Paweł Starzec

2013 - Ongoing

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Makeshift is a project on rewriting history in Bosnia and Hercegovina, focusing on mass atrocities of Bosnian War, places where they were committed, and their erased context. In most cases, places used to murder civilians were renovated after the war, and thus restored to their former purpose of buildings of public utility.

History is a settlement within the community, regarding how members of this community remember the events that took place in the past. The trend towards the construction and relying on the structured history in constructing order of the present time is an expression of social significance of constructed history. In a group of people with the same belief about past events, a collective identity is being formed. The nation, as an ethnic group owning an organised state, among its constitutive features has sharing common cultural and historical grounds. The culture of the community is based on shared history as well, taking shape of the established order of facts and general conceptions. By common saying, that’s winners who write history.

History is a collectively set narration, so it has the ability of being rewritten from scratch, to omit things that had to be forgotten. Given the fact that a vital part of events of Bosnian War of 1992-1995 is now concealed by new historical narrations to maintain the integrity of newly founded society of divided ethnical groups, it’s extremely important to analyse this conflict, the reasons behind it and the aftermath of it. A lot of them seem universal and beyond specific place and time, and thus could be easily repeated again. The entire landscape bears contamination that part of newly written history wants to erase.

Most of captions are direct quotations of Final Report of UN Commission of Experts (Security Council Resolution 780/1992) Annex VIII: PRISON CAMPS, or ICTY indictments and court documents.

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  • Drina River. The view from Mehmed-Paša Sokolović Bridge in Višegrad, titular for Nobel-prize winning “The Bridge on The Drina” by Ivo Andric. UNESCO site. Former execution ground.

  • Alipasino Polje. There was at least one site of detention in this area. Three male witnesses describe events occurring at the prison at Alipasino Polje, indicating that there may have been only one. Because the other witnesses do not allege that women were raped at the prison where they were held, this may be another site.

  • Trebević Bob Staza. Built in 1981 as a part of Sarajevo’s preparation to host Winter Olympic Games in 1984, bobsleigh and luge track was located on the slopes of Trebević mountain, a popular destination for weekend trips above the city. Olympic Games were percieved as a huge success, and one of the common denominators for Yugoslav society.

  • Nesting a small village by the same name, known as a partisan stronghold from II WW, Korićani cliffs rise above the canyon of Ilomska river to the altitude of 1,200 meters. Each year on 21/08, 250 roses are thrown from Korićani cliffs into the abyss hiding Ilomska river in an act of remembrance. On this date in 1992 almost 250 men were killed by gunfire and thrown into the ravine.

  • One subject described the White House as the most infamous structure at the camp. He stated that the building was where the camp authorities held those they called extremists. According to the subject, the first room to the left was the punishment room, where hardly anyone came out alive.

    Reports stated that no one was killed with a gun at the White House, only by beatings and the like. According to reports, in the morning prisoners would see bodies piled up next to the white house. Subject estimated that guards killed five to 10 men per night, and up to 30 prisoners on some nights. He added that guards sang as they beat prisoners to death and sometimes sang nationalistic and religious songs.

  • Former Museum of the Revolution in Jablanica building was used as a detention centre. Reports estimate the number of inmates for about 800 people.

  • One subject stated that he counted 50 prisoners killed by beating, torture or shooting. Another subject reportedly witnessed the guards at the camp shoot a man and then jump on his head. The same subject also reported prisoners being forced into genital biting. It was also reported that one prisoner earned the nickname «rubber man» because he never let himself be knocked down.

  • The men had not been given water for three days, and started to lost their minds, and reportedly were running out of air in the room, hallucinating, and taking off their clothes. According to a subject who was in Room 2, machine guns were lined up next to the door of Room 3. Another subject reported that he was near the door in Room 1 and saw five machine gun bays, all shooting into Room 3.

  • According to one report, local Muslim residents were collected and sent to the local stadium for «consultations with the new authorities». Some 6,000 to 7,000 Muslims were interned at the stadium on 10 June 1992. They were reportedly forced to serve as blood donors, and some did not survive because so much blood had been withdrawn. Reportedly, the bodies of hundreds of individuals have been burned or thrown into the Drina River.

  • The victim was blindfolded and beaten both with truncheons and what he believes were bags of sand. In another account, the reporting inmate noted that prisoners were contained in rather poor facilities which consisted of one room in the cellar without windows and which was completely dark. The witness noted that there was a candle but not enough air to sustain the flame. It was reportedly also difficult to breath.

  • In September 1993, the camp commander reported 1,300 inmates including two women who refused to leave. On some occasions, guards withheld all food and water from the detainees, in retaliation for military setbacks. There was regular cruel treatment and infliction of great suffering, with soldiers and guards routinely beating detainees, often to the point of unconsciousness and severe injuries.

  • One of the prosecuted stated that he visited the site in Vogošća Motel at least once a week on the suggestion or orders of his commanders or his platoon leaders. He stated that he was told it was important for his morale to rape Muslim women. Prosecuted confessed to raping eleven women on this site, and killing them at Zuc mountain afterwards.

    Prosecuted also stated that he was present when French and Canadian UNPROFOR soldiers came to take women away in UN APCs, and that UN soldiers raped women and returned them to the restaurant. Prosecuted also added that once he saw General McKenzie, the commander of UNPROFOR in Sarajevo, with four girls. He said he recognised the general from television.

  • Apparently, murder and torture were a daily occurrence. Many prisoners were killed by being shot in the back of the head. Knives were reported to be used to cut into the skin of the internees all the way to the bone and others had their fingers cut off. Many men were allegedly castrated. Such killings were usually carried out near floor drains which emptied into the Sava river.

  • Serbs detained between 200 to 412 Muslims in a building/bar in Vila. The building was owned by Kasim Perco, a Muslim who fled during the hostilities. The detainees were interrogated and beaten. At least one detainee was beaten for six hours and stabbed with a knife. Approximately 50 detainees were removed from the camp to be used as a «living shield» by soldiers. Twenty-three of the detainees were killed.

  • A witness described how she was imprisoned in this school, along with members of her family. She spoke of being raped there by Serb soldiers every single day and night. At times she was raped in front of her mother or her father, who were beaten while she was raped. She described how one day, soldiers cut off the head of her mother’s maternal uncle and played ball with it in the school yard.

  • Apparently, women detained here were picked up by police officers, members of the White Eagles and Arkan’s and Seselj’s men. Many of them were not yet 14 years old. According to this witness, the women detained at the hotel had sufficient food and drink because they were the selected women meant to later give birth to Cetnik babies.

    Vilina Vlas was one of the main detention facilities in Visegrad. It was located in a hotel/spa about seven kilometres south-east of Visegrad proper, on the way to Gorazde. This camp was established with the coming of the Uzice Corps in the end of April. It held women for the purposes of rape, serving as a camp brothel. Of them, five committed suicide by jumping form a balcony at the hotel, six others escaped and the rest were killed after multiple rapes.

  • More than 50 people were burned alive in this house. After the war, the building was left to deteriorate, until the municipal office decided to demolish the remains to build a road, when it was rebuilt as a memorial.

  • Safety in Srebrenica Safe Zone was ensured by UNPROFOR Dutchbat battalion, stationing in a former battery factory. In 1995 Serbs invaded the enclave. Dutchbat capitulated without intervention and left the base. In next few days, about 8373 men were killed on execution sites in nearby villages.

  • Between 1500 and 2000 men were executed at this location during the Srebrenica Genocide, with some bodies buried in a mass grave there, and some of them being reburied in secondary locations.

  • A historical landmark described in A bridge on the Drina by Ivo Andric, stone bridge in Višegrad was used as a place of execution during ethnic cleansing of Višegrad and whole Drina Valley. Civilians were executed by having their throats slit or being thrown in the water and being shot at in-flight. River carried the bodies further downstream, and during maintenance work on nearby Perucac dam more than 300 were found. Pictured during an official municipal water jumping contest.