On the occasion of the White Armband Day in Prijedor, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović reiterates the importance of securing the right of the families of thousands of victims of war crimes and grave human rights violations committed in this town between 1992 and 1995, including 102 children, to remember and commemorate their loved ones.
Since 2014, the local authorities have failed to meet repeated requests from the families, joined by activists behind the White Armband Day, to build a memorial to the killed children of Prijedor, while White Armband Day commemoration events have been faced with systematic obstructions over the years. The Commissioner has previously condemned the local authorities’ prohibition of a peaceful March in honour of the victims and their continuous refusal to allow discussions in the City Council about building a memorial to the children killed during the war.
“I urge the authorities in Prijedor to finally remove all legal and political barriers that stand in the way of building a memorial to the killed children of Prijedor. I express my solidarity with the families and pay tribute to their courage and persistence in ensuring that their children are not forgotten victims of the war. I express my willingness to work with the local authorities, families and civil society organisations, with a view to ensuring that this important initiative becomes a reality as soon as possible.
The authorities should facilitate commemoration initiatives that preserve the memory of victims of atrocities committed during the war. Those honouring children are particularly important, as children are often overlooked in memorialisation initiatives. Without the memory of the past, and especially of atrocities committed against the most vulnerable members of the society, there can be no prospect for a better future. We must remember what happened and acknowledge and remedy the suffering of victims and survivors of war through proper and dignified memorialisation.
Failure to address the painful experience of past atrocities also has far-reaching consequences on society as a whole. Young generations deserve to learn about the past from multiple perspectives, in order not to perpetuate prejudice, hatred and hostilities of the past. Civil society organisations and activists should be given space and supported in their work on commemorative initiatives, including public gatherings acknowledging the suffering of victims, notably children, in war.”