A former UN soldier who arrived in the central Bosnian village of Ahmici right after the 1993 massacre of Bosniak civillians told N1 he was shocked by what he found there but he nevertheless would like to see Bosnian ethnic groups get together again.
Former British officer and commander of a British battalion within the UN peacekeeping mission in Bosnia, Bob Stewart, attended Monday’s ceremony that commemorated the 116 Bosniak civilians who were slaughtered by Bosnian Croat forces.
Stewart said what happened in Ahmici was an act of genocide.
“There were dead dogs, we couldn’t find anyone,” he described what he saw when he arrived in Ahmici.
“We started finding bodies, particularly in house number seven and house number five. And they’ve been murdered and the houses have been destroyed,” he said.
The former commander said he and his soldiers buried 104 victims, including women and children, in a mass grave in nearby Vitez.
“I couldn’t believe that this had happened in Europe (…) I was shocked, and I thought, ‘how can anyone do this to women, children and men?’,” he told N1.
After returning to the U.K. in 1996, Stewart left the military, and later became a member of Parliament in his country.
Six people were convicted for their involvement in the Ahmici massacre, five of them in the Hague-based International Court for Former Yugoslavia. The most well known of them, Dario Kordic, was sentenced to 25 years in prison but was released four years ago after serving two thirds of his sentence. Some in Bosnia still support Kordic and others convicted of crimes against humanity.
“It’s not my job to judge them,” said Stewart. “They went to court and the court dealt with them. I may not agree with what the court did – I don’t – but the court has judged them and I am a democrat and I’m an old soldier, and I obey what the courts say.”
But the important thing for Stewart is that there is no fighting.
“That’s crucial,” he said and added that he “would really like to see Bosnia become integrated again, but it’s still very divided among various groups. People have really got to come together, and they haven’t yet.”
He said people in Bosnia should remember they are all Southern Slavs, whatever their religion may be – Catholic, Orthodox or Muslim.
“Get talking, live together, and make this country great,” he said.