Goran Basic & David Wästerfors
Is it possible for civilians, who have been targets of war action, to reconcile with their former enemies? In this study I am analyzing the stories told by former camp-prisoners who were imprisoned at the beginning of the Bosnia-Herzegovina war in the early 1990’s. These prisoners were detained in the concentration-camps of Omarska, Keraterm and Manjača. The former prisoners took refuge in the Nordic countries after the war,.Page updated: 2009-03-06
The aim of the study is partly to analyze traces of reconciliation and implacability, and partly to detect and describe the rituals of interaction that emerged during the war, which have been revised and reinterpreted after the war.
The report is based on 13 interviews with former camp-prisoners and their close relatives who now live in Sweden, Denmark and Norway. Added to the study is a document analysis of verdicts by the Hague-tribunal and UN reports.
Rather than the one-sided view of the former camp-prisoners, as traumatised, an action-oriented picture emerged. The stories of the camp-prisoners are nuanced fields where the narrator divides guilt and responsibility, reconciliation and implacability, the roles of heroes and victims.
The study shows that the ethnic cleansing, in the Bosnian Northwest, caused not only series of atrocities but also dramatic changes in terms of different symbols and life-stories. The camps in the Bosnian Northwest were characterized by crimes and excesses against people. Individuality was heavily restricted by different power-rituals and abuse-processes.
The interactive dynamics that evolved during the ethnic cleansing have a strong impact on the process of reconciliation after the war. The stories of reconciliation, implacability and victimization are constructed not only in relation to the war as a whole but also in relation to the narrators own actions and others personal actions during the war.
It seems like the interviewees are trying to put their experiences behind them to escape being tormented by the past. The most outstanding in their stories is implacability, but forgiveness and reconciliation seem to be achievable if certain conditions are met, for example the display of shame.