March 1 for Republika Srpska is not a holiday but the day when the fuse of war was lighted, Milorad Kojic, the head of the Centre for Research of War, War Crimes and Missing Persons, told Srna.
On March 1, 1992, the Serb wedding guest Nikola Gardovic was killed outside the Old Orthodox Church in Sarajevo’s Bascarsija, which sent an unambiguous message to the Serbs of what they were going to be up against, said Kojic.
“The Serbs in Sarajevo were abused, detained, taken away from their homes, from the streets, they went missing from the hospitals, while their earthly remains were later hidden, relocated or destroyed. The pogrom of the Serbs was a systemically well devised operation by the Bosnian authorities at the time,” said Kojic, recalling that Alija Izetbegovic admitted during a BiH Presidency meeting that a camp for the Serbs existed in Sarajevo.
Kojic pointed out that it was not true what the Bosniaks were saying that the Serbs in the city had lost their lives in random incidents and that the perpetrators had been the people who dodged the control, saying there were documents to prove this.
“What hurts is the fact there is neither an indictment nor a judgement against the high-ranking military, police and civilian leaders of the then BiH. The Prosecutor’s Office, together with certain Bosniak politicians, takes part in covering up the crimes against the Serbs in Sarajevo and the extent of those crimes,” said Kojic.
There are only a few random judgements against guards and chefs in camps, which is not good, because the BiH Court and Prosecutor’s Office are the institutions that have to contribute to justice and reconciliation in these parts, he said.
He added: “It is obvious that those institutions fulfil the requirements of certain Bosniak political circles and do not want to establish a normal multiethnic relationship and reconciliation among the peoples, which is the right path to the future.”
“In that way, the Bosniaks and the Court and the Prosecutor’s Office want to maintain ethnic tensions in order to implement the Bosniak policy, and that is a unitary Bosnia and Herzegovina, which the Serbs find unacceptable,” stated Kojic.
Milomir Savcic, the leader of the Srpska Veterans Association, has told Srna that he believes that March 1 should not be given any significance and that marking it as the BiH independence day should be ignored because March 1, 1992 triggered the war in BiH.
Savcic claims that not even one half of BiH will mark the date in the future and that a large part of the country does not ascribe any significance to it even now.
“I can’t understand anyone who speaks of the future, tolerance or reconciliation, but insists on marking such dates that divide us. I can’t understand that we are unable to agree on the date that brings us together,” said Savcic.
In his opinion, one can see how much BiH is a sovereign country by what part of the country celebrates the date.
Bozica Zivković Rajilic, the head of the Association of Women Victims of War of Republika Srpska, believes it unacceptable for the Serbs and Republika Srpska to celebrate March 1 as the BiH independence day.
“We will never consider March 1 a Serb holiday, but a day of human rights violation,” Rajilic told Srna.
She said: “Inappropriate marking of the day of the so-called independence of BiH in the Federation of BiH ‘stabs the Serbs in the heart’ every year.”
Rajilic asked: “How can we even talk about this date as a holiday if one people and one entity do not recognise it?”
“That date reminds the Serbs of the beginning of the war, the beginning of persecution from home, from workplace. It reminds the Serbs of being taken to prison camps, prisons, collection centres,” she said.
March 1 reminds us of the first act of outvoting in a referendum, of the formation of paramilitary units and their “night operations” that targeted the Serbs and their property, said Rajilic.
Nedeljko Mitrovic, the head of the Srpska Association of Families of Detained and Fallen Veterans and Missing Civilians, has told Srna that those who initiated and implemented the referendum on March 1, 1992 and thus caused the bloody civil war in BiH should be prosecuted, is possible.
“The celebration of March 1 in the Federation is regrettable. Those in BiH who broke away from Yugoslavia against the Serbs’ will, in an unconstitutional and illegal manner, do not regret that act at all, while placing the blame for the consequences on others,” said Mitrovic.
The civil war that ensued after the referendum created irreparable consequences. More than 100,000 people were killed, several thousand went missing, hundreds of thousands were displaced, and enormous material damage was caused, added Mitrovic.
On March 1, 1992, Bosnia and Herzegovina held an independence referendum where 62.7 percent of Muslim and Croat voters voted in favour of independence and exit from the then Social Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
On the same day, Serb Nikola Gardovic, a guest at a wedding was killed, and a Serbian flag was set on fire outside the Old Orthodox Church in Bascarsija in central Sarajevo, which portended the civil war in the former Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The Federation of BiH marks the day as the “independence day” while the Serbs see it as the day when the Muslims and Croats made an illegitimate decision against the Serb interests.