Testifying at the trial of the former Bosnian Serb army chief, Ratko Mladic, a former doctor at the Trnopolje camp, said that Bosniak and Croat civilians were held in inhumane conditions.
Idriz Merdzanic, who was a doctor at the Trnopolje detention camp near Prijedor from June to September 1992, said that the purposed of the camp was to aid ethnic cleansing of the Prijedor municipality.
“Serbs deported people from one village after another. First, they took women and children to Trnopolje. After that they organized convoys and deported them. At the beginning they transported them in cattle wagons and, later on, by trucks.”
“As far as able-bodies men are concerned, they either killed them right away or detained them in other detention camps, like Omarska and Keraterm, before deporting them,” said Merdzanic.
Mladic, former commander of the Army of Republika Srpska, is charged with genocide in Srebrenica in 1995 and in seven other Bosnian municipalities in 1992, including Prijedor, the expulsion of Bosniaks and Croats from territories under the control of the Bosnian Serbs, terrorizing Sarajevo citizens with a campaign of shelling and sniping and taking international soldiers as hostages in 1995.
Merdzanic, who had worked in the village of Kozarac prior to Trnopolje, described an attack by Serb forces on the village in late May, 1992, adding that Bosniaks, who were the absolute majority in the village, were either detained or deported after the attack.
Merdzanic mentioned the murder of seven prisoners in Trnopolje, adding that some Bosniaks, who were brought from Keraterm, told him that more than 150 people had been killed in that camp.
He said that he thought that the Trnopolje camp commander, Slobodan Kuruzovic, who according to Merdzanic wore military camouflage uniform, “knew about the murders, rape and beatings, although he did not personally beat people”.
The witness said that, despite that, no investigation was conducted.
Merdzanic confirmed that the prisoners, who were filmed by the British TV channel ITN in Trnopolje at the beginning of August 1992, were held behind the barbed wire.
After the prosecution had played a recording of his brief interview with Penny Marshall, an ITN journalist, Merdzanic said that he secretely gave the journalist photographs of beaten detainees, whom he treated as a doctor.
During the cross examination by Mladic’s defence lawyer, Branko Lukic, Merdzanic confirmed that, with the permission from the commander of Trnopolje camp, several Bosniak women, who told him that they had been raped, were transferred to the Prijedor hospital for medical examinations, adding that the hospital staff confirmed this.
He said that the perpetrators then threatened the camp commander, adding that they came to Trnopolje by two tanks on which they wrote words “El Maniacs”.
When asked whether anybody forced detained Bosniaks and Croats, who were held in Trnopolje, to join the convoys, Merdzanic said that “nobody beat them up in an attempt to force them to join, but they were simply told that they had to leave”.
He confirmed that the convoy with which he left the place was organized by the Red Cross.
The trial of Mladic is due to continue on Tuesday, October 2.
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.