Bosnian Census ‘Confirms Ethnic Cleansing of Croats’

Fecha de publicación: 
08 Nov 2013

Bosnians are still awaiting the full results of the country's first census since the war, and while many think that discovering the truth about contemporary Bosnia and Herzegovina will be a positive step, others like Bishop Franjo Komarica believe that it will reveal that the impact of the ethnic cleansing during the 1992-95 conflict was even worse than previously thought.

A Roman Catholic prelate who is not only the bishop of Banja Luka but a well-known human rights advocate, Komarica is at the heart of the Bosnian Croat community in the country's Serb-dominated entity, Republika Srpska.

Komarica claims that over 220,000 Catholics were forced to flee Republika Srpska during the war and almost 800 were killed.

He told BIRN that he fears that the census results, due to be published in January, will reveal how few Croats still live in Republika Srpska.

"I think the ethnic cleansing will be confirmed. During the census I had a lot of complaints from our people, they said nobody came to take their data. They said since they don't have real homes, they can't be part of the census. Their homes are almost completely destroyed, this is true, but it's because the municipalities have done nothing to help Croats stay," the bishop said.

"This is ugly and sad and it shows we are part of a dramatic game of small gods – those politicians who have power – they are playing with human destinies," he said.

Komarica, now aged 67, was one of 11 children born in a village near Banja Luka. During the 1992-95 war, his diocese fell under Serb military control. He says that almost all of its churches were destroyed and several priests killed.

“Every day was terrible. I used to pray: ‘God help me to forget what happened yesterday.’ At times I was on the verge of madness,” he told BIRN in 2010.

He was kept under house arrest during the conflict but tried to communicate with the Serb wartime authorities in an attempt to defend the Croat community and prevent further atrocities. He also allowed some of the families who were displaced by the conflict live in his residence.

In 2004, he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, and the following year, he was presented with the Franz Werfel Human Rights Award.

According to the Research and Documentation Centre in Sarajevo, which investigated the crimes committed during the war, 7,700 Bosnian Croats were killed from 1992 to 1995, more than 2,000 of whom were civilians.

The war crimes against Bosnian Croats and Bosniaks in Republika Srpska in the spring and summer of 1992 have been well documented. High-ranking politicians – such as the speaker of the Bosnian Serb parliament, Momcilo Krajisnik, and former Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavisc ­– were given long prison sentences for taking part in a joint criminal enterprise aimed at expelling the non-Serb population.

Komarica says that few Croats who fled during the war have returned, and of those who did, most left again because they did not have the basic prerequisites to create a decent life for themselves in Republika Srpska.

"We think only two per cent of the original population came back after the war. We also had more Croats in 1995 then we have today," the bishop said.

The census will simply serve to highlight this, he said: "Today we are seeing a confirmation of the crimes. An entire people was killed here."

Speaking about the search for remains of people still missing since the war, the bishop said he had found out that many families, because of the slow pace of official searches, are paying to tell them where wartime graves are located.

"I know this happens, people are paying for this information... But I fear for people who do this, who have information but do not reveal it. It is as if they are ignoring God's own rules," Komarica said.

Komarica accused courts in Bosnia of not doing enough to prosecute crimes against Croats and politicians of not wanting to reveal the truth.

"There is no will from the relevant political officials who were in office during the war to investigate war crimes, to find those guilty people," he said.

The bishop said that ordinary people in contemporary Bosnia had to stand up for their own rights and force the politicians to deliver.

"Our society cannot be a slave to politicians. This is the challenge, to create a critical mass which will defend our basic human rights and civil liberites," he insisted.