At the trial of former Bosnian Serb army chief, Ratko Mladic, the prosecution has resumed presenting its evidence on ethnic cleansing in Prijedor in 1992.
The witness, Mevludin Sejmenovic, described how the armed forces under the control of the Serb Democratic Party took power in Prijedor, and then illegally apprehended, murdered and expelled Bosniaks and Croats.
Sejmenovic, who was an MP of the Party of Democratic Action from Prijedor, said that the Serb Democratic Party claimed that 70 per cent of the municipality was Serb, before taking it over by force on April 30, 1992.
After that, he said, all the non-Serbs were removed from their jobs. During the negotiations in which Sejmenovic took part, the Serb Democratic Party and the army presented the Bosniaks with an ultimatum to immediately surrender 7,000 rifles, which they, Sejmenovic said, did not have.
“Major Radmilo Zeljaja told us: ‘If you do not return 7,000 rifles, I will raze Kozarac to the ground.’ Becir Medunjanin said: ‘How can we return them when we don’t have them’, to which Zeljaja responded: ‘That, gentlemen, is your problem’,” testified Sejmenovic.
He added that the attack on Kozarac ensued, where all the men, even older boys, were taken to the Omarska and Keraterm camps, while women and children were sent to the Trnopolje camp or went into hiding, as their houses were systematically robbed or burnt down.
Sejmenovic was taken to the Trnopolje camp where he saw Serb forces killing six Bosniaks, all members of the same family. Later he was transferred to the Omarska camp.
He described the white house in Omarska, where he and other prisoners were beaten as “all bloody, from floor to ceiling.”
After some foreign journalists had visited the Omarska camp in August 1992, Sejmanovic said he was taken out of the camp by the Serb Democratic Party official, Vojo Kupresanin, on orders from Radovan Karadic, the then president of Republika Srpska.
“In Omarska it was all death, death and only death, and then suddenly Kupresanin showed up and started talking high politics... I kept silent, thinking it was another thing I had to endure before I die. Kupresanin talked on the phone with Karadzic, who told him to buy me a suit, feed me and bring me to Banja Luka,” recalled Sejmenovic.
He said that he realised that Karadzic wanted to use him to simulate multiethnic rule, when Kupresanin’s driver, on their way to Banja Luka commented that it is a good thing for Sejmanovic to have become a member of the Serb Parliament, but that he ought to watch out not to get killed by Bosniaks.
“I realised that in this way they were trying to wash their hand off the crimes they committed on a massive scale,” said out Sejmenovic, adding that senior Serb officials knew about the crimes in Omarska, but considered them “normal wartime events”.
Mladic, former commander of the Army of Republika Srpska, is charged with the systematic expulsion of Bosniaks and Croats in the Prijedor municipality which reached the level of genocide.
He is also charged with genocide in Srebrenica in 1995, terrorizing Sarajevo citizens with a campaign of shelling and sniping and taking international soldiers as hostages.
The trial will resume on Wednesday, October 3, when the defence will cross-examine Sejmenovic.
In July 1995 Srebrenica was shelled and occupied by the Army of Republic of Srpska,VRS, despite being declared a protected area by the United Nations. More than 7,000 people were killed, the victims of genocide.
Key dates and events in the Bosnia war.
The Bosnian Serb commander’s role in the genocide committed in Srebrenica is described in detail in many indictments and verdicts pronounced before local and international judicial institutions.