Bosnia families bridge ethnic divide, demand justice for dead sons

SARAJEVO (Reuters) - Two grieving fathers from across Bosnia’s ethnic divide called on Tuesday for justice for sons they believe were killed in separate murders covered up by the police.

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David Dragicevic, 21, an ethnic Serb student, was found in a river in March a week after he went missing in the northwestern town of Banja Luka. Dzenan Memic, 22, a Muslim, died of wounds to his head in the capital Sarajevo in 2016.

Their fathers, Davor Dragicevic and Muriz Memic, believe the two cases were both covered up by police acting in cahoots with the killers, evidence they say of corruption that has plagued Bosnia’s two ethnically-based regions since war in the 1990s.

They were joined on Tuesday in Sarajevo by hundreds of supporters holding placards and T-shirts reading “Justice for David” and “Justice for Dzenan”.

David Dragicevic’s death in March has triggered daily protests in Banja Luka for more than 50 days, with demonstrators rebuking the police for giving conflicting accounts of the case.

The police have said he drowned and had alcohol and drugs in his body. His father said he was captured, tortured and killed.

“I demand the names of accomplices, killers and all those who hid evidence,” he told the gathering in Sarajevo.

“My child was killed by a system created after the war. I will never forgive them for David, Dzenan and all the other children,” Dragicevic said. “Criminals have no religion nor nationality, just their own interests.”

When Dzenan Memic died in 2016, prosecutors initially said he was murdered but later dropped the investigation and declared he had been killed in a car accident.

The Memic family has never accepted that, saying he was murdered and the crime was covered up. Numerous street protests have been organized to demand the truth about his death over the past two years.

“It is sad that we are demanding justice in streets but remaining silent is the worst,” said Munira Abidzan, a protester.

Bosnia’s ethnic Serbs, Croats and Muslims fought each other in a multi-sided war in 1992-1995. Since then, the country has been divided into a Serb region and a region of Croats and Muslims. Critics say the system has entrenched in power ethnic-based political parties, which have grown corrupt.

Additional reporting and writing by Daria Sito-Sucic; Editing by Peter Graff