Naučna istraživanja

A comprehensive pattern of atrocities amounting to a campaign of a persecutorial nature was proved to have been committed against non-Serbs in Prijedor municipality in 1992

A comprehensive pattern of atrocities amounting to a campaign of a persecutorial nature was proved to have been committed against non-Serbs in Prijedor municipality in 1992

 

As the Trial Chamber found in its decision, the Serb takeover in Prijedor was accompanied by and accomplished through the commission of atrocities on a massive scale, including the establishment of internment camps at Omarska, Keraterm and Trnopolje. These atrocities include frequent killings, rapes and sexual assaults. Moreover, thousands of individuals were subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment, including routine beatings and torture. The cleansing of Prijedor also resulted in the expulsion of Bosnian Muslims from their homes as well as their deportation in huge numbers, often in convoys organized and supervised by Serb authorities. According to the Trial Chamber, more than 20,000 civilians were victims of the expulsion campaign and more than 1,500 were killed in massacres carried out by Serbs during the takeover. Others have reported that the death toll from the internment camps was equally high - according to one source, nearly 2000 Bosnian Muslims died at Omarska alone. We first heard of Omarska in the summer of 1992. That is when Roy Gutman, a foreign correspondent working for Newsday, reported on the existence, at a mining complex, of a camp run by Bosnian Serb militants that held several thousand non-Serb prisoners, primarily Bosniaks but also Croats. Based on the later reports of the detainees who survived their ordeal at Omarska, Gutman called it a ‘‘death camp’’ and reported on the appalling conditions and the rape, torture and execution of detainees. International reporting, especially by British journalists Ed Vulliamy, Penny Marshall and Ian Williams, exposed the horrors of Omarska and ultimately forced the camp to close. After Omarska, it became clear to many people that, in Bosnia, we were dealing with evil on such a scale that can neither be explained away nor ignored. Eventually, the internationally community organized an international tribunal to prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in the former Yugoslavia. The tribunal convicted several of the camp guards, commandants and associated others for crimes committed at Omarska.

 

The municipality of Prijedor is located in the north-western region of Bosnia and Herzegovina known as the Bosanska Krajina. The town of Prijedor is the largest settlement in the municipality. According to the 1991 census, out of a total population of 112,543, 43,9% regarded themselves as Muslims, 42.3% as Serbs, 5.7% as Yugoslavs, 5.6% as Croats and 2.5% as “others”. The census, for the first time, identified the Bosnian Muslims as the largest ethnic group in the municipality of Prijedor. The shifting demographic balance in favour of the Muslim population was considered a challenge by the Serbs and became one of the central issues in the municipality’s political life during 1991 and 1992.

 

During the war in Croatia, the tension increased between the Serbs and the communities of Muslims and Croats. There was a huge influx of Serb refugees from Slovenia and Croatia into the municipality. At the same time, Muslims and Croats began to leave the municipality because of a growing sense of insecurity and fear amongst the population.

 

Pro-Serb propaganda became increasingly visible. The Serb media propagandised the idea that the Serbs had to arm themselves in order to avoid a situation similar to that which happened during World War II when the Serbs were massacred. As a result of the takeover of the transmitter station on Mount Kozara in August 1991 by the Serbian paramilitary unit the “Wolves of Vučjak”, TV Sarajevo was cut off. It was replaced by broadcasts from Belgrade and Banja Luka with interviews from Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) politicians who argued that, while Serbs sought to preserve Yugoslavia, the Muslims and Croats wanted to destroy the country.

 

At the meeting of the Prijedor Municipal Board of the SDS on 27 December 1991 it was decided to overthrow the existing authorities in the town, replace legitimate central authorities with SDS or SDS-loyal personnel, and form independent Serb bodies. At the session on 7 January 1992, the Serbian members of the Prijedor Municipal Assembly and the presidents of the local Municipal Boards of the SDS proclaimed the Assembly of the Serbian People of the Municipality of Prijedor. Milomir Stakić was elected President of this Assembly.

 

By the end of April 1992, a number of clandestine Serb police stations were created in the municipality and more than 1,500 armed men were ready to take part in the takeover. In the night of the 29 to 30 April 1992, the takeover of power took place “without a single bullet fired”.

 

Employees of the public security station and reserve police gathered in Čirkin Polje, part of the town of Prijedor. They were broadly divided into five groups. One group was responsible for the Municipal Assembly building, one for the SUP building, one for the courts, one for the bank and the last for the postoffice.

 

The Trial Chamber found that the takeover of Prijedor was an illegal coup d’état which had been planned and coordinated for months and which had as its final goal the creation of a Serbian municipality eventually to form part of an envisaged pure Serbian state. After the takeover, Milomir Stakić became, amongst other things, President of the Municipal Assembly and President of the Prijedor Municipal Peoples’ (National) Defence Council. From May 1992, he served as President of the Prijedor Municipal Crisis Staff. The Trial Chamber established that Milomir Stakić was the leading political figure in Prijedor municipality in 1992.

 

A comprehensive pattern of atrocities amounting to a campaign of a persecutorial nature was proved to have been committed against non-Serbs in Prijedor municipality in 1992. This included killings on a massive scale in the Omarska, Keraterm and Trnopolje camps, in Bosnian Muslim towns and villages throughout the municipality, and, finally, on Mount Vlašić.

 

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