British man who set fire to himself to protest Bosnia war crimes may get statue in Sarajevo

Ivo Scepanovic
·3 min read
A cemetery holding the victims of the 1993 Ahmici massacre in Bosnia, an atrocity that pushed Graham Bamford to take his own life - Haris Badzic/ Anadolu Agency
A cemetery holding the victims of the 1993 Ahmici massacre in Bosnia, an atrocity that pushed Graham Bamford to take his own life - Haris Badzic/ Anadolu Agency

A British man who set himself on fire to protest Western inaction over war crimes in Bosnia should be honoured with a statue in Sarajevo, campaigners have said. 

Graham Bamford died on April 29, 1993 after pouring petrol over himself and flicking a cigarette lighter on Parliament Square while MPs were debating Bosnia in the House of Commons. 

The father of one from Macclesfield, who was 48 when he died, had no connection to the Balkans but had become increasingly agitated by television reports first from Croatia and then from Bosnia and Herzegovina. 

He wrote in a note found after his death: “The British people must stop the war in Bosnia, using force if necessary. The British army must not only be a guardian of honor at mass funerals. Bosnian babies, children and women are patiently waiting for the politicians to do what they should do – provide military protection. They must not stand aside and observe”. 

The Bosnian sculptor Mustafa Skopljak created a statue to Mr Bamford eight years ago, but authorities have never granted a location to place the monument. It is currently stored in Sarajevo’s Academy of Arts. 

Now, the Canadian Institute for Research of Genocide has called on Bosnian authorities to find a public place for the sculpture.  

“Isn’t the way he appealed for helping Bosnia during the war enough for country’s political, academic and other leaders to recognise this man as a hero”, the officials of the Institute wrote in an open letter published in media in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“Graham Bamford, the man, we will never forget you and your humanity,” the letter went on. 

The City of Sarajevo in 2009 established an annual award for humanity named after Graham Bamford. He is the subject of a documentary by the Croatian director Nenad Puhovski called “Graham and I - A True Story."

Bamford is believed to have become particularly depressed after seeing reports about a massacre of Muslim civilians by Bosnian Croat forces two weeks before he killed himself. 

At least 116 people, including children and a three month old baby, were killed in the village of Ahmici in central Bosnia on April 16, 1993. 

Graphic images from the site filmed by an ITN team travelling with the British peacekeeping troops who discovered the massacre were broadcast around the world, and the site was later visited by representatives of the UN Security Council.  

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia was formed the following month.

Colonel Bob Stewart, who led the unit that discovered the massacre, said: "As soon as I got back I spoke to my second in command and we felt the world ought to know what we had witnessed that day. We felt it was incumbent on us. " 

 "We were fully aware that the images were graphic. A lot of good came from that broadcast. But what do I say when I find out someone was impacted by that? I really regret that."