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COURTSIDE: Prijedor Genocide Trial

Witness said former Serb mayor could have done more to protect Muslims and Croats
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A witness in the trial of a Bosnian Serb leader accused of genocide in the north-west Bosnian town of Prijedor last week described the former mayor and president of the local Serbian crisis staff as a "peaceful man who had failed to prevent" acts of violence against the town's Muslim and Croat communities.


Milomir Stakic is accused of genocide against non-Serbs in 1992 and the detention of thousands in camps where they were tortured and killed. He is the highest-ranking politician from Prijedor indicted for crimes committed there.


Nijaz Kapetanovic, a teacher, said Stakic never "personally hurt any Bosniak or Croat", but "could have done more to protect them". Detained in 1992 in a camp near Banja Luka, Kapetanovic sustained chest injuries that have left him with heart and kidney complaints.


Before Bosnia's multi-party elections in 1990, Kapetanovic said several meetings took place in the town between the Serbian Democratic Party, SDS, the Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ, and the mainly Muslim Party of Democratic Action, SDA, concerning power-sharing.


Kapetanovic, then local vice president of the SDA, said he was present at these meetings, which Stakic also attended. The accused allegedly said the Serbs were an endangered people and were threatened with genocide, saying they would not allow a repetition of what happened to them during the Second World War (when they were massacred by Croatian fascists).


The witness said problems started with Stakic after he visited Banja Luka and Belgrade, where he received his orders on how to proceed.


The prosecutor presented an article from the local newspaper Kozarski Vijesnik in which Stakic argued that the SDA and HDZ planned to take over Prijedor and had secretly armed their supporters. He said the Serbian side would easily build up its own combat potential, however, with the help of local Yugoslav army commanders.


When the prosecutor asked Kapetanovic if he knew of these alleged plans to take power in Prijedor, he replied that it would have been impossible, as the Yugoslav army had supplied the SDS with a huge quantity of arms and small groups of Bosniaks and Croats could not hope to resist them. The trial continues.


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


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