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Institute for the Research of Genocide Canada

Ron Haviv – Eyewitness Testimony

Institute for the Research of Genocide Canada
Published: July 11, 2009  

In April 1992, photojournalist Ron Haviv was granted permission by the Serbian paramilitary leader known as Arkan to join his forces, the Tigers, as they entered the eastern Bosnian town of Bijeljina. Haviv became a witness to some of the first atrocities in the Bosnian war as the Tigers assaulted and killed Bosniak civilians.

Despite being told not to take photographs, Haviv managed to document some of what he saw.

Haviv continued to work in Bosnia throughout the war and later in Kosovo. His photographs provide some of the most stunning evidence of crimes from the Balkan wars (1991-99).

His work to expose human rights violations in the Balkans, Latin America, the Middle East, Russia, and Africa – notably in Sudan and Democratic Republic of the Congo – has earned him the reputation as one of today’s finest photojournalists.

TRANSCRIPT

Ron Haviv – They had taken a middle-aged man and a woman out of one of the houses. And the woman was screaming. And the soldiers were screaming. And they were screaming at me not to take photographs. And some shots rang out and the man fell to the ground.

A few minutes later, they brought out another woman and they shot her as well.

And, and then things sort of calmed down for a bit, and then they brought out two more people, and they said “Look, look, he’s from Kosovo. He’s a fundamentalist.”

And he put his arms up and basically looked at me as if I was probably the only person that could save him, which, probably in his mind I was, but unfortunately there wasn’t really anything I could do.

They  brought him to the headquarters and as I was standing there, I heard a great crash and I looked up and out of a second floor window, this man came flying out and landed at my feet.

And amazingly, he survived the fall and they came over and they doused him with some water.

They said something like, “This is to purify Muslim extremists,” as they doused him in the water. And they started kicking him and beating him and then dragged him back into the home.

I had to make sure there was a document that there had to be evidence of this crime, of what was happening. And that, I think, gave me the courage to try — to take those photographs.

I was shaking, for sure, when I was doing it because I realized how precarious everything was, but I really thought it was unbelievably important to be able to have the world see what happened.

Institute for the Research of Genocide Canada