In August 1992, an American journalist uncovered the existence of Serb nationalist-run internment camps in and around the Bosnian town of Prijedor. Images of terrorized, emaciated Croat and Muslim detainees, alongside accounts of starvation, rape and murder, shocked the world and forced the prompt closure of these camps. But they were just one aspect of a campaign of 'ethnic cleansing' that helped to drive more than 40,000 people - nearly half the pre-war population of Prijedor - into exile. Although far from unique as a theatre of ethnic cleansing, the town became the focus of an international effort after the war to help refugees return home, and to bring at least some of their oppressors to justice. Even so, years later only a quarter of the exiled population has returned to the region, while Serb nationalist forces remain dominant. The distorted versions of history used to ensure collusion by local Serbs in the persecution of their lifelong neighbours are being reinforced to this day by falsified accounts of the war. True reconciliation still seems remote.
Beginning with an unadorned account of the hideous events of 1992, "Raw Memory" offers first-hand testimonies from refugees, camp survivors, war criminals and international agents, and reflects upon the powers and limitations of the 'international community' in its attempts to administer justice or secure reconciliation. This is a tour de force, posing questions essential not only to the future of the former Yugoslavia but to all of Europe.
Isabelle Wesselingh is Agence France Presse correspondent in the Netherlands since 1999, where she has followed the war crimes trials at the Hague tribunal, where some of the Prijedor war criminals have been or are being tried alongside Slobodan Milo'evi . She has also reported on the postwar situation in Bosnia for the French daily La Croix. Arnaud Vaulerin is a journalist working for the French daily Liberation, and has covered the postwar situation in Bosnia, Kosovo and Albania for a number of French-language media, including La Croix. Previous publications include Bosnia: Living Memory.
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