A man who survived the four-year Siege of Sarajevo is coming to Warrington to give a talk on the consequences of hatred when left unchallenged.
Rešad Trbonja’s speech at The Gateway Community Resource Centre on Sankey Street in Warrington on Thursday 8 February has been arranged as part of the inaugural North West Forces Hate Crime Week, held from Monday 5 February to Sunday 11 February.
He was a 19-year-old studying at university in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, when it was besieged by the forces of the Yugoslav People’s Army and then the Army of Republika Srpska from 5 April 1992 to 29 February 1996 during the Bosnian War.
A total of 13,952 people were killed, including 5,434 civilians, during what is the longest siege of a capital city in the history of modern warfare.
Rešad had to give up his studies and work to provide food for his family throughout the conflict but has since returned to academia and recently achieved a master’s degree in criminology.
He now works for the Remembering Srebrenica charitable initiative, helping others learn from the horrors of the genocide.
Nick Bailey, Acting Assistant Chief Constable at Cheshire Constabulary, which is joining other North West police forces in raising awareness of hate crime this week, said: “Rešad can provide a fascinating insight into the devastating physical and psychological damage that hatred can cause at an extreme level.
“His experiences tie in well with our determination to stop hate crime in all its forms.”
Held from 9am, the Community Diversity Champions event has been organised by Warrington Voluntary Action, which has been commissioned by David Keane, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire, to refresh training for third party reporting centres.
There are a large number of centres spread across the county that provide help and support for people who would prefer not to report a hate crime directly to the police.
Mr Keane said: “Hate crime continues to be an under-reported issue both across Cheshire and nationally, with an estimated 75 per cent of hate crimes going unreported to the police or third parties.
“It is vitally important that services across the county that support victims of hate crime have the necessary tools and training to encourage more people who have been involved in a hate crime to come forward.”
Representatives of the centres will be attending the invitation-only event in Warrington, which will focus on diversity and hate crime reporting training.
Inspector David Gordon, Cheshire Constabulary’s hate crime lead, said: “Third party reporting centres provide a crucial service in helping people who do not want to speak to the police report hate crimes.
“This event allows us to refresh the training for staff in the centres, as we recognise that staff change from time to time.
“We are also bringing the PCSOs to the event so they can understand the role of the centres and be a point of contact and support to assist them.
“I am grateful for the time given by our guest speaker Rešad Trbonja, who is visiting all forces in the North West. His perspective offers a timely reminder of what can happen when hatred goes unchallenged.”
Hate crime involves any criminal offence which is perceived, by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a personal characteristic. It can be motivated by:
• Gender identity
• Religion or faith
• Sexual orientation.
Hate crime can be reported to Cheshire Constabulary by calling 101, or in an emergency 999. However, if you do not feel comfortable talking to the police you can report it online via True Vision at www.report-it.org.uk/home or at a third party reporting centre. For the full list of reporting centres in Cheshire visit www.cheshire.police.uk/advice-and-support/hate-crime/third-party-reporting-centres.