For more than a year, a small family-owned mining company in Bosnia has suffered relentless retaliation for blowing the whistle on a government bribery scheme. Rather than being thanked for exposing corruption, Tuzla Kvarc has faced reprisals that have brought the firm to its knees.
Authorities have shut down its quartz mining operations. Workers have not been paid since January. Their options running out, several employees began a hunger strike to draw attention to this flagrant case of whistleblower retaliation.
The hunger strike has continued, with people refusing water and medical care.
International pressure on Bosnian Prime Minister Denis Zvizdić is urgently needed to stop the retaliation against the Tuzla Kvarc whistleblowers. Click here to quickly send an email of protest.
The backlash began in spring 2015 after Smail Velagić, the soft-spoken director of Tuzla Kvarc for 30 years, told police that a local mining official demanded bribes to grant the company a mining license. When Velagić’s son participated with police in a sting operation that caught the official in the act of demanding the money, retaliation against Tuzla Kvarc was swift and vicious.
Tax officials seized company property. Police conducted nuisance inspections. Prosecutors filed criminal charges against Velagić and the company for mining without a license – even though the reason it didn’t have a license was because they refused to pay a bribe.
Tell authorities in Bosnia that you condemn such retaliation against whistleblowers.
Last October, one of Tuzla Kvarc’s offices was burned, demolished, flattened and chopped to bits in the middle of the night by unknown perpetrators.
In solidarity with a trade union, workers maintained a protest in front of Tuzla’s government offices for 51 days until police dissolved the encampment.
Bojan Bajić of the Center for Responsible Democracy-Luna, which is leading the campaign in support of Tuzla Kvarc said, “I did not know that this kind of coordinated aggression by a bureaucracy -- in the name of the law -- was possible. The case of Tuzla Kvarc is the breaking point of my hope that this is a normal country.”
Click here to tell Bosnian Prime Minister Denis Zvizdić to drop all charges against Tuzla Kvarc and allow the company to put its 50 employees back to work.
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