COURTSIDE: Prijedor Genocide Trial

Judge says there is insufficient evidence to convict Stakic on genocide charges.

COURTSIDE: Prijedor Genocide Trial

Judge says there is insufficient evidence to convict Stakic on genocide charges.

The judge at the trial of Milomir Stakic, accused of masterminding some of Bosnia's notorious concentration camps, said last week that prosecutors had failed to provide enough evidence to obtain a genocide conviction.

Judge Wolfgang Schomburg said he accepted genocide occurred in Prijedor but added that the prosecution had not established Stakic's connection to it.

The defence will try to contest three other charges - complicity in genocide, crimes against humanity and violations of the rules and customs of war - when it opens its case in the next few weeks. Stakic has pleaded not guilty to all counts.

Stakic was head of the crisis staff set up in the northern Bosnian town of Prijedor in the early days of the Bosnian war in 1992. Prosecutors claim that he helped to set up several notorious camps in which tens of thousands of non-Serbs were detained. Many of the inmates were tortured and killed.

The judge said there was no agreement over the definition of complicity in genocide, but if defined as "aiding and abetting", the prosecution has produced sufficient evidence. The defence insists Stakic was not responsible for the camp horrors, because as a civilian he had no control over the military units that ran them.

Prosecutor Nicholas Coumjian said that if the crisis staff set up camps to investigate non-Serbs, it was logical to presume that it had power over the guards who committed crimes.

"We saw how they [crisis staff] founded camps to investigate Muslims and Croats. This means they could have taken punitive measures against Serb perpetrators too had they wanted to," said Coumjian. "Thousands of people have been killed [in the camps and elsewhere] and no one was punished."

Judge Schomburg said previous trials had produced different opinions about whether civilians exercised control over military units. In the Celebici verdict, he said, judges ruled that civilians enjoyed such authority.

But in the Aleksovski case it was accepted that civilian authorities could not be expected to "have the same powers as military ones".

The judge cited a third judgement, in the Kordic case. This ruled that to prove criminal responsibility, a person must be shown to have enjoyed a place in the chain of command.

Mirna Jancic is an IWPR assistant editor

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