COURTSIDE: Prijedor Genocide Trial

Radio interview features Serb glee at Prijedor takeover

COURTSIDE: Prijedor Genocide Trial

Radio interview features Serb glee at Prijedor takeover

The court heard a mid-Nineties radio interview last week in which Serb officials from the Prijedor municipality boasted of how their long-term plans to take over the area had eventually paid off.

Serb forces removed Prijedor's elected authorities on April 30, 1992 and cleared the area of non-Serbs. The president of the municipality's Serb crisis staff, Milomir Stakic, is accused of coordinating and carrying out the operational phase of this ethnic cleansing.

Stakic claimed earlier that the reason for establishing Serb control and sending Croats and Muslims to detention centres was because it was "no longer possible peacefully to share power with them".

The interview, which was held on tapes confiscated from Prijedor radio in 1997, featured local police chief Simo Drljaca saying that "everything was organised" in every village as a part of "a long prepared plan" to take power. In the afternoon of April 29, 1992, these plans were put into action.

Another Serb official, Milan Kovacevic, can be heard saying that by April 1992 the Serbs had prepared everything from their headquarters to a parliament, and that the takeover had gone "according to plan".

From that time on, the non-Serbs were forbidden entry into any governing institution, including parliament and police.

The interviewees prided themselves on the lack of casualties that day but did not mention the persecution that followed. According to the testimony of a former Muslim local official, Mevludin Sejmenovic, only three former Croat and Muslim officials from Prijedor municipality survived while 18 were killed. Stakic's predecessor as mayor, Muhamed Cehajic, did not survive detention in local camps.

A protected witness explained how Serb forces attacked her village of Carakovo, near Prijedor, on July 23, 1992. The village was full of refugees who had fled alleged Serb persecution in neighbouring villages.

The witness hid in the cornfields while the village was burned. She heard screams and shots and saw a military van being loaded with goods from people's houses.

On her return home, she saw the bodies of two of her neighbours. The head of one was covered with blood, with shots in her breast and arms. Another had a bullet hole in his back and was covered with blood. From that day, Serb soldiers entered the village daily, looting houses and killing people, she said.

Stakic's defence has suggested that armed non-Serbs were hiding in nearby forests.

When the witness complained to soldiers at a nearby Serb checkpoint, they warned her that more troops would soon arrive from Serbia and that the village would do better to surrender beforehand. Around a hundred people decided to do so and ended up in safe territory.

Mirna Jancic is an IWPR assistant editor

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