COURTSIDE: Bosanski Samac Trial

Expert witness claims proof of ethnic cleansing can be seen in population change

COURTSIDE: Bosanski Samac Trial

Expert witness claims proof of ethnic cleansing can be seen in population change

An expert witness last week testified that changes in the ethnic composition of north-west Bosnia show ethnic cleansing took place in the region.

The tribunal prosecution team's demographics expert Ewa Tabeau, together with Jakub Bijak, prepared a report on demographic changes in the municipalities of Bosanski Samac and Odzak.

The defence team for Simo Zaric, Miroslav Tadic and Blagoje Simic - accused of persecution of non-Serbs in the area - argued that Tabeau's evidence is biased by the very fact that she works for the prosecution team.

The team also challenged the methods used by the witness to compare the ethnic statistics from 1997 to those from 1991. Tabeau used the Bosnian 1991 population census and the OSCE 1997 electoral voters' register, which she maintains is acceptable analysis procedure.

After the war, the municipalities of Bosanski Samac and Odzak were split by the line that divided the country into two entities - Republika Srpska, RS, and the Federation. A relatively low number of refugees have since returned to their pre-war properties in the RS.

While the Federation section of Samac municipality maintained its pre-war ethnic structure in 1997 - with a 98 per cent Croat majority - the situation in the RS area was very different. While Serbs constituted 55 per cent of its 1995 population, the figure jumped to 92 per cent in 1997. The 27 per cent of Croats and 10 per cent of Muslims present in 1991 had almost disappeared.

In the Federation's part of Odzak municipality, the ethnic composition has also changed in six years. There, Croats retained their majority while the 22 per cent of Serbs had virtually disappeared by 1997. However, the Muslim minority had increased.

In RS Odzak, Croats and Muslims, which had formed the 1991 majority with around 38 per cent of the population each, had almost disappeared by 1997. The Serb population, which previously comprised only 19 per cent, had risen to 93 per cent by then.

Tabeau and Bijak concluded that the mass disappearance of Muslims and Croats from Serb-held Samac and Odzak was a clear example of ethnic cleansing. Their report also showed that ethnically-mixed areas throughout Bosnia-Herzegovina had all but vanished by 1997 as a result of large-scale population movement.

Mirna Jancic is an IWPR assistant editor

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