A witness at the trial of the former Bosnian Serb army chief, Ratko Mladic, has denied the defence’s suggestion that the Bosniaks in Prijedor were armed.
During the cross examination of the prosecution witness, Mevludin Sejmenovic, Mladic’s defence argued that Bosniaks in the Prijedor area armed themselves in an organised manner in the spring of 1992, in the run up to the Bosnian war, which the witness denied.
Sejmanovic, who was at the time an MP for the Bosniak Party of Democratic Action, SDA, said that he would have known if the local Bosniaks were arming themselves.
“There is no way that an organized arming took place. Had it happened, I would have known about it,” Sejmenovic said.
On Tuesday, Sejmenovic testified that in late May1992, Serb officers gave an ultimatum to Bosniaks requesting that they hand over 7,000 guns, which, according to the witness, they did not have.
Following the ultimatum, the village of Kozarac was attacked and the Bosniak civilians were taken to the Trnopolje, Omarska and Keraterm prison camps.
Mladic, the wartime Commander of the Republika Srpska Army, is charged with the persecution of non-Serbs which reached the scale of genocide in Prijedor and six other municipalities. In addition, he is charged with the Srebrenica genocide, terror against civilians in Sarajevo and taking UNPROFOR soldiers hostage.
The defence said that Bosniak forces continued fighting in the vicinity of Prijedor until August 1992, but Sejmenovic responded that “this is the first time I hear about it”, adding that “people were being deported to the detention camps” at that time.
Sejmenovic confirmed that, after having been hiding from the end of May to the end of July, he voluntarily surrendered to Serb forces in the Trnopolje camp.
He also confirmed that some smaller groups of Bosniaks came to the Trnopolje camp on their own, after their villages had been set on fire and people killed, because they believed that they would be safe there.
When asked whether he witnessed rapes and murders in the Trnopolje and Omarska camps, which he described during his testimony, Sejmenovic answered negatively, but he repeated his allegation that he saw six young men from the Foric family being taken away and that they were subsequently killed.
The defence lawyer, Branko Lukic, suggested that the prison camps detainees were beaten up by policemen and not soldiers. However, Sejmenovic stuck to his previous allegation that he was held by the Republika Srpska soldiers.
“When somebody tells you: ‘You will now see how soldiers beat people’ and a policeman is standing by, doing nothing, then you know you are beaten by the Army,” the witness said.
Sejmanovic said that following his release from the Omarska camp, on the orders of the Bosnian Serb political leader and ICTY indictee, Radovan Karadzic, he had to give an interview to a Serb TV station under duress.
He said that he was forced to tell lies including that Omarska was not a concentration camp and that the SDA leadership was responsible for the Bosnian war.
The trial is due to continue on Thursday.
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.