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COURTSIDE: Prijedor Genocide Trial

Majority of detention camp inmates were "persecuted Muslims", court hears
By Mirna Jancic

A European Community observer in Bosnia last week gave evidence in the trial of Milomir Stakic, who is charged with genocide against non-Serbs in the Prijedor municipality of north-west Bosnia.


James Mayhew said, "All peoples [in Bosnia] could have lived together but in every community there was a minority which poisoned relations". He added that all the local media tried to scare members of their own ethnic group by disparaging the others.


In August 1992, after the shocking discovery of what looked like concentration camps in Bosnia, Mayhew organised visits to detention centres set up around Prijedor by Stakic's crisis staff.


Prosecutor Joanna Korner read excerpts from a report on the camps written by mission member Sir John Thompson. He wrote that majority of the 2,000 inmates at Trnopolje camp were Muslim civilians who had been persecuted by Serbs.


Mayhew agreed with Thompson's report and denied Serb claims that the camp "residents" could come and go as they pleased. He noted that sandbags and guns had been positioned around Trnopolje and that these weapons pointed in the direction of the inmates.


Therefore the camp guards could not claim they had protected those inside the camp, but rather targeted them.


He also observed that the "camps had been clearly prepared for the visit and we were usually shown the inmates who were in good shape, and never those who looked bad".


The prosecution claims several hundred non-Serbs were killed at Trnopolje. Mayhew said most inmates were innocent hostages of the programme of ethnic cleansing in the area. He noted, however, that not all members of the Serb authorities approved of this.


The prosecution is expected to finish presenting its case by October. Stakic's defence has requested a pause after that in order to finish preparation of its own case.


Mirna Jancic is an IWPR assistant editor.