Mostar, Skelani near Srebrenica, Briševo and Zecovi near Prijedor, Korićanske stijene, Stupni Do near Vareš, Boderište near Brčko, and in Serbia in Grdelička klisura near Leskovac, Varvarin near Kruševac, Aleksinac, as well as in Croatia in Pakrac, Varivode and Gošić near Knin.