Despite criticism, publishers of the Bosnian Book of the Dead say they hope the manipulation of information can end, bringing dialogue and healing in BiH and Serbia.
By Anes Alec for Southeast European Times in Sarajevo -- 01/03/13
"We need to find out the truth – who, where and how individuals were killed, to be able to talk about reconciliation," Sarajevo-based Research and Documentation Centre Director Mirsad Tokaca said. [IDC]
The Bosnian Book of the Dead, published jointly by Bosnians and Serbs, lists the names of almost 97,000 people killed during the 1992-1995 Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) conflict and claims to be the most accurate account of casualties to date.
The number of names listed is far from the 200,000 deaths routinely claimed by the Bosnian government and local media outlets.
Mirsad Tokaca, director of the Sarajevo-based Research and Documentation Centre, one of the book's publishers, said the list is free of ethnic prejudice and based on facts, not estimates.
"It's easier to manipulate numbers than names. We need to find out the truth – who, where and how individuals were killed, to be able to talk about reconciliation. If we want to move forward, in order to have this chapter closed, it has to be accurate and unbiased. And that is what this book is," Tokaca told SETimes.
According to Tokaca, the book's list is the only one that sorts the war casualties by name, place and circumstance surrounding their death -- and the only one that includes civilians, soldiers, women and children of all ethnic groups.
The list is based on information from various sources, including 750 video and audio records and 1,500 pages from various documents. It also includes data from the Bosnian Missing Persons Institute and the archives of 725 organisations.
Published by the Research and Documentation Centre and the Humanitarian Law Centre of Serbia, the book was funded solely by foreign agencies and governments.
The book contains another 5,000 names of people whose cause and place of death could not be confirmed.
"The book's other value is the idea to start the reconciliation process with the naming and identifying of the victims in order to stop abuse of the numbers … Now that we have the names of the victims, it will be the end of manipulations and the beginning of dialogue," Natasa Kandic, executive director of the Serbia based Humanitarian Law Centre, said.
But politicians and the families of victims on all three sides of the ethno-nationalist divide have criticised the book's findings, claiming that the numbers are not accurate.
Milivoje Ivanisevic, director of the Republika Srpska Institute for Research on Suffering of the Serbs, said that the book represents a twisting of the truth, and said that thousands of Serb victims were not listed.
"We don't recognise this publication as reliable. It is immoral that the Serbian victims were recorded by the same people who killed them. I am convinced that every ethnic group has to explore the victims of his own ethnic group and not by those who have contributed to their suffering," Ivanisevic told SETimes.