Author: Andras Riedlmayer
Uploaded: Tuesday, 30 September, 2003
Report on the dire situation in the western Bosnian town of Glamoc, and on the irresponsibility of the international forces in B-H, by Andras Riedlmayer, together with two recent articles on the town translated by him from the B-H press
Glamoc 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 Glamoc - 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 Glamoc's pre-war Bosnian Serb majority; two years ago when I visited the church was vandalised 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 Glamoc, blown up by Karadzic and Mladic'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, Glamoc 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, Glamoc 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 Glamoc 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 Glamoc, 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
‘Glamoc Left to Mercy of Croatian Tycoons and NATO Airplanes’
The tragedy of the Knezevic family, whose two members, Luca and Nedjeljko, were killed by an unexploded bomb fired from a NATO plane, has directed the attention of the public towards Glamoc, a municipality whose inhabitants live off gathering ammunition at the NATO range ‘Decisive Barbara’. Twenty-four-year old Natasa Knezevic has only an elementary school degree, is unemployed, and lives in someone else's house in Glamoc. 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 Dragalovci and Kulasi 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 are taking us to Glamoc. Many of us had never heard of Glamoc before and had no idea where it was. We didn't have any other choice, though,’ Natasa remembers. The Knezevic family was evicted from the house they were occupying in Glamoc in the spring this year and after that they lived in Hasici, 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 have found Natasa 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 Glamoc 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, costs about 10 KM and a kilo of cartridges, depending on if they're made of copper or brass, costs from 0.8 to 1 KM. ‘My mother and brother went to look for gentian that morning and on their way back Nedjeljko 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, Natasa described a 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.’ Natasa blames SFOR soldiers for her mother's and brother's death. She says many 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 Nedjeljko Knezevic were killed by a projectile fired by one of the NATO planes from the airbase in Aviano, Italy that conducted exercises above the Glamoc range every day. Although SFOR finds justification for these and all other exercises conducted in ‘Determined Barbara’ in a rather loose interpretation of DPA, it's a fact that their presence is dangerous for the local population for various reasons. ‘Decisive Barbara’ is located in an area that is 65 kilometers long and its width varies from 7 to 20 kilometers. It is divided between four municipalities - Glamoc, Livno, Kupres, and Tomislavgrad. The Glamoc 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. Namely, 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 Glamoc 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 uses during their exercises