COURTSIDE: Bosanska Krajina Trial

Court told that Muslims were forced to leave Sanski Most.

COURTSIDE: Bosanska Krajina Trial

Court told that Muslims were forced to leave Sanski Most.

A prosecution witness in the trial of Radoslav Brdjanin and General Momir Talic, accused of genocide of non-Serbs in north-west Bosnia, last week told the court that Muslims had left one town in the area "voluntarily".

Beslim Islamcevic explained that unbearable conditions in Sanski Most, fear of the Serb police and army, killings and the burning of Muslim property had left them with no choice.

Serb forces took over Sanski Most in spring of 1992 as a part of the process of establishing the Autonomous Region of Krajina under a crisis staff presided over by Brdjanin. Talic was a member and also commanded the Bosnian Serb 1st Krajina Corps.

Islamcevic told how he was taken to Banja Luka as a Muslim representative, where he met the Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic. When the witness complained of the problems facing Muslims in Sanski Most, Karadzic had replied that they should not worry but remain in their homes and jobs, leaving the war to the Serbs.

The Bosnian Serb leader then said that they would all live happily afterwards - words the witness took to be sincere at the time.

However, the situation in Sanski Most deteriorated and in the summer of 1992, Islamcevic asked the Serb authorities for their help in organising a convoy. Thousands of Muslim men, women and children then left the area.

The court heard that Serb forces did not have to force people to join the convoy or search their homes as they were eager to escape the carnage.

Talic's defence claimed that Croat and Serb buildings had been destroyed alongside Muslim ones, and Islamcevic confirmed this. However, he described the damage to Croat homes as insignificant, and alleged that the Serbs only suffered because they had bombed each others' houses during private feuds.

All the inhabitants of Sanski Most endured water and electricity shortages, school closures and a lack of medicines and food, he said. These hardships were not restricted to Muslims. The trial continues.

Mirna Jancic is an IWPR assistant editor.

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