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Genocide in Prijedor is a black spot on the conscience of the international community and on the conscience of those who committed the crime

Genocide in Prijedor is a black spot on the conscience of the international community and on the conscience of those who committed the crime

 

On 6 December 1992 The New York Times described a May 1992 attack in Prijedor:

"When the attack began, Serbs from the village guided the tanks to the homes of certain Muslims…and the inhabitants were asked to come out and show their identity cards. Many of those who did were summarily executed…The bodies of the dead were carried away by trucks, which left a trail of blood. Those not killed on the spot were transferred to a convoy heading toward Omarska, a Serb concentration camp.”

19th Anniversary of Prijedor Genocide

 

Institute for Research of Genocide of Canada {IRGC} wants to show respect of the dignity and humanity of the victims of the genocide that happened in Prijedor. We express our regret for the destruction of life, and our solidarity and compassion for the suffering of the victims. All the killed ones are important to us, it is important that their suffering is recognized and respected, because, without that, their families and entire communities of victims of genocide in Prijedor cannot overcome the past, nor can they accept reconciliation without accountability.

 

IRGC wants to show that those murdered left the deepest marks in our lives, and that ignorance or indifference towards what happened to the victims is, in fact, the denial of their and our human dignity. We want to share the sorrow, compassion, solidarity and responsibility towards the victims of genocide with our fellow Canadian citizens.

 

On this occasion, we want to point out again that the arrest and extradition of Ratko Mladic, indicted for genocide in Bosnian and Herzegovina and for other most serious war crimes, to The Hague Tribunal is extremely important act. However, as the arrest was made after 16 years, we demand from the representatives of the Serbian institutions to launch an investigation and find out who hid, protected and guarded Mladic all these years. In what military and/or other facility was he kept? How much has the hiding of Mladic cost the citizens of Serbia?  If, in due time, representatives of the Serbian institutions do not provide the answers to these and other questions, it will be clear that the arrest was solely a pragmatic act, which has nothing to do with justice for victims, nor with the changing of the system of values and the abandonment of ideological, moral and cultural patterns that enabled and justified war and war crimes, and turned criminals into heroes.

 

The Trial Chamber found that the takeover of Prijedor was an illegal coup d’état

 

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 Bosniaks 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 Bosniaks 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 Bosniaks, 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 Bosniaks 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 Bosniaks and Croats. There was a huge influx of Serb refugees from Slovenia and Croatia into the municipality. At the same time, Bosniaks 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 Bosniaks 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 Bosniak towns and villages throughout the municipality, and, finally, on Mount Vlašić.

 

The takeover of Prijedor, deportation of civilian from Prijedor and the operation of capturing, detention, and execution of Bosniacs are the acts of genocide, well planned, envisaged, efficiently organized, widespread, ordered from the top political and military leadership, and executed systematically according to the plan.

Number of the killed and execution, quick formation of mass graves, quick burials in mass graves, dislocation of mortal remains to secondary and tertiary mass graves suggest that the political, military, administrative, and police potential of the Serb forces supported by a large number of disciplined perpetrators took part in the plan, preparation, execution and the cover up of genocide.

Perpetrators of crime took all the steps, including the systematic digging, transfer, and reburial of the victims’ bodies, so as to cover up the genocide and prevent the justice, which constitutes yet another systematic form of crime committed against the killed, which has not been known in history. This speaks of the perpetrators as being aware of the criminal character of their actions, and there is no dilemma related to their subjective accountability and liability and/or firm intention related to the perpetration of this graves form of crime.

Mass graves of the genocide victims in Prijedor are apparent evidence of the planned and organized system of crimes, which resulted in genocide – the worst form of crimes against humanity and international law. Simultaneously, they are also one of the ways of concealing and destruction of clues of crimes. Unfortunately, International Court of Justice in The Hague in the case Bosnia and Herzegovina vs. Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro), did not mention at all the mass graves of the genocide victims in Prijedor.

The massive crime against Bosniacs of Islamic religion was committed in Prijedor. That crime is an act of genocide against Muslims. The area were the crimes were committed, speed of execution of several thousands of people, territory in which the bodies were buried, multiple transfer of mortal remains, and the number of individuals who took part in the execution and the covering of the crime absolutely indicate that the crimes were known to a large number of people and that they were persistently concealed.

Genocide against Bosniacs of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Prijedor was committed before the eyes of the world public. This was a part of direct preparation for the Dayton Accord following the traditional manner of placing everyone before the final act whiles securing strategically important border area to Serbia. This crime of genocide is only a tip of the iceberg within the crimes against humanity and international law committed continuously in the period of four years in the territory of three quarters of the state territory of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina – in all the occupied places and towns under the siege.

There is a lot of evidence to prove that crimes against humanity and war crimes had been committed in Prijedor, Bosnia and Herzegovina such as widespread killings, the siege of town, mass rapes, torture, deportation to camps and detention centers.

Conclusions of the Final Prijedor Report of the United Nations Commission of Experts established pursuant to security council resolution 780 (1992)

“It is unquestionable that the events in Opstina Prijedor since 30 April 1992 qualifies as crimes against humanity. Furthermore, it is likely to be confirmed in court under due process of law that these events constitute genocide”.

More of the Prijedor Report : http://www.ess.uwe.ac.uk/comexpert/anx/V.htm

IRGC wants to take this chance to restate its conviction that the world must never again allow such atrocities to occur unopposed and its determination that justice will seek out any who choose such barbaric paths.

* * * * *

A Prijedor Timeline: 1980 to 1995

Prelude to war

· 4 May 1980: Tito dies; collective Yugoslav presidency is established.

· 6 December 1989: Slobodan Milosevic elected present of Serbia. He begins his push for a Greater Serbia by laying claim to all areas where Serbs live.

· April-May 1990: Elections in Slovenia and Croatia set the stage for independence in those republics.

· November 1990: the SDA (Party of Democratic Action, which had strong Muslim support) wins a plurality but not majority of seats in the Prijedor Assembly. The municipal government of Prijedor is now split between Serbs and Muslims.

· 25 March 1991: Milosevic and Franjo Tudman secretly agree to divide Bosnia between Croatia and Serbia.

· Prijedor’s Serbs establish Serb shadow government in Prijedor under Milomir Stakic.

· April 1991: Serbian politicians declare the Bosanska Krajina Srpska Autonomna Oblast (the Serbian Autonomous Region of the Bosnian Krajina).

· The Prijedor Assembly votes down a proposal to join what is essentially a secessionist state.

· 25 June 1991: Croatia and Slovenia proclaim independence.

Prelude to genocide

· August 1991: War between Croatian forces and the Serb-dominated Yugoslav People's Army begins.

· At the same time, a heavily armed brigade from Serbia arrives in Prijedor. Serbian military authorities fail to persuade the Muslim population to join their war against Croatia.

· Throughout 1991: Light weaponry is brought in from Serbia and distributed to Serbs in Prijedor under the false pretext of defense against Muslim extremists.

· Fall 1991: In Prijedor, Serbs secretly begin to set up a parallel administration called the Serb Municipality of Prijedor. They set up nine new police stations and arm the police.

· September 1991: UN establishes an arms embargo against all of Yugoslavia.

· October 1991: Bosnian parliament proclaims the sovereignty of the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Serb deputies belonging to the SDS (Serb Nationalist Party) walk out.

· 9 January 1992: The Assembly of the Serbian People in Bosnia and Herzegovina declares a separate Serb Republic.

· February 1992: In Prijedor and elsewhere, Serbs establish “Crisis Committees” (Krizni Stab).

· March 1992: Referendum is held on independence of Bosnia-Herzegovina; most Serbs boycott referendum. Of those voting, 99 percent vote in favor of an independent Bosnia-Herzegovina.

· March 3, 1992: Bosnian Parliament declares Bosnia-Herzegovina an independent republic.

· March 1992: In Prijedor, Serb artillery is moved into place on Mount Kozara.

· 21-28 March 1992: Serbs seize control of television transmitter near Prijedor on Mt. Kozara;
transmissions from Zagreb and Sarajevo are blocked.

· 6 April 1992: EEC recognizes independence of Bosnia Herzegovina. In Sarajevo, Serb snipers attack peaceful demonstrators supporting a multiethnic Yugoslavia.

· 14 April 1992: Serbs erect roadblocks around Prijedor.

· 27 April 1992: Bosnia-Herzegovina decrees that the JNA (now a Serbian army, formerly the Yugoslav army) must leave the country.

· 28 April 1992: Due to mounting danger, UN military observers in Prijedor and nearby Banja Luka are withdrawn.

· 29 April 1992: Forged fax “surfaces”; it purports to order Bosnian territorial defense units to attack the JNA. The effect is to further agitate Serbs.

· 30 April 1992: The Serb Prijedor Crisis Staff takes over all government offices in Prijedor in order to “secure their survival.”

· The seizure of government offices takes twenty-five minutes.
· What had previously been the Serb shadow government assumes control.
· Identification papers are now required of everyone.
· Massive firings of non-Serbs begin.
· Serb police are ordered to follow Serbian law, not Bosnian law.
· Serb authorities intensify pressure on non-Serbs to give up any weapons.



· Mid to late May, 1992: Serbian military personnel remaining in Bosnia convert JNA units into the Bosnian Serb Army, to be commanded by General Ratko Mladic. The Bosnian Serb Army would work jointly with a number of Serb paramilitary units.

· Mid May, 1992: Men belonging to ultra-nationalist paramilitary group under the leadership of Arkan (Zeljko Raznjatovic) move into Hotel Prijedor.

· 23 May to 1 June 1992: Due to series of ultimatums, non-Serbs in Prijedor surrender remaining weapons to Serb authorities.

Genocide in Prijedor

· 23 May 1992: Village of Hambarine (pop. 2499) shelled and stormed. Approximately 100 villagers are killed or wounded; many more flee.

· 24 May 1992: Kozarac area (non-Serb pop. 27,000) shelled and stormed. As many as 5,000 people are killed in the Kozarac area in the days that follow.

· 35 non-Serb police officers are executed in front of the primary school.
· Serb soldiers fire upon a column of non-Serb citizens leaving Korazac, killing men, women, and children.
· “Young Muslim women” are “shepherded to Serb military positions,” where they are sexually abused.
· Eight elderly non-Serbs are “shepherded into a cellar and massacred.”



· 24-25 May 1992: Serbs open concentration camps at Trnopolje, Omarska, and Keraterm. Serbs focus efforts on imprisoning and otherwise eliminating Muslim and Croat leaders, including business leaders and intellectuals.

· 30 May 1992 and after: Stari Grad, Prijedor’s “Old Town,” is razed. Civilians who live in the area are transported to Logor Trnopolje, where they are kept without food for several days. Women and children are eventually released; men are detained.

· 30-31 May 1992: Serbs move through additional parts of the city of Prijedor, targeting and forcing out non-Serb inhabitants. Men not killed are taken to Omarska and Keraterm; women and children who are not killed are taken to Trnopolje. Dozens of corpses of non-Serbs are observed piled throughout the city.

· Early June 1992: All non-Serbs are required to wear white armbands and hang white flags from the windows of their homes.

· July 1992: Throughout Prijedor, Serbs destroy buildings “built in a traditional Muslim style.”

· Starting 20 July 1992: The area on the left bank of the Sana River is shelled.

· “A total of more than 1500 people [are] killed on 20 July 1992 alone.”
· Women and children are separated from the men; the latter are executed or transported to concentration camps.
· When Omarska and Keraterm are filled, men on one bus destined for the camps are shot to death by Serb soldiers.
· Houses are systematically looted and destroyed.



· 23 July 1992: Serbs encircle the town of Carakovo, southwest of Prijedor. “Hundreds of people [are] killed—shot, burnt alive, beaten, or tortured to death in other ways.” At least 760 non-Serbs are killed.

· 20-25 July 1992: In Lisina, “between 70 and 100 Muslim civilians [are] killed” by Serbs.

· End of July 1992: Serbs kill between 100 and 120 Muslim civilians from Jugovci.

· 1 August 1992: In Redak, south of Ljubija, Serbs kill 200 Muslim civilians.

· Mid-August 1992: Omarska and Keraterm camps are closed; surviving prisoners divided into groups; some are executed, and others are sent to camps at Manjaca and Trnopolje.

· 21 August 1992: 228 prisoners are massacred at Koricanske Stijene on Mount Vlasic. Recounted a survivor, “they brought us to the very edge . . . facing the abyss. Then people started screaming, yelling. . . . I leaped into the abyss. . . . When I became conscious, I realized that through some incredible luck I was not injured. . . So I took a body of a man and I covered myself. . . . And then they started shooting. . . .”

· 5 November 1992: Serbs are observed burning the remains of people killed in Lisina in July. The odor is smelled “kilometers away.”

· Early October 1992: Trnopolje camp is closed. Many prisoners remain in the camp because their homes have been destroyed or taken.

· 17 December1992: Radovan Karadzic becomes president of a Bosnian Serb state.

Aftermath

· 1993-1995: Random and targeted killings continue. Many of the Muslims and Catholics remaining in Prijedor and the surrounding area are forcibly deported; their property is confiscated.

· 22 February 1993: The U.N. Security Council establishes the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

· February 1994: A Croat-Bosniak (Catholic-Muslim) federation is established in Bosnia; joint Croat-Bosniak forces afterwards try to retake territory controlled by Bosnian Serbs.

· July 1995: U.N. “safe haven” of Srebrenica falls; Serbs massacre of more than 8,000 Bosnian men and boys.

· 29 August 1995: NATO begins Operation Deliberate Force against the Bosnian Serb insurgents.

· 16-17 September: The Bosnian army retakes extensive territories in western Bosnia, including Kljuc and Sanski Most. Bosnia forces move towards Prijedor but fail to reach the city.

· Late September-early October 1995: Serbs fleeing advancing Bosnian forces seek refuge in Prijedor; they initiate a second wave of “ethnic cleansing,” pushing out Prijedor’s remaining Muslims and Catholics.

· 12 October 1995: General ceasefire takes effect in Bosnia-Herzegovina, before Prijedor can be recaptured.

· 14 December 1995: The Dayton Peace Accords are signed by Slobodan Milosevic (Serbia), Franjo Tudman (Croatia), and Alija Izetbegovic (Bosnia-Herzegovina). The agreement leaves about half (49%) of the territory of Bosnia-Herzegovina in the hands of the Bosnian Serbs. The Prijedor municipality remains in the Serb-controlled part of Bosnia.

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