As ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steel company, invests 19.2 million pounds of steel to construct a monument marking London’s Olympic Games, they are refusing to memorialize a former concentration camp in Bosnia they own today. Not only is ArcelorMittal unwilling to provide even a fraction of the cost of the London “Orbit” to commemorate the suffering of Bosnians in the notorious Omarska camp, but it has recently started denying victims access to the site.
Omarska, an iron ore mine outside Prijedor in northwestern Bosnia, was used by Bosnian Serbs to detain and torture more than 5,000 Bosnians in the summer of 1992. The evidence of torture and killings of detainees at Omarska, collected by a UN commission of experts, led to the establishment of the first international war crimes court since Nuremberg and Tokyo, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
Worried by possible negative publicity, however, Mittal reached an agreement with camp survivors that certain buildings at the Omarska complex would remain untouched and accessible to victims and their families. The agreement was followed by a promise that a memorial would be built on the site and financed by Mittal. This was in 2005.
Since then, Mittal (now ArcelorMittal) reneged on its commitment to finance the building of the memorial. In February 2006 Mittal issued a statement saying they are ‘temporarily suspending’ the Omarska memorial project. However, not only has the company frozen the development of the memorial to which it had committed, but in the last several weeks it has gone one step further—it started denying access to the site to victims citing “safety concerns”, giving them an option to visit the camp on a handful of dates Arcelor Mittal determines.
As if the reckoning with the troubled past was not hard enough for the fragile Bosnian society, we now have a private corporation denying victims the right to the memory of one of the most painful and notorious crimes committed during the conflict. This is a disturbing and alarming development, especially as it comes from a company whose steel Orbit towers over London proclaiming a supposed message of corporate responsibility.
For more information go to: http://ictj.org/news/shadow-london-%E2%80%9Corbit%E2%80%9D-bosnia-steel-blood-and-suppression-memory