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Bosnia-Herzegovina: Visit to a mine-affected community

11-05-2004 News Release 04/63

As the former High Representative of the international community for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Wolfgang Petritsch is a very well-known personality in the country. In early May he visited Sarajevo, where the International Campaign to Ban Landmines was holding its annual global meeting of anti-personnel landmine experts.

Currently the Permanent Representative of Austria to the United Nations in Geneva, Mr Petritsch went to Sarajevo in his capacity as president-designate of the First Review Conference of the Ottawa Convention banning anti-personnel landmines, informally referred to as the “2004 Nairobi Summit on a Mine-free World,” to be held in the Kenyan capital from 29 November to 3 December 2004.

On a field trip organized last week by the ICRC, Mr Petritsch, who was accompanied by representatives of the Austrian Red Cross and Nobel Laureate for Peace Jody Williams, highlighted the problem of landmines that continue to plague Bosnia-Herzegovina. He was warmly welcomed by the many local people he met in the mine-affected community of Kalesija, near Tuzla in central Bosnia.

A representative of Kalesija’s civil defence explained to him that a 1,740,000 square-metre area still needs to be cleared of mines. In fluent Bosnian, Mr Petritsch acknowledged the need to take action: “I cannot do anything about this myself anymore in Bosnia-Herzegovina, but I will do my best to see to it that those who can take the necessary steps.”

Pero Markovic, who returned to his home in Kalesija five years ago, told Mr Petritsch his story. Less than 50 metres from his house he found three mines, which were subsequently removed. He now grows crops on his small patch of land. But farther away there are trenches that were dug during the war, along with signs warning of the danger of the minefield that Mr Markovic and his wife already accept as a part of their lives. “There has to be some risk in life,” said Mr Markovic. “What you see beyond these 100 square metres is ours. We accept that we live with uncertainty. ”

 For further information, please contact:  

 Sanela Bajrambasic, ICRC Sarajevo, tel. ++387 33 652 407  

 Florian Westphal, ICRC Geneva, tel. ++41 22 730 29 30