COURTSIDE: Prijedor Genocide Trial

Testimony on alleged massacre upsets defendant

COURTSIDE: Prijedor Genocide Trial

Testimony on alleged massacre upsets defendant

A survivor of allegedethnic cleansing in the Prijedor municipality testified last week about his gruesome experience at the Ljubija football stadium, where the prosecution claims dozens of non-Serb men were executed in July 1992.

Nermin Karagic was giving evidence in the trial of Milomir Stakic, then president of Prijedor's crisis staff, who authorised plans to exterminate, deport or imprison local non-Serbs, according to the indictment.

Karagic’s story affected Stakic so much that he instructed his counsel not to cross-examine the witness.

Serb forces captured Karagic, then aged 17, while he was hiding with his father and other non-Serb men. He told the court that they were brought to the stadium with many other captives and he was beaten by men in Yugoslav army uniform and police reservists. He could hear shooting and the screams of other men.

The witness told how he was ordered to load the bodies of dead captives onto a bus. He recalled that the eye of one man was hanging out and that another had been virtually decapitated.

In the darkness, Karagic thought he recognised his father's blue jumper on the latter but could not confirm it. His father did not survive the killings at Ljubija.

The living and the dead were driven together to a local mine outside the town, where, in threes, the former were ordered to unload the bodies. Shots were heard, followed by an order for another three captives to get off the bus.

Karagic told the tribunal that he contemplated an escape plan as he was at the back of the bus. "It didn't matter if we were killed then or while running away," he said. The witness managed to flee to safety.

Stakic is also charged with setting up detention camps for non-Serb deportees at Omarska, Keraterm, and Trnopolje.

Last week, a former European Community observer in Bosnia testified on the conditions in Trnopolje. That summer, Charles McLeod had attended numerous meetings with local Serb authorities and toured detention centres.

He confirmed that Trnopolje was not a fenced prison but resembled a refugee camp, and that the army did not enforce discipline there with the severity it applied in other camps.

However, the prosecution claims that a number of non-Serb detainees were killed there between May and September 1992. They had chosen to stay in the camp rather than expose themselves to "the campaign of terror that was on-going in their home communities".

McLeod’s observations suggested that Serbs enjoyed protected status in the area and that only non-Serbs were persecuted. In his report on a meeting with Stakic, McLeod wrote, "The absence of Serb detainees [in the camp] confirms the absence of a threat to the Serbian population during the conflict.”

The court also saw photographs taken by McLeod during his trip from Prijedor to Banja Luka in August 1992, which showed destroyed and burned houses.

The indictment alleges that after Serbs took control of Prijedor in April and expelled its Muslims, they looted and destroyed their homes to ensure they did not return.

Mirna Jancic is an IWPR assistant editor.

Support our journalists