The program for the return of refugees and displaced persons from the Municipality of Priboj is the first official recognition of the injustices against Bosniaks in Sandzak
The government of the Republic of Serbia adopted on March 29th, 2012 the program for the return of refugees and displaced Bosniaks from the municipality of Priboj in the period 1991-1999, with a clear message that “expulsion and eviction of its citizens will not happen again under threats, fear and objective danger to life, as was the case with the Bosniak citizens in the municipality of Priboj.”
As is stipulated by the program, any damage should be repaired and those people who were robbed in Kukurovici, Sjeverin and other villages on the border with Bosnia should be compensated within four years; and conditions should be created for the sustainable repatriation of returnees and provisions made for their durable subsistence.
The program is the result of many years of joint efforts by the Humanitarian Law Center, the Association for the Protection of Refugees and Evicted Persons from the Municipality of Priboj and the Sandzak Committee for the Protection of Human Rights and Freedoms, on the one hand, and a group of MPs and the Minister without Portfolio, Sulejman Ugljanin, on the other, aimed at allocating compensation to the expelled and displaced Bosniaks from Sjeverin, Kukurovici and other villages in the Priboj municipality, and creating conditions helping towards the establishment of a sustainable way of life for them in the area.
During the armed conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina, especially in the period between October 1992 and June 1993, the Bosniaks in the border villages were subjected to daily harassment by members of the Yugoslav Army (VJ). VJ soldiers went into their homes, searched them, shot at their houses and robbed and intimidated them. The Bosniaks from about 20 border villages in the Priboj municipality were forced to flee their homes. In their absence, their property was looted and destroyed. In some cases the police carried out an investigation, but never has a single perpetrator of these crimes been brought to justice. In the past 20 years, none of the displaced persons and refugees returned, primarily because they had nothing to return to, and support from the State was lacking.
In addition to looting and destruction of property, there were several murders and kidnappings. A Bosniak from Sjeverin, Ramo Berba, was killed in the village center on August 26th, 1992, by a soldier who had asked for Berba’s ID. One day before the kidnapping of the 16 villagers from Sjeverin, on October 21st, 1992, several unidentified uniformed persons kidnapped Sabahudin Catovic outside his home in Sjeverin. Since then, he has disappeared without trace. On the evening of February 19th, 1993, in the village of Kukurovici, the VJ killed Musan Husovic, Uzeir Bulutovic and Fatima Sarac, and then burned them in their homes. In April 1993, Hasan Mujovic disappeared from Sjeverin, and his fate remains unknown to this day.
The Humanitarian Law Center, the Association for the Protection of Refugees and Evicted Persons from the Municipality of Priboj and the Sandzak Committee for the Protection of Human Rights and Freedoms welcome the decision of the Government, which is the first official recognition of the wrongs and injuries inflicted on the Serbian citizens of Bosniak nationality by the armed forces of the Republic of Serbia.