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December 7, 2021

Remembering the 30th Anniversary of the shelling of Dubrovnik

 SENSE Center for Transitional Justice marks one of the most notorious episodes of the intentional destruction of historic monuments of the post-WW2 era

By Helen Walasek

(c) estate of Pavo Urban

December 6 marks the 30th anniversary of the shelling of the Old City of Dubrovnik, a UNESCO World Heritage site, in 1991 during the Wars of Yugoslav Succession – one of the most notorious episodes of the intentional destruction of historic monuments in Europe since World War Two. SENSE Center for Transitional Justice in Pula has been running a five-day online campaign to mark the anniversary as part of its continuing programme to remember both the victims and the destruction of the wars. All the films and exhibitions in the campaign can be seen via the SENSE website, as can its seminal website Targeting History and Memory on the destruction of cultural property during the Yugoslav wars and how they featured in the prosecutions of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

During the campaign, running between 4–8 December (but all available online after that), SENSE will broadcast five short films on its YouTube channel, presenting the most important and relevant points from the ICTY trials of Slobodan Milošević, Pavle Strugar and Miodrag Jokić, all indicted for the destruction of cultural and historical heritage in Dubrovnik in 1991. The first explores the reasoning behind the ICTY's prosecutions (or lack of prosecutions) relating to the destruction of the Old Bridge (Stari Most) in Mostar and the National Library in Sarajevo in Bosnia-Herzegovina. 

The campaign includes two online exhibitions. The first shows the last photographs made by the young Dubrovnik photographer Pavo Urban, who was killed during the shelling of 6 December 1991 while documenting the heaviest artillery attack on the Old City. The other, Dubrovnik, the Day After, shows the damage caused by the shelling which were introduced as prosecution evidence at the ICTY trials dealing with the crimes against the unmilitarised UNESCO World Heritage site.

Around twenty civil society organizations from Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina are participating in the campaign and will be transmitting the content prepared by SENSE on their websites and social media networks.