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COURTSIDE: Prijedor Genocide Trial

Prosecution says Milomir Stakic helped to create climate of fear and hatred.
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A second trial dealing with the responsibility of political leaders for crimes against the non-Serb population of the Prijedor area of north-west Bosnia began last week.


It comes four years after the trial of local doctor and politician Milan Kovacevic, which ended after only a few weeks following the unexpected death of the defendant.


Milomir Stakic held the highest political office during the 1992 persecutions as president of the Prijedor municipal assembly and of the local crisis staff.


Prosecutor Joanna Korner said the Bosnian Serbs in Prijedor had "turned against their non-Serb neighbours in 1992 with a ferocity which is only explicable within the climate of fear and hatred deliberately created by people such as the accused Milomir Stakic".


The Bosnian Serb leadership from Radovan Karadzic, Momcilo Krajisnik and Biljana Plavsic down to municipal chiefs, Korner said, pursued a "common design or plan to permanently remove the non-Serbs from the area designed to be a part of a Serbian state".


This removal was to be effected by the deliberate execution of a criminal policy, she said, which started with the withdrawal of non-Serbs' employment rights, freedom of movement and proper judicial process. It then escalated into attacks on villages and areas, killing of civilians, the destruction of property and the deliberate targeting of religious institutions.


Those not killed in these attacks, she said, were rounded up in camps where mass murder and torture were committed, "Those released from the camps and other civilians were deported in thousands from areas where their families lived for decades and generations".


The prosecution says Stakic is criminally liable for genocide. It will try to prove that he actively took part in these events, firstly through testimonies of people who knew him or had contacts with him in 1992, and through his public statements.


In one, he confirmed he knew of the deaths of some detainees in Omarska camp, though he claimed that they were "just cases of death and not murder".


The first prosecution witness was Robert Donia, a US expert on Balkan history and already a veteran tribunal witness. He began by providing a historical and social background to the events described in the indictment.


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