The bodies of those murdered during the ethnic cleansing of Višegrad were thrown into the river, which carried the bodies downstream. During maintenance work on the nearby Perućac dam, skeletal remains of more than 300 victims were found.
A detention camp was organized in the basement of a housing estate. One witness testified that he was interrogated and asked about the names of other Chetniks. When he confirmed that he knew one of the men, he was beaten for twelve hours. The main inspector responsible for the camp both oversaw, and participated in, the torture of detainees.
Bob Staza, Trebević
The bobsled and luge track was built, in 1981, in preparation for the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo. It was located on the slopes of Mount Trebević, a popular destination for weekend trips outside the city. The Sarajevo ’84 Olympics were considered an enormous success, and represented a common denominator for Yugoslav society at the time.
The Olympic Games were the first thing I knew about Sarajevo. A welcome banner featuring the wolf Vučko, the mascot of the 1984 Winter Games, greeted me upon my arrival. Vučko was chosen by readers of the largest magazines. The popular singer Zdravko Čolić became his voice in animated shorts. The choice of a wolf as Olympic mascot is said to have had a positive impact on the population’s attitude toward real wolves. Eight years after the Olympics, a number of sporting venues found new use during the siege of the city. The podium under the hills at Malo Polje became an execution site. The Zetra Olympic Hall became a temporary morgue, the chairs providing wood for coffins. The bobsled track on the slopes of Mount Trebević gave cover to artillery positions, and the scenic panorama of the city below facilitated mortar and heavy artillery fire.
White House, Omarska
One witness 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 witness, the first room to the left was the punishment room. Hardly anyone came out alive. According to reports, victims at the White House were beaten to death instead of being shot. In the morning, prisoners would see bodies piled up next to the White House. The witness estimated that guards killed five to ten men per night, and up to thirty prisoners on some nights. He added that as they beat prisoners to death, the guards sang, including nationalistic and religious songs.
One witness stated that he counted fifty prisoners that were beaten, shot, tortured to death. Another witness reportedly witnessed the guards at the camp shoot a man and then jump on his head. The same witness also reported prisoners being forced into genital biting. One prisoner was given the nickname “Rubber Man” because he never let himself be knocked down.
According to reports, the men were tormented, abused, and beaten for the next four days by soldiers in the camp’s parking lot. The prisoners were then returned to Room 3. The temperature was sweltering. The men in Room 3 were denied water for three days. They began to lose their minds. The men were running out of air in the room, hallucinating, and taking off their clothes. As they lost control of themselves, soldiers outside told them, “We are going to kill you if you don’t stop.” According to a witness who was in Room 2, machine guns were lined up next to the door of Room 3. Another witness, near the door in Room 1, reported seeing five mounted machine guns shooting into Room 3.
Referred to as a “refugee reception centre” or “open camp” by the Bosnian Serb authorities. However, according to one report, Trnopolje was in fact run as a concentration camp, from May–August 1992. The camp was discovered by two crews of Western journalists on August 7, 1992. A photograph depicting camp prisoner Fikret Alić, emaciated behind barbed wire, appeared on the cover of Time magazine.
In 2014, I photographed the school and community center in Trnopolje for the first time, twenty-two years after the visit of the journalists who were the first to document the suffering in Bosnia’s camps. Fikret Alić, the starved man in the foreground of the cover photograph of the August 17, 1992 issue of Time, also appeared in ITN television coverage. Margaret Thatcher described images from the Prijedor camps as “images of another Holocaust.” For the boys just hanging around outside their school, the appearance of a foreign photographer was not particularly interesting. Still, they asked if I would take a picture of them.
Korićani is a village on the slopes of Mount Vlašić. It was a partisan stronghold during World War II. The Korićani Cliffs rise above the canyon of the Ilomska River to an altitude of nearly 4,000 feet (1,200 meters). On August 21, 1992, more than 200 men were taken to the Cliffs from the Trnopolje concentration camp and shot to death. Their corpses were thrown into the ravine. Each year, on August 21, in an act of remembrance, 250 roses are tossed from the Cliffs into the abyss that conceals the Ilomska River.
The former Museum of the Revolution, in Jablanica, was used as a detention center. Reports estimate 800 prisoners were held there.
Some 6,000 to 7,000 Muslims were interned at the stadium on June 10, 1992. They were reportedly forced to serve as blood donors. Some did not survive because too much blood was withdrawn. The bodies of hundreds of victims were reported to have been burned or thrown into the Drina River.
Hotel, Novi Grad
The victim was blindfolded and beaten with truncheons and what he believes were sandbags. In another account, an inmate described a completely dark, windowless room, down in the cellar. The witness noted that there was a candle but not enough air to sustain the flame. It was hard to breathe.
Stadium, Novi Grad
Some witnesses reported being held there for only two days, others for up to two months. Detainees were made to sleep in changing rooms, on corridor floors, and under the grandstand. During daylight hours, inmates were kept outside on a soccer field. According to reports, more than 6,000 prisoners were interned at the sports stadium. All were subjected to physical abuse.
In September 1993, the camp commander reported 1,300 inmates, including two women who, according to reports, refused to leave for unspecified reasons. As “revenge” for military setbacks on the front, the guards would cut off the distribution of food and water. According to reports, HVO (Croatian Defense Council) forces gave approximately 200 male inmates four hours to decide whether to leave BiH for a third country. They were then given an hour and a half to return to their homes to organize their families and belongings. HVO police then took these prisoners and their families to the Croatian border, where they were further escorted to Gašinci. Several of these prisoners were interviewed. They were in bad physical and mental shape. They stated that during their first two days of internment, they were not given anything to eat.
Road to Čelebići
Criminal Code of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Chapter 21, Article 246n, Paragraph 2:
“Whoever, without authorization, makes sketches or drawings or takes photographs of military installations or means of combat or records them otherwise, shall be punished by imprisonment for a term between three months and three years.” Many of the concentration camp buildings I sought to document were military buildings on bases. Barracks, warehouses, etc. After the war, some were restored to their former function. Around the corner is the Čelebići base, one of the most notorious concentration camps in the Konjic municipality. I took similar photographs – bushes, fence, road leading to base – in other former camps located on military grounds. Each time, I was noticed by guards within seconds.
According to the witness, ten of Dragan [Obrenović]’s men surrounded him and began interrogating him. They threatened to kill him and rape his wife and daughter. Then he was beaten and placed into a small cubicle in the hotel’s basement. The basement cubicle was completely dark and the floor was muddy and wet with blood and urine. There was excrement on the walls. The inmate was later threatened and released by a popular singer, Pero Jovic.
Sports Hall, Foča
As there were no other rooms available in the building, women were raped in the gym, in front of the other detainees, including children, or outside the building on the meadow. On several occasions, women were removed and driven in a car to other locations. For several days and nights they were raped, every night by a different group of soldiers.
Sources and research
There are several sources from which you can learn about these sites: ICTY court documents, United Nations Commission on Human Rights reports, local victims’ associations, activists. Annex VIII to the UN report has ten parts. It cannot be found in print anywhere. Each location of a camp appearing in testimonies was placed together with corroboratory information gathered by various humanitarian institutions. Each piece of information that allowed me to determine the location of these sites was a starting point. At the very beginning of the project, I consulted with ICTY. The court expert informed me that my work would not yield results, because most of these sites were “makeshift locations.” This is where the title of the project came from. Next to the documents, in the public portion of the ICTY archives, there are several dozen photos, taken immediately after the war. Most of them have been xeroxed repeatedly. In one photograph, you can see a panorama of Foča. Sports hall, apartment blocks. Despite the fact that I could find pictures of the hall up close, I was still unable to locate it. On my first attempt, I photographed another, very similar building, but it turned out that I had the wrong address. Since the war, street names had changed. So I took the xeroxed ICTY photo and used it to plot a possible aerial view, to compare it with modern satellite images. The shape of the roof, a sharply turning street, apartment blocks on one side. There was only one spot where the puzzle piece fit.
One of the women described her arrest. She was held for six months and repeatedly raped. The camp was in the private home of one Nusret Karaman, who worked in Germany. Among the women held in Karaman’s house there were minors as young as fifteen years of age. Two of the women testified that they were able to see their homes from the camp. According to another source, by September, the only Muslims left in Miljevina were girls imprisoned in this camp.
Sonja's Kon-Tiki, Vogošća
One of the prosecuted men stated that he visited the site in the Vogošća Motel at least once a week. His commanders or platoon leaders either ordered or urged him to go. He stated that he was told it was important for his morale to rape Muslim women. He confessed to raping eleven women at this location, and killing them at Mount Žuč afterwards. He also stated that he was present when French and Canadian United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) soldiers came to take women away in UN APCs, and that UN soldiers raped the women and later returned them to the restaurant. He added that one time he saw General MacKenzie, the commander of UNPROFOR in Sarajevo, with four girls. He said he recognized the general from television.
Murder and torture were a daily occurrence. Many prisoners were shot in the back of the head. Knives were reportedly used to cut prisoners down to the bone, and to amputate fingers. Many men were reportedly castrated. Killings were carried out near floor drains which emptied into the Sava River. Internees were told to sing. Those that did not sing loud enough were shot point-blank.
Memorial in Pilica
The war left behind few memorials to its victims. But this does not mean that there are no monuments at the scenes where atrocities were carried out. In some places, they are something more. A clash of two different narratives about the past. The former community center in Pilica is one of the places where civilians from Srebrenica were executed after the VRS takeover of the Srebrenica enclave’s “safe area,” in the summer of 1995. It is close to two hours by car from Srebrenica to Pilica, a small village near Zvornik. The community center stands by the main road. It was never renovated. ICTY investigators found evidence of the killings. An estimated 500 people were murdered. There is a monument between the community center and the road. Granite slabs engraved with the faces of young soldiers in uniform, each with their name. Local heroes who fell during the last war. Had they been soldiers guarding the civilians in the community center? I tried to find more information about the monument in Pilica, but the community center and the history of the 500 civilians murdered there appeared more often. In a sense, it is a draw in the war for memory: the virtual sphere makes stories of the murder available in detail, with images of bullet-ridden walls inside the building. At the same time, locally, the culture center is just a backdrop for the commemorative wall from which forever twenty-year-old men gaze out at the village. I found a movie clip from a small protest of veterans who gathered at the monument to remind politicians of their current fate. The scene of mass murder in the background completes the frame.
Forty-seven prisoners were reportedly transferred by two trucks, one civilian and one military, to the JNA garrison in Brčko. The garrison was still a JNA installation. Some soldiers wore a star on their uniforms; others had a star with the Serbian tricolor in the middle. The detention facility took up half the garrison building. The prisoners were interrogated and beaten. Interrogators included the camp commander and the commander of the Bosanski Samac Fourth Detachment, who traveled to Brčko on at least two occasions for the purpose of interrogating prisoners.
There was a long corridor between the cells. There were no sanitary facilities, no water, no light. The camp was ringed by barbed wire. The detainees slept on concrete. The guards called each other only by their surnames. The commander was , and four of the guards were identified. Two witnesses had been prisoners in the camp at around the same time, in early June 1992. One stated that the camp was full and that his cell held fifteen other male internees, all from Konjic. This witness also stated that Serbs were brought in every day, after having been beaten at the nearby health center.
Railway Station, Podlugovi
ICTY indictments for crimes against humanity list the Podlugovi railway station. According to an accompanying description, “Detainees suffered from lack of water. On one occasion, gas was thrown into the cell.” An independent source claimed that the gas-throwing incident killed twenty people.
Area residents, including women and children, were taken by truck to the school gymnasium. The camp consisted of three buildings. The third building was the memorial building nearby. Detainees in the smaller school building were reportedly beaten and tortured. Some were killed. For the first three days, detainees were not given any food. After the fourth day at the camp, one loaf of bread per day was distributed for every twelve internees.
Internees detained here were divided into groups for forced labor. One group was reportedly ordered to dig trenches for the BiH army. Internees were used as human shields. Internees were forced at gunpoint to serve as blood donors. According to one report, over the course of two days, fifty internees were forced by medical personnel to give blood. Internees held in the sports hall were poorly fed; some went without food for weeks at a time. On June 15, 1992, thirteen Serbs were reportedly killed and twelve wounded when Muslim forces from the hills above Prevalje shelled the sports hall. The prisoners were reportedly deliberately targeted by the attack.
320 prisoners were held at Iskra Bugojno stadium. During this time, nineteen prisoners were killed at the camp. 150 prisoners were released at some point before August, due to a shortage of food.
Vilina Vlas I
The Vilina Vlas hotel was one of the main detention facilities in the area. It was used as a rape camp. Only young women were detained there, some in their early teens. The women detained at the hotel were given sufficient food and drink because they were the “selected” women, meant to give birth to “Chetnik babies.”
Visiting former camp
I have been to Vilina Vlas three times. The first time I pretended to be a tourist, looking to spend the night but scared away by the prices. On the second and third visits, I had to spend the night. No other place I visited disgusted me as much as this one. A building that can be called a “spa” only through gritted teeth. A promotional film says something about “Paradise on Earth.” The website says that your stay there can heal your soul. No mention anywhere of the history of the building. More than 200 women from the area imprisoned, raped, and murdered. “Selected” and brought to the hotel to be raped. Some of them jumped out of a window to shorten their suffering. Entrance through the stairs, reception desk lined with dark wood. The lady smiles at me, writes the WiFi password on a piece of paper. I am polite. I am drafting a short essay about how strange this situation is, that to develop my documentary project I have to pay for accommodation at a former rape camp. I needed to retake certain pictures. The second time I stay over is during the high season. The hotel is almost full, there are few vacant rooms. I cannot help but wonder: How do people end up here? It is nearly impossible to get to the hotel’s booking page without first scrolling past tons of articles describing the wartime history of this place. But there are other guests from abroad. I am noticeably younger, and possibly the only one traveling alone. A hotel employee follows me like a shadow. At night, I have a fever. I go down to ask for boiling water. I lie that I really like the decor of the canteen and would like to take a picture. The receptionist stiffens. He informs me that taking photographs in the building is strictly prohibited. The next morning, I sense I am being followed. A security guard sits down next to me at breakfast. I pack the car to leave. Before I do, I return to smoke on the terrace. I take a picture. I catch the eyes of a hotel employee watching me through the window.
Vilina Vlas II
Of the more than 200 women held in the camp, fewer than ten survived. Those who did not were either killed after being repeatedly raped or they committed suicide by jumping from balconies. Most of the furniture in the hotel rooms, including bed frames, remained in the rooms after the war.
Viktor Bubanj Army Barracks, Sarajevo
Viktor Bubanj Army Barracks. Former prison, now the Court of BiH. According to estimates, more than 200 prisoners were held here. Some of the women were reportedly wives of former or current JNA soldiers. One report alleged that four captured soldiers were brought to the camp, in September 1992, and executed in front of other detainees. Prisoners were beaten and later denied medical assistance. Women prisoners were raped. One section of the prison was reportedly kept in relatively better condition for Potemkin-like visits by journalists and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
The Court of BiH—the institution currently responsible for issuing judgments in cases related to war crimes committed during the period 1992–1995—is located on the premises of a former camp, in the Viktor Bubanj Army Barracks, a prewar barracks. The building is difficult to photograph, so I approached it several times. During one attempt, a woman protesting alone in front of the main gate noticed me. She asked me to take a picture of her, and to spread “awareness” of an unjust sentence delivered against one Zurahid Mujčinović. She gave me her personal information on a piece of paper, but the address ended with “Berlin, Croatia.” While working on the publication of this project, I decided to look up the fate of the man for whom the woman had been fighting. The grounds for Mujčinović’s retrial were based on findings in another case regarding crimes committed in a camp in Rapatnica, according to which Mujčinović—who was not a qualified soldier, but a member of a “hunters unit,” a militia comprised of members from a local hunting association—was said not to have access to prisoners in the camp. His request for a retrial was rejected and the sentence of eight years in prison was upheld. Zurahid Mujčinović was convicted of torturing two men with a soldering iron, burning them and then pouring salt into their wounds. I was unable to find information about the further course of his court case, but I found Mujčinović himself on Facebook. He looks like the man from photographs of the trial. In his background photo, he is posing with a wild boar that he killed during a hunt.
Between 200 and 412 Muslim civilians were detained in a building/bar in Vila. Detainees were interrogated and beaten. Soldiers removed approximately fifty detainees from the camp and used them as human shields. Twenty-three of the detainees were killed.
Later in the evening, the group of victims was transferred to a nearby house, where they were locked into a room on the ground floor. The evidence shows that the carpet of the room had been soaked with an accelerant. A lit explosive device was placed in the room. It detonated, igniting an intense fire. As the victims tried to escape through the room’s two windows, they were shot at by armed men positioned outside the house. Other explosive devices were also thrown into the room. Fifty-nine victims were burned alive.
Working on this project over the course of many years meant that, returning to some locations and sites that I had previously photographed, I could observe changes. I took two photographs of the house on Pionirska Street, where units of Lukić’s cousins burned fifty-nine people alive. The photographs were taken in 2014 and 2018, respectively. In the space of four years, a small memorial plaque had appeared on the building. It appeared to have been vandalized, with paint being thrown at it. Višegrad was an ethnically diverse city before the war, but after 1995, most of the city’s surviving Muslims left. The ruins of the house on Pionirska Street remained untouched for many years. Only plans to demolish the house spurred rapid renovation of the building, which became a memorial chamber.
She was forced to kiss the cross he wore around his neck three times, and to cross herself. He then told her that she had a new religion and that she was now a Serb. The three other men in the room left. She was forced to perform fellatio. A knife was held to her throat. He ejaculated inside her. Then, the second man came back in, and she was forced to do the same thing to him, then to the third man, then to the fourth.
The report corroborates the existence of a camp in the Hasan Veletovic Primary School. In an interview, one of the detained women states that she was raped repeatedly in front of her parents.
Souvenir from Višegrad
At the entrance to the Old Bridge, Višegrad’s main tourist attraction, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the titular bridge of Ivo Andrić’s novel The Bridge on the Drina, there are several stalls. The sword cost me a few Bosnian Marks, less than a pack of cigarettes. The name of the city was written on the blade in Cyrillic. A souvenir. Fifty or so meters away, knives with blades of a similar shape were used to cut people’s throats. Their bodies were thrown into the river. Or else they were thrown off the bridge into the river alive and shot in midair before hitting the water. When I returned three years later, you could buy wooden pistols and rifles, also emblazoned with the name of the city. Swords had sold out, but the seller told me that he could make one for me in just a few minutes.
The Bosniak men, women, and children who were in Srebrenica when it came under attack by the VRS fled to the UN compound in a former battery factory in Potočari, which was located within the “safe area” of the Srebrenica enclave. Several thousand women, children, and some, mostly elderly, men sought protection in the UN compound, where the Dutch battalion (Dutchbat) was barracked. The Bosniak civilians remained in and around Potočari from July 11–13, 1995, during which time they were terrorized by VRS soldiers. They were subsequently separated. Women and children were transported by buses and trucks under the control of the VRS to areas outside the enclave. At least 8,373 men were later executed at various locations.
On the afternoon of July 13, 1995, between 1,000 and 1,500 Bosniak men were bussed or marched to the Kravica Warehouse. Around 6 p.m., when the warehouse was full, the soldiers started throwing grenades into it and shooting directly into the men packed inside. Witness J, a survivor, recalled: “By the time the shooting stopped, the warehouse was filled with corpses. Nowhere could you stand on the concrete floor without stepping on a dead body. The dead bodies completely covered the concrete.” The next morning, the soldiers returned to see if there were any survivors. They found some prisoners who were still alive, made them sing Serbian songs, and then killed them. An excavator was used to remove the dead bodies from the warehouse. Then the blood on the ground was washed away with water.
During the genocide against the civilian population of the Srebrenica enclave, between 1,500 and 2,000 men were executed at Petkovci Dam. Some corpses were buried in a mass grave there, and some were later reburied in other locations.
Podrinje Identification Project, Tuzla
The paths of some of the men murdered during the Srebrenica genocide ends in this depository, run by the Podrinje Identification Project, in Tuzla. The photographed room is intended for the storage of human remains and pieces of clothing found in mass graves. This facility is dedicated to the identification of the men killed during the Srebrenica genocide. More than 6,900 victims had been positively identified, out of more than 8,000 murdered. PIP remains operational. New victims continue to be identified.
The Bridge on the Drina
The Old Bridge in Višegrad – the eponymous Bridge on the Drina from the novel by Ivo Andrić — pictured during an informal diving contest. On the Old Bridge, civilians were publicly executed. Victims had their throats slit or were thrown over the side of the bridge and shot as they fell.