Last year, on June 9, the Helsinki Committee for Human
Rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina (HK BiH) wrote to Ms. Sevo as well. Stating
that the remains of approximately 1,500 bodies of victims are still hidden in
the mines area, Srdjan Dizdarevic, the president of the HK BiH, asked Ms. Sevo
to "use the power of her authority to do everything so that the fate of the
missing would be discovered". Nothing happened after this letter either.
Then, when one of the largest mass graves - Stari
Kevljani - was discovered in the area [October 2004], Jasmin Odobasic invited
Muraree Mukherjee, the Indian who is presently in charge of the management of
the New Mines Ljubija, to come to the opening of the mass grave. "I brought him
to the edge of the pit and he saw hundreds of bodies with his own eyes. He
personally promised to me that he will do everything so that all the graves,
collective and individual, in the mines area are discovered", says Odobasic.
But Mukherjee lied. Not only he did nothing concerning
the exhumations of the victims, but today he even denies that there are any mass
graves in the mines area!? For Dani he stated: "To this day (April 12, 2005) no
bodies or mass graves from the 1992 war have been found in Omarska, nor in any
area under the control of the New Mines Ljubija."
He also said that Mittal Steel Company controls only
the Omarska and Drenovaca mines in the Ljubija mines complex. Which is not true.
Otherwise, the official Mittal company web site would not carry a text saying
that it owns 51 percent of the Ljubija mines complex. And that - Mittal Company
knows that well - includes Ljubija, Omarska and Tomasica as well. But, the LNM
Group, part of the Mittal Steel Company, did not respond any differently to the
reports in The Guardian either.
In December last year, they wrote an announcement
stating that "the land that LNM has purchased as part of its investment into
Bosnia is not on the site of any of the known mass graves in this region". They
informed both The Guardian and Dani that no remains have been found at the
Unlike the Indian, who at least wrote some kind of
response, Mladen Jelaca, the director of the mines' part controlled by the
Republika Srpska authorities, has not done even that much. After he refused to
see us during our visit to Prijedor (April 7 and 8, 2005), on the excuse that we
"had not announced our visit", he promised to respond in writing. Although he
received questions along those sent to Mukherjee, mainly concerning the bodies
within the mines and the national composition of the work force (there are no
Bosniaks or Croats [presently] employed at the mines), he did not answer.
Only a few days before that, in Kozarski vijesnik, a
magazine that used to provide the main media logistics for the chetnik
'contractors' during the war, Jelaca boasted on how "the New Mines Ljubija plan
to produce and sell one million tonnes of the iron ore concentrate in 2005. The
director also stated: "The New Mines Ljubija is a big company, important and
very interesting to the public, especially now that it does business with the
world's biggest metallurgical company Mittal Steel." Jelaca, of course, refused
to answer the following question: how can the Ljubija mines' iron foundry be
operational when there are still bones of the victims there?
Kemo Alagic, one of the Ljubija survivors, 70 members
of whose family were murdered, took us to the iron foundry at the very entrance
to the Ljubija mines, today used for production of sewer manholes. Next to the
foundry is the so-called crusher. That machine had been used to crush the iron
ore, and - in 1992 - to crush the bodies of the murdered Bosniaks and Croats.
While he takes us up the hill, to the mine strips, Alagic points out the
locations where, in April 1992, "blood ran in streams".
"There are bodies in this place", says Kemo pointing
his finger. "And here, and here", he says and asks us not to take pictures,
because: "They will recognize where this is and move the bodies elsewhere, then
nobody will be able to find them again. The Serbs have already moved these
bodies once before. They threw them into these pits, previously stuffing the
rocks with industrial explosives. When that exploded, the bodies were blown to
pieces, and the earth and rocks covered them. They thought nobody will find that
out. Even today we come accross some locations, sometimes even the Serbs help
us, and we keep that secret until the Commission gets enough money to exhume the
The only thing that cannot be hidden, he says, are the
small lakes, black from the iron. "There are bodies in the lakes too, everybody
knows that, but they think that nobody will go into them because of the water."
And while he shows us the Jakarina Kosa mass grave
site, where [the remains of] 373 victims were recently exhumed within the
Ljubija mines area, on the edge of the pit we find a used condom.
However, that explicit example of the Republika Srpska
attitude towards the crimes and innocent victims, horrible as it sounds, is
easier to comprehend than the attitude of those who represent Bosniaks and
Croats at the state and federal level. Those authorities have never raised this
question, in any form.
But, considering the fact that the Mittal Steel Company
is also the majority-owner of the Zenica steelworks, which formed one
metallurgical enterprise with the Ljubija mines before the war, and that the
present owners are most probably recreating that symbiosis, providing a point of
introducing foreign investors for the local politicians, everything becomes much
Thus the silence of the local media about the fresh
crime committed against the victims of previous crimes in the Ljubija mines, and
the loud praises of the export successes of the Indian Mittal family. A
particularly grotesque example occurred within the last three weeks: on March
26, daily Dnevni Avaz reported on the funerals in Prijedor of 126 victims [whose
remains were] exhumed from the Jakarina Kosa mass grave within the Ljubija
mines, with all the SDA officials gathering there for that occasion, and
Reisu-l-ulema Ceric even saying that the sky itself had come down to look for
those who supressed the truth about the crime. But only ten days later, the same
daily newspaper carried an interview with Roeland Baan, the Mittal Steel
Company's CEO for eastern and central Europe, in which he praised the diligent
Ljubija miners and the mines' new management. He did not mention Omarska,
Keraterm, Jakarina Kosa... or the camp survivors' request to put up a memorial
marker, nor did the Avaz journalist ask him about that.
There are no questions from the media outlets, even
less so from the various Cerics, Tihics, Terzics or Hadzipasics, and the only
ones concerned about the human souls - unappeased in this and in the other world
- are the non-governmental organizations and victims' families.
On March 26 this year, the Helsinki Committee for Human
Rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina sent a letter to Carla Del Ponte, the chief
prosecutor for the ICTY, drawing attention to the "unreasonable decision on the
Ljubija mines' privatization" and asking her to do everything to stop the ore
mining untill all victims are exhumed and to send forensic experts and
investigators to the mines. Del Ponte was the only person to act upon this
matter so far, by sending Jan Van Hecke, the Head of the ICTY Mission, to Srdjan
Dizdarevic, the president of the Helsinki Committee. However!
"Van Hecke asked me for the locations of the mass
graves, which is inexplicable. We do not have such information. I directed him
to the Commission on Missing Persons", says Dizdarevic. But, to this day, Van
Hecke has not contacted the Commission.
The New Mines Ljubija has exported 750 tonnes of the
iron ore to the Czech Republic and is planning to produce one million tonnes in
this year, the mining proceeds, the iron enriched with calcium and phosphorus
from human bones is travelling across Europe, the Mittal family gains new
millions to pay for their offspring's weddings... And the world is marking the
60th anniversary of the Holocaust and repeating: "never again!"
Iron Ore Enriched with Human Bones
April 15, 2005
On April 6th of this year, Jasmin Odobasic, the head of
the Bosnian-Herzegovinian Federal Commission on Missing Persons, found a human
skull - wedged between sparse trees and stones - on the very surface of a strip
mine in the New Mines Ljubija area. Not far away from it, there were other
For our state of affairs, unfortunately, one skeleton
is no novelty, especially within that particular area, but this very finding
clearly unmasks the bold lies of the new mines' owners, that there are "no
remains of murdered Bosniaks and Croats" in the area.
Indeed, the world's biggest steel manufacturer Mittal
Steel Company, that precisely one year ago bought 51 percent ownership of the
Ljubija mines near Prijedor, is trying to suppress what cannot be suppressed -
that it bought the mines which, in their depths but also on the surface, hide
the truth about the crimes that the Serb military and paramilitary committed
against Bosniaks and Croats in July 1992.
During that year of 1992, more than three thousand
non-Serbs were murdered in the Prijedor municipality (there are 3.227 recorded
in the Book of the Missing, although the suspected number is even higher), while
in a single day, on July 25, 1992, several hundred civilians were executed in
the abandoned Omarska strip mine. Simply, the mines had become the biggest
concentration camps and execution sites of the non-Serb population.
The mines' management fired all employed Bosniaks and
Croats at the beginning of the war, while the still-employed Serbs got a new
task - instead of the ore, they dug bodies of their co-workers and neighbors.
The truth about the mines was first exposed by Ed
Vulliamy, reporter for The Guardian, who publicized the images of the emaciated
camp inmates. But even though the images "shocked the world", that did not help
the victims to find their peace. On the contrary: the Republika Srpska
authorities, that became the mines' owner after the war and still retain 49
percent ownership today, soon started to mine the ore. The first post-war iron
ore quantities shipped from the Ljubija mines, most probably 'enriched' with
human calcium and phosphorus, were delivered to the Serbian steelworks in
He pointed out that these organizations sent letters of
protest to former Prijedor municipality official Ms. Nada Sevo, who "agreed in
principle to the marking of execution grounds". But nothing further happened,
since Ms. Sevo's mandate - expired!
While the executioners of the Prijedor municipality
non-Serb population took care of business, the Federal Commission on Missing
Persons, led by Jasmin Odobasic, searched for skeletons and struggled to reclaim
some dignity for the victims and 'closure' for their surviving relatives.
Consequently, only two kilometers from what is today the entrance to the central
building of the Omarska mine, where one is greeted with a cyrillic "Welcome"
sign, 456 bodies were recovered from the Stari Kevljani mass grave. The Hrastova
Glavica mass grave, also within the Omarska mine area, revealed 126 bodies, the
Redak mass grave 74, Lisac 49, Pasinac 54, and the Jakarina Kosa mass grave (in
the mines at Ljubija) 373 bodies. According to the Commission on Missing Persons
records and the claims of the victims' relatives, there are still approximately
1,700 bodies hidden within the realm of New Mines Ljubija!
However, that horrifying actuality does not stop the
new majority-owners of the mines, nor those others - the Republika Srpska
authorities - from mining the ore. Conversely, those others benefited from the
involvement of the Indian-British Mittal Steel Company, mainly in obtaining an
opportunity to at least partially cover up the extent of genocide against
Bosniaks and Croats.
The federal and state-level authorities likewise have
voiced no protest against these new mining operations undertaken before all
victims' remains have been exhumed and all execution sites have been marked. The
only voice of reason came from the camp survivors and victims' relatives,
several non-governmental organizations, the above-mentioned Federal Commission
on Missing Persons, and one foreigner - the journalist Ed Vulliamy.
Last year, just after Lakshmi Mittal took over the
mines, The Society for Threatened Peoples in Bosnia and Herzegovina organized a
round-table discussion, gathering representatives of the organizations of the
missing persons' families, representatives of the International Commission on
Missing Persons (ICMP), similar commissions from the Federation of
Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Republika Srpska, local police and human rights
organizations. From this discussion, they requested that the High Representative
in BH and the Republika Srpska authorities put a halt to the privatization of
the mines, expressing fear that it will thwart further searches for the remains
of the missing persons. However, the president of the Society for Threatened
Peoples in Bosnia and Herzegovina Ms. Fadila Memisevic told Dani that no
response to those requests was ever received.
With the assistance of the journalist Ed Vulliamy, a
similar protest was directed to steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal's London office by
the non-governmental organizations Srcem do mira from Kozarac, the Association
of Camp Survivors from Prijedor Municipality, the Bosnian Network from Great
Britain, Izvor from Prijedor, and Optimisti 2004 from the Netherlands.
Sabahudin Garibovic, the spokesman for the Association
of Camp Survivors from Prijedor Municipality, who was imprisoned for 88 days in
the Trnopolje camp [in 1992], says that there was no response to that letter
either. "But we rely upon Ed. He will go to the end, just like he did in 1992,
when he entered the camps and showed those horrifying images to the world. Our
request primarily is for the infamous building called the White House, where
people were held, brutally tortured and murdered, and the space around it, to be
excluded from the mines and marked as a former execution ground. We want to put
up a commemorative inscription there, as we did in the former Keraterm camp. Our
second request is that the mining of ore be stopped until all victims have been
exhumed", says Garibovic.
The importance of the Ljubija mining complex,
industrial and strategic, is well known. In 1979, it was confirmed by the
discovery of new iron ore layers, estimated at almost a half billion tonnes, or
almost half of the former Yugoslavia's proven reserves of this raw material. An
ominous thirteen years later, the Ljubija mines acquired another strategic
function, this time in the genocide industry, with the former mining buildings,
pits and machinery proving handy for use as concentration camps and mass graves.
GENOCIDE, PHASE TWO: PROFIT (Sidebar)
In February 1996, when this industry of crime had
already been substantially exposed by the efforts of foreign reporters, the
mayor of Banja Luka at the time, Predrag Radic, announced that production was to
resume in two large iron mines in Ljubija, as a result of negotiations with the
Croatian government involving exchange of iron ore for oil. These negotiations
took place only six months after the Croatian army's military operations
'Bljesak' (Flash) and 'Oluja' (Storm), just as the Serb refugees from Croatia
were settling down in the recently ethnically-cleansed houses of the Prijedor
One month earlier, in January that year, Chris Hedges
had written for the New York Times: "But last fall , as the war began to
turn against them, townspeople say the Bosnian Serbs moved to begin to collect
bodies from other grave sites and dump them in a central pit in the Ljubija
mine." In the fall of that year, while a U.S. Congressional delegation was
visiting the Prijedor region, looking into the disappearance of the local
Catholic priest Tomislav Matanovic, the delegation members were approached by
Biljana Plavsic, since sentenced to prison by the ICTY, and Simo Drljaca, later
killed while resisting arrest on war crime charges, who asked the American
visitors for support in their quest for financing to reopen the Omarska mine.
Six months later, in March 1997, representatives of the
German company Triacom visited the mines with the intention of acquiring them
and expressed their satisfaction with the ore quality and technical
possibilities, but withdrew from negotiations in the summer of 1998, after they
were approached by Human Rights Watch. In February of that year, while the ICTY
forensic experts were preparing for their investigations in the Prijedor region,
a meeting took place in Belgrade, gathering industrial leaders of the former
Yugoslavia; namely Dusko Matkovic, the general manager of the Yugoslav steel
industry Sartid based in Smederevo, Milorad Dodik, the then Prime Minister of
the Republika Srpska government, and the managers of the Zenica steelworks
[Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina] and the Ljubija mining complex [Republika
Srpska]. At that occasion, Dodik stated that economic logic must prevail in
Over the next several years, his vision of the economic
future has been hindered by the official investigations of the mass grave sites
in the Prijedor region, with one of the largest grave sites among them being
found at a location called Jakarina Kosa, within the Ljubija mines area, whose
exhumed victims were identified and buried in dignity only recently, in 2005.
However, the entire decade-long efforts of the Republika Srpska to restart
digging for ore in Ljubija - in order to thwart digging for those other items -
paid off in the end, when a much larger, global economic logic prevailed and the
mines came under the ownership of the Mittal Steel Company.
The logic of those who still search the mine pits for
their missing loved ones, in the year of the tenth anniversary of Srebrenica and
the 60th of Auschwitz, thereby seems to be ruled out of place.
(English translation by Maja Lovrenovic )
Formerly published at http://www.domovina.net/ljubija/050408_dani.html