Courtside: Brdjanin Trial

By Vjera Bogati in The Hague (TU 298, 27-31 January 2003)

Courtside: Brdjanin Trial

By Vjera Bogati in The Hague (TU 298, 27-31 January 2003)

Tuesday, 22 February, 2005

Brdjanin is standing trial at The Hague accused of participating in genocide in northern Bosnia in 1992.

Ackerman asked witness James Mayhew, a former member of the European Commission Monitoring Mission, ECMM, team located in Banja Luka, “Is not the claim of the Serbian forces that they are entitled to detain without explanation the individuals found in the war zone, similar to what the US claimed in connection with Afghanistan detainees now held in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba?”

However, presiding judge Carmel Agius directed that the witness should not comment on this question.

Earlier, the prosecution quoted from an ECMM report produced at the time, September 1992, which said, "Ethnic cleansing in Banja Luka and Prijedor - including rape, killings and mistreatment - is being conducted with tacit approval of the authorities."

Mayhew testified in the trial of former crisis staff head Radoslav Brdjanin about the situation in the so-called Autonomous Region of Krajina, ARK, in 1992.

“Local authorities pretended not to know what was going on in the field and in the camps around Banja Luka and Prijedor, but members of ECMM representatives hold the opinion that the leaders have control over the police and military forces,” said the report he presented as evidence.

Mayhew said "3,600 mostly Muslim men were detained in Manjaca. Bosnian Serb forces claimed that they were prisoners taken in war zones”.

But the witness said that those war zones were actually towns and villages with a majority Muslim population, in which there was not much fighting.

From talking with the detainees in Manjaca, the monitors found that most of them were civilians. “They were hostages of ethnic cleansing. Their houses in neighbouring villages, which we visited, in most cases were burned down,” Mayhew said.

Meetings with the representatives of authorities from Banja Luka, he said, confirmed that nothing happened without knowledge of ARK officials.

However, he said he could not remember if, during these meetings, he had ever met Brdjanin.

Brdjanin is accused of genocide against non-Serb population of north-west Bosnia, but his lawyers claim that he was not aware of these crimes. Ackerman suggested that the detainees might have deliberately lied to Mayhew about their civilian status.

The witness replied that no one had ever proved those civilians he met in the camps had participated in any fighting.

Vjera Bogati is an IWPR correspondent in The Hague and a journalist with SENSE news agency.

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