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Brdjanin: Indictment And Arrest

Tribunal Update 133: Last Week in The Hague (5-11 July, 1999)
By IWPR

British commandos serving with SFOR, acting on an ICTY sealed indictment and warrant, arrested him in Banjaluka.


Over 100,000 Muslims and Croats were ethnically cleansed - moved, expelled and forcefully deported - from Bosanska Krajina in north west Bosnia-Herzegovina between April and December 1992. The method was described in detail in the indictment against Brdjanin, President of the Regional Crisis Staff for Bosanska Krajina at the time.


The Tribunal has already heard a lot about the mechanisms of ethnic cleansing in Bosanska Krajina: in the trial and in the verdict on Dusko Tadic, as well at the beginning of the trial of Dr Milan Kovacevic, suspended after the death of the accused.


The indictment against Brdjanin focuses on the role of the Crisis Staff, then the highest organ of authority at the regional level, in that process. The Prosecutor alleges that it had a decisive role in the process of ethnic cleansing of Bosanska Krajina, and that Brdjanin, as its president, had a key say in its works.


Brdjanin was reported to have set a level of three percent as the 'acceptable' proportion of non-Serbs in the putative Bosnian Serb state. With this defined goal, the Prosecutor alleges that the Crisis Staff and its President conceived a three-point programme of ethnic cleansing.


First, the aim would be to create impossible conditions, through direct pressure and terror tactics, to 'encourage' non-Serbs to leave the area. Secondly, those who still tried to remain would be deported and banished. Finally, three, those non-Serbs who still remained in numbers above the three percent total would be liquidated.


The indictment details the methods including: the denial of fundamental rights to non-Serbs, including their freedom of movement; the wanton destruction of Bosnian Muslim and Bosnian Croat villages and areas, and especially of their religious and cultural


buildings and monuments; the killing or causing serious bodily or mental harm to Muslims, Croats and other non-Serbs; detaining them under conditions of life calculated to bring about the physical destruction of a part of those population; and the forced transfer or deportation of Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats from the areas that had been proclaimed as part of the Republika Srpska.


The indictment describes in detail the situation in the camps where Muslims and Croats were detained. The Krings and Betonirka camps in Sanski Most, plus the local building of the Public Security Service, the saw mill and the medical centre in Kotor Varos, are all added in the indictment to the infamous "trio" of Prijedor camps - Omarska, Keraterm and Trnopolje.


It especially refers to the brutal treatment endured by intellectuals and political, business and religious leaders from the Muslim and the Croat community. In some camps, such as Trnopolje and the sawmill in Kotor Varos, female detainees were frequently sexually assaulted, raped and tortured by military and police personnel. 'Visitors' would come to the camps especially to join in the brutality. These acts, the Prosecutor alleges, were carried out by military, police and paramilitary forces acting under the orders of the Crisis Staff and Brdjanin, as its president.


There was little new in the descriptions of the methodology of ethnic cleansing in relation to the four Prijedor indictments so far issued publicly. But the indictment of Brdjanin, and presumably other members of the Crisis Staff named in sealed indictments, also includes a separate paragraph dedicated to the role and impact of the propaganda.


According to this paragraph the Crisis Staff allegedly "controlled the main media sources through which they promoted and disseminated propaganda that portrayed the Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats as fanatics intending to commit genocide on the Serbian people...


"The purpose of this propaganda was to create support for the SDS (the then Republika Srpska leader Radovan Karadzic's Serbian Democratic Party, to which Brdjanin belonged until 1994) programme, and to create among Serb individuals and groups the willingness to commit horrendous crimes against their neighbours under the banner of defending the Serbian people."


On Monday, Jul. 12, Radoslav Brdjanin was scheduled to appear before Trial Chamber II to enter a plea on the only count of the indictment, which charges him on the basis of both individual and superior criminal responsibility with persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds (a crime against humanity).


Both hard-line and moderate Bosnian Serb politicians condemned his arrest, some describing it as brutal and resembling a "manhunt". They especially objected to the system of secret or "sealed" indictments introduced by Tribunal chief prosecutor Louise Arbour.


They claim that, apart from other things, this practice "prevents them from being cooperative" with the Tribunal on the grounds that, not knowing who is indicted, they are not in a position to arrest the indictees and hand them over to the ICTY. This case is also made in Belgrade and Moscow.


The use of such arguments may have led to Arbour again raising the issue of Republika Srpska's 'cooperation' with the Tribunal in a statement issued after Brdjanin's arrest.


Part follows: "During my last visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina in May this year, I met with Mr Sarovic, Vice President of the Republika Srpska (RS), with the Minister of Justice, Mr Trbojevic, as well as with the Minister of Interior, Mr Novic. I raised on that occasion the imperative of a more co-operative stance on the part of the government of the RS towards the issue of arrest.


"More specifically, I informed them I would be willing to share with them the identity of some of the accused presently indicted under sealed indictments should they demonstrate their willingness to execute ICTY arrest warrants, which they can do by arresting the many indictees who remain at large under well publicised indictments, some dating back to 1995.


"I regret that there has been to date no progress on that issue, and I hope to have the opportunity to raise it again at a meeting that I have requested with the two ministers during my visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina next week. In the meantime, I will continue to seek and make use of sealed indictments. They have proven their value many times."