The TripAdvisor reviews for Vilina Vlas spa hotel are mixed. Only a couple mention the rape camp it once was – and if you do not speak French or German you would miss them. The rest are a mix of mundane complaints about dirty rooms, and enthusiastic tributes to the forest and its natural hot springs.
The hotel also features on the tourist website for historic Višegrad town, and older editions of the only guidebook to Bosnia-Herzegovina by Bradt. So unsuspecting guests travelling through Višegrad can – and do – book into a building used for murder, rape and torture by a sadistic paramilitary group less than 25 years ago.
And though the mattresses may have been changed, and the walls repainted, the bed frames that tourists sleep on today are the same ones on which dozens of women were attacked. The dated lobby is floored with the same stone that in 1992 had to be hosed clean of blood, and visitors using the swimming pool splash around in what was a killing ground.
“People who go there don’t know they are staying in beds where women were raped, and swimming in a pool in which people were executed,” said Bakira Hasečić, a native of Višegrad who established and now runs the Association of Women Victims of War.
In 1992 Vilina Vlas was commandeered as a headquarters by Milan Lukić, the sadistic leader of the Serb paramilitary group the White Eagles, which in a few months turned Višegrad into a charnel house and virtually emptied it of its Muslim population.
After years on the run, including some in Latin America, Lukić was captured, tried in the international criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia at The Hague and sentenced to life imprisonment for war crimes including murder, cruelty, persecution and other crimes against humanity.
A room in Vilina Vlas hotel. The spa resort is little changed since 1992 when dozens of muslim women were imprisoned and raped there. Photograph: David Gill for the Observer
While the war was horrific enough, the peace that followed brought new torment for the victims of Vilina Vlas. Hotel business resumed at the squat, red-roofed building: the rape camp was returned to use for tourists without even a change of furniture – much less a memorial.
Višegrad town is now run by people apparently bent on not only forgetting the campaign of death that transformed their town from one with a Muslim majority to one heavily dominated by ethnic Serbs, but erasing any trace that any of it ever happened.
Despite pages of testimony at the international court in the Hague, and a judgment that confirmed it was used as a rape centre, Višegrad’s mayor, Mladen Djurevic, denies ever having heard of rape, torture, or murder at Vilina Vlas. Read more