by Presented by András Riedlmayer
Glamoč is a small town in western Bosnia, located within a spectacular polje - a broad, level valley - flanked by wooded mountains to the west that provide a meagre living to those working in the local saw mills. The ruins of an old Ottoman fortress overlook the town, which nearly eight years after the Dayton Peace Accords still looks like the war just ended.
Bullet holes and bloodthirsty graffiti, mementoes of the two waves of ‘ethnic cleansing’ of Glamoč - in 1992 when the town was taken over by Serb nationalist forces and in 1995 when it was taken by the Croatian army - cover buildings in the town, many of which look abandoned.
Among the latter is the Serbian Orthodox church, the spiritual home to Glamoč's pre-war Bosnian Serb majority; two years ago when I visited the church was vandalized and boarded up, but at least it still stood. Not much more than blasted fragments of walls and a small wooden cross marked the site of the small, stone Roman Catholic church in Glamoč, blown up by Karadžić and Mladić's men a decade ago, along with the town's mosque, of which no visible trace remains. A large, new Roman Catholic church and parish centre were being built next to the remains of the blown-up old church.
At the end of the war, Glamoč was resettled by Bosnian Croats, many of them refugees displaced from central Bosnia. Although about a third of the pre-war Serb population of the municipality and some of the Bosniak (Muslim) residents have now returned, Glamoč is still run by a mafia of HVO veterans and Bosnian Croat politician-businessmen. They control what little there is of the local economy - according to the mayor, there are only 536 employed people in the municipality and 95% of them are Croats. It's a sad place with a raw, nasty edge to it. Much of the surrounding broad plain of Glamoč polje, a productive agricultural area before the war, has been taken over by NATO as a training ground for tank manoeuvres and live-fire exercises, which frequently result in destruction of civilian property, and sometimes of civilian lives.
That Glamoč, and other places like it, have essentially been abandoned to their fate in this manner shows the shortcomings of the way Dayton has been implemented by the international community in Bosnia. Those responsible, both locals and internationals, should be ashamed of themselves.
10 September 2003
‘Glamoč Left to Mercy of Croatian Tycoons and NATO Airplanes’
The tragedy of the Knežević family, two of whose members Luca and Nedeljko were killed by an unexploded bomb fired from a NATO plane, has directed the attention of the public towards Glamoč, a municipality whose inhabitants live off gathering ammunition at the NATO range ‘Decisive Barbara’. Twenty-four-year old Nataša Knežević has only an elementary school degree, is unemployed, and lives in someone else's house in Glamoč. Her parents are divorced. Her father lives in Usora and has never taken care of the family. Eight years ago, along with her mother and younger brother, she got on one of the buses that took all of the Croats from the Doboj villages of Dragalovci and Kulaši away from their homes. She said her family, relatives, and neighbours were not allowed to take anything with them besides a bag with a few personal belongings, that they were charged10 KM for that bus ride, and that Serb police officers at the checkpoint on the Sava River charged them another 100 KM for passing through. ‘We were told that they were taking us to Glamoč. Many of us had never heard of Glamoč before and had no idea where it was. We didn't have any other choice, though,’ Nataša remembers. The Knežević family was evicted from the house they were occupying in Glamoč in the spring of this year. After that they lived in Hasići, in an old house whose owners still live in Serbia. Only the foundation is left from their family house in Dragalovci, and there are no indications that the reconstruction of the village could start anytime soon. We found Nataša in her uncle's house. Her uncle is also a refugee from Dragalovci. She explained that her family could not survive off of the 400 KM that her mother earned as a cook in one of the Glamoč hotels, so they collected herbs and cartridges left after the SFOR exercise at the ‘Determined Barbara’ range. A kilogram of dry gentian, a herb used in the pharmaceutical industry, brings about 10 KM; a kilo of cartridges, depending on if they're made of copper or brass, brings from 0.8 to 1 KM. ‘My mother and brother went to look for gentian that morning and on their way back Neđeljko found a bomb near the range. He brought it home, thinking that he might sell it for 10 KM, which would mean a lot to us. We warned him that the bomb could explode, but he said that's impossible because SFOR would have picked it up after they fired it from a plane. My mother was helping him and I went to make some coffee. Then it exploded. Everything happened within two minutes.’ After this, Nataša described the horrifying scene she saw when she went back to the basement. Her mother and brother were lying in puddles of blood, still giving signs of life. ‘I thought it didn't matter if they were disabled, as long as they were alive. I would have taken care of them. I went to get help and when I came back, they were both dead.’ Nataša blames SFOR soldiers for her mother's and brother's death. She says many people have told her to file a lawsuit, but she didn't even have enough money for the funeral, which was partially paid for by the municipal authorities and partially by relatives and neighbours.
Luca and Nedeljko Knežević were killed by a projectile fired by one of the NATO planes from the airbase in Aviano, Italy that were conducting exercises above the Glamoč range every day. Although SFOR finds justification for these and all other exercises conducted in ‘Determined Barbara’ in a rather loose interpretation of Dayton, it is a fact that their presence is dangerous for the local population for various reasons. ‘Decisive Barbara’ is located in an area that is 65 kilometres long, while its width varies from 7 to 20 kilometres. It is divided between four municipalities - Glamoč, Livno, Kupres, and Tomislavgrad. The Glamoč side of the range, where the largest number of military exercises is conducted, occupies approximately 30% of the privately owned land that is contaminated with mines and UXO's. For unlike the Federation Army soldiers who conduct exercises in the same area, SFOR soldiers do not carry out any obligatory ‘cleaning’ of the terrain, which is the main reason why the owners of this land are not able to use their property. Besides this, at least ten pre-war inhabitants of several Glamoč villages located in the vicinity of the range have filed lawsuits because their houses were completely destroyed during these exercises. However, these lawsuits were sent to the wrong address and were filed against the Federal Ministry of Defence, although it is a well-known fact that SFOR soldiers were the ones using the empty Serb houses as targets during their exercises.
The inhabitants of Pribelj are also facing problems. Their village is accessible only by a road that passes through the range, so they have to announce any movement on the days when the exercises are conducted. Furthermore, it is not known which kind of ammunition SFOR and NATO use during their exercises, since it is not always blank ammo - as is confirmed by the tragic death of the two members of the Knežević family. It is also unknown if the frequent military activities have increased the radiation level, which could seriously damage the health of the local population. This is especially important since Croat and Serb refugees - who are equal in poverty - often go to this range after the exercises to collect cartridges, and even children do this. SFOR soldiers were silently agreeing to this collection of ammunition up to this last incident, although they have formally placed signs prohibiting the movement of civilians on probably the only shooting range in the world that is not enclosed and can be accessed by anyone. We also have to add that SFOR uses this range for free, since this is part of its regular activities within its peacekeeping mission in B-H. Just as a comparison, NATO pays more than one million KM a week to use a far smaller range in Hungary.
There are currently about 5,500 people in Glamoč and most of them are Serbs (3,700, according to official data). There are also 900 Bosniaks and approximately the same number of Croats in the municipality. The Municipal Mayor, Rade Gvero, says there are only 536 employed people, 95 % of whom are Croats. ‘People are returning to this area, there are at least 500 people under 25 who come over here every day looking for jobs, but we cannot help them,’ he explains, stating that even the municipal employees, including the mayor, have not received their paychecks in several months. Croats who came to Glamoč from more than 40 different municipalities throughout B-H are employed in the ‘Š umarija’ Company and the ‘Finvest’ sawmill located in the pre-war wood-processing plant ‘Š ator’, privatized through fictitious investments by Marijan Filipović, a Croatian tycoon from Delnice. Filipović has purchased the ‘Grmec’ companies in Drvar and the sawmills in Bosansko Grahovo in the same manner, after which he practically became the owner of all forests in the former ‘Herzeg-Bosna’. Serbs who have returned to Glamoč receive their pensions(approximately 70 KM) from RS. The returnees do not have health insurance, which is especially good for the local Health Centre director, Dr. Lozančić from Kakanj, who charges them 28 KM to check their blood pressure. Only one Serb returnee is employed as a teacher in the High School Centre; the Police Administration has not been formed according to the1991 census, so the police officers are mostly Croats. ‘During those years, when we received more donations, the returns and reconstruction process was questionable due to the range. After the OHR prohibited exercises from being conducted in inhabited areas in 1998, the returns process intensified, but then we ran out of money. There are a lot of reconstructed houses in villages, but we have a problem with the urban area, where we managed to repair only one apartment,’ Mayor Gvero explains.
Željka Zubić, President of the NGO Art that deals with the issue of returns, thinks that Glamoč Bosniaks are in the most difficult situation, since a large number of them still live as tenants although they were the first ones to return. This is the case with many families from the Opačić and Mladeskovci villages, whose houses were destroyed either during the war or during SFOR exercises. They are currently living in someone else's apartments in Glamoč and are expecting evictions. ‘Not a lot has been done for Serbs either. Some of them still live in shacks, although 78 reconstructed houses are still empty, because their pre-war owners, also Serbs, have never returned. I spend a lot of time on the terrain and I know that the people were left to their own. There is no concrete aid, no grants to buy cattle or agricultural machines, and some properties are full of UXO's,’ Željka Zubić says. 10,000 Serbs lived in Glamoč before the war, which means that only one third of them has returned. The Municipal Mayor thinks that only 1,500 more Serbs and maybe 500 Bosniaks will return, justifying his pessimistic prognosis with the difficult economic situation and a lack of opportunities for employment. On the other side, the ‘Finvest’ sawmill employs several people from Croatia (Slavonski Brod and Virovitica), but no pre-war workers have been re-employed.
From a longer report in Slobodna Bosna (Sarajevo),4 September 2003
Alleged Incident in Glamoč cafe ‘Sony’: ‘Policeman Attacked’
On Saturday night, a little after midnight, an incident occurred in the Glamoč cafe bar 'Sony', owned by Željko Stojisavljević, during which a policeman from the Livno Canton MUP was attacked. According to the information of the duty policeman of the Livno Canton MUP, an unknown person reported that a noise was coming from this cafe bar. A policeman intervened and was attacked. ‘B. A., born 1976, of Croat nationality, who attacked the police officer, was arrested. Due to the investigation, we cannot reveal any more details,’ said the duty officer. Eyewitnesses of this incident also claim that a male of Croat nationality attacked the police officer. ‘We were listening to some "light music" that was not insulting anyone. A little bit before midnight a larger group of Croat citizens entered the cafe bar. They were from Livno, Bugojno, Tomislavgrad, Posušje and were already known to the police for their nationalistic behaviour. They demanded of the band to play and sing songs about Ban Jelačić, Ante Pavelić, Alojz Stepinac, and at the same time they were insulting Serbs. The band did not want to comply, so they stopped playing,’said one of the eyewitnesses. A policeman arrived soon after this to intervene and calm the situation. According to eyewitnesses, instead of the situation calming down the group attacked the police officer and injured his head and thighs.
Report in Glas Srpski daily (Banja Luka), 9 August 2003