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COURTSIDE: Bosanska Krajina Trial

Witnesses recall how non-Serbs were beaten in the back of a police van.

Recollections of the terror spread by the Bosnian Serb police figured last week in the trial of two high-ranking members of Bosanska Krajina regional crisis staff, General Momir Talic and its former president, Radislav Brdjanin.

A witness said the police cruised the streets of Banja Luka in a red van, picking up Bosniaks and Croats from their homes and beating them in the vehicle with baseball bats. Those who got out had bruises to show for it.

The prosecutor wanted to highlight the degree of unpunished - even officially sponsored - terror that reigned in Banja Luka in 1992 after the Serbs took over local government.

The protected witness said the van doors usually remained open while beatings took place inside, to scare non-Serbs and make them leave. He said he knew the names of at least 20 people tortured in the vehicle.

He recalled seven policemen, whose names he knew, visiting him in winter 1992. After inspecting his home, they ordered him into the van and told him to show them the houses of certain Bosniaks listed on a sheet of paper, allegedly members of the Muslim-dominated Party of Democratic Action, SDA.

The owners of the houses he identified were not taken into the vehicle. Instead, their homes were wrecked and they were told they had no future in Banja Luka. The witness said everyone could see him sitting in the van and pointing out the houses. "I was forced to participate in their dirty work," he said. " The suffering of Bosniaks was their pleasure." The trial continues.

Vjera Bogati is an IWPR special correspondent at The Hague and a journalist with SENSE News Agency.

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