Mirsad Duratović from the village Bišćani in Prijedor will this Sunday, 20th July, for the last time say goodbye with ten of his family members - his brother, father, grandfather, grandmother, three uncles and two cousins.
They were all found in the mass grave in Tomasica near Prijedor, considered by many the largest mass grave discovered in Bosnia after the 1992-1995 war, and on European soil since World War II.
Mirsad Duratović will bury his father Mehmed (1952), brother Halid who was 15-years-old when he was killed, grandfather Husnija (1927), grandmother Đula (1924), uncle Ismet (1949) with his sons Elvis (1972) and Enes(1975), uncle Ešef (1959) with his wife Zemira (1965) and uncle Hazim (1964).
They were all killed on 20th July 1992, in the action directed against non-Serbs in the Prijedor region, which was carried out by the former Serbian military and police authorities in the village Bišćani, near Prijedor.
They were killed at their own doorstep, in the backyard of the family home. All were exhumed from mass graves Tomašica.
Taken to a concentration camp
Mirsad was taken to a concentration camp on the same day with his brother Halid, cousin Enes and one young boy from the village, they were used as human shileds. He survived only because he was a little luckier than the more than 3.000 victims from Prijedor.
"My brother Halid and cousin Enes were the only two killed in the center for the village, after they were used as human shileds with me. They [Serbs] told them that they would take them home but half the way they killed them", said Mirsad.
Mirsad was taken from Prijedor to the concentration camp Omarska, afterwards in the concentration camp Manjača and Trnopolje, in the end he left Bosnia-Hercegovina.
"Brother Halid, together with me, cousin Enes and one boy from the village - all of us were minors - were used as human shields throughout the entire village where they would pick up people and send them to concentration camps. When we came to the center of the village they split us. Halid and Enes were taken home, but they took me and the other boy to the concentration camp", recalled Mirsad.
He says that he remembers every day the last image of his brother in his mind, when he went down the street with his cousin Enes.
"The last image will forever remain in my mind. The moment when they "allowed" my brother and Enes to leave in a certain death. They went home, I looked after them all until I couldn’t see them anymore", said Mirsad visibly shaken by memories of 1992.
Witness to murder
Mirsad Duratović today, 22 years after the fatal events, still lives in Bišćani in the same home where he lived before the war. Every day he walks the same path like his relatives did when they were taken away in 1992.
"Every time the same image from 1992 goes through my mind. They didn’t just take us and walk us through the village, but on the same path they searched through every house, and while we waited in front of the houses we were abused, beaten…" explained Mirsad.
Like he said, the village was full of soliders, mosques were burning… He didn’t know anything about his brother or cousin until he was taken out of the concentration camp in August 1992.
"I was told they didn’t make it home alive, mother went through the entire village to search for them. For a long time they didn’t know I had survived, that I was in a concentration camp. Only when I was taken out I knew they were killed and that some women had taken their bodies away from the street, therefore my mother couldn’t find them", explained Mirsad.
Duratović says that there are witnesses to the murder of his brother and uncle.
The body of Mirsads grandmother Đula was found in Tomašica. It was preserved in the mass grave for 22 years after she was murdered there with hundreds of other victims thrown and buried so they could recognize her.
"With my uncle Ešef and cousin Elvis there were found documents, father and uncle Ismet had watches on their hands. Father got the watch as a gift for 10 years of work, like uncle Ismet, and on aunt Zemira there was still jewelery”, said Mirsad.
When the President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), Theodor Meron, vistied the mass grave in the fall of 2013, representatives of associations that bring together survivors and families of victims have expressed dissatisfaction that has none of the previously processed in this and other courts was convicted of genocide against the non-Serb population in the Prijedor region.
The Hague Tribunal and other courts in previous judgments pronounced sentences for imprisonment and torture in the camps, deportation and inhumane treatment in the Prijedor region.