Courtside: Prijedor Genocide Trial

By Vjera Bogati (TU No. 290, 18-22 November, 2002)

Courtside: Prijedor Genocide Trial

By Vjera Bogati (TU No. 290, 18-22 November, 2002)

Friday, 29 April, 2005

Stakic is accused of being responsible for genocide in Prijedor in 1992, the time when he was head of the local assembly and the crisis staff, an ad-hoc Serb local government, in 1992.

But opening the defence case, Lukic said Stakic did not have control over any such operations.

Prosecutors accused Stakic of being in charge of a council that was responsible for random killings, terrorising non-Serbs and for the notorious detention camps of Omarska, Keraterm and Trnopolje.

The indictment alleges that the crisis staff - established when Serbs took control of the town and headed by Stakic - was the key executive organ which supervised events from expulsions to mass detentions.

Stakic's defence will come in two parts. First, Lukic said in the coming weeks he would present evidence to show that Stakic was "powerless and never acted with a genocidal or any other criminal intention".

And he will also challenge prosecution allegations that non-Serbs were systematically persecuted.

More than 20,000 Muslims had already left Prijedor before Serbs set up the crisis staff on April 30, 1992, Lukic said.

Stakic is to summon witnesses to testify that the civilian and security forces chains of command were different - so that even if there were crimes against civilians, the crisis staff had no way of controlling the military and police units which carried them out.

The defence also insists that the war in Bosnia-Hercegovina was caused not by the Serbs, but by incursions into Bosnian territory by the Croatian army to the north of Bosanski Samac.

Lukic said the incursions, starting in early March 1992, followed international recognition of Croatia and the actions "pushed Bosnia and Herzegovina into war".

Among the first defence witnesses was a survivor of a massacre in the village of Sijekovac in northern Bosnia.

Sasa Milosevic was only 10 years old when his village, Bosanski Brod, was attacked by Croatian soldiers and local Bosnian Muslim (Bosniak) units, leaving 20 people dead.

Lukic said he was not trying to justify any crimes in Prijedor through mention of earlier crimes in Bosanski Brod, some150 km away, but he wanted to illustrate the origins of the war.

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

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