This morning at the crack of dawn, riot police violently removed anti-hydropower protesters in the village of Kruščica near Vitez, Bosnia-Herzegovina, causing serious injury to several people. The protesters neither provoked nor resisted the police but were nevertheless forcibly removed in order to allow access over a bridge for construction equipment to pass. After the removal, several of the protesters were arrested and questioned. Several of them also sought medical help.
Kruščica residents have for the last month been peacefully protesting against Kruščica 1 small hydropower plant, whose construction is to take place in the planned Kruščica Nature Park. This is one of a series of residents’ groups who have been resisting hydropower in Bosnia-Herzegovina during the last few years, for example in Kotor Varoš and Fojnica.
Viktor Bjelić stated on behalf of the Coalition for Protection of Rivers of Bosnia and Herzegovina that „Today’s incident shows that citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina are not protected by the authorities and that monstrous incidents such as this one can happen even to women and children. The residents of Kruščica are defending their right to a healthy environment and the right to water as basic human rights, while the investors and those defending the investor’s interest have only a profit motive. Obviously private interest is considered more important than public interest, as this morning’s incident shows, as well as the fact that the protesters were removed before five o’clock in the morning by special police units funded by the people of this country. It was clear that the real aim of this action was to clear the way for construction and not to enable the flow of road traffic since the construction company and machines were immediately behind the police lines and were able to cross the bridge to the location where the hydropower plant is planned as soon as the people had been „removed”. We condemn such actions against the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina, carried out to protect those who make and implement decisions harmful for people and the environment”.
The Coalition to Protect Bosnia-Herzegovina’s Rivers will call for help from colleagues across Bosnia-Herzegovina and the region to take legal action, as this is clearly a violation of the right to public assembly, freedom of expression, and the right to a dignified life. We will also highlight this as a case of repression of activists at the forthcoming Conference of the Parties to the Aarhus Convention in Budva1 . The Convention stipulates that authorities must protect their citizens against any kind of repression.
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1 Article 3, paragraph 8 of the Aarhus Convention states that every Each Party shall ensure that persons exercising their rights in conformity with the provisions of the Convention shall not be penalized, persecuted or harassed in any way for their involvement.