06.12.2016.

FROM ETHNIC CLEANSING TO GENOCIDE

The prosecution continued with the closing arguments at the trial of Ratko Mladic, former commander of the VRS Main Staff. According to prosecutor Traldi, Belgrade contributed to the ethnic cleansing campaign carried out in large areas of Bosnian and Herzegovina. In the case of Prijedor and five other municipalities, ethnic cleansing reached the scale of genocide, the prosecutor emphasized

On the second day of the prosecution’s closing argument at Ratko Mladic’s trial, prosecutor Arthur Traldi dealt in detail with the allegations the defence had presented in its final brief. Mladic’s defence had denied the responsibility of the accused for the comprehensive joint criminal enterprise aimed at ethnically cleansing large swathes of Bosnia and Herzegovina. In some municipalities, ethnic cleansing reached the scale of genocide.

The defence argued that the crimes Mladic is charged with were not committed by the troops under his command. In fact, the defence claimed, the out-of-control paramilitary, volunteer, territorial defence and police units as well as groups of civilians wearing military clothes were to blame. The prosecutor used the testimony of both prosecution and defence witnesses, and a number of military and police documents and other exhibits used in the trial to refute the claim.

Today the prosecutor didn’t neglect to stress that ‘Belgrade contributed’ to the accomplishment of the goals of joint criminal enterprise. Slobodan Milosevic, the then Serbian president and another participant of the various joint criminal enterprises in Croatia and BH, contributed to a significant degree to the effort to arm and train the Serb troops which ultimately implemented the ethnic cleansing. Milosevic initiated the transformation of the army that ended with the establishment of the VRS. Also, the Serbian president attended the meeting at which the decision was made to appoint Mladic the commander of the Main Staff. Milosevic shared the goals of the Bosnian Serb leadership, including the idea that all Serbs should live in an ethnically homogenous state comprising the largest part of BH. In order for the goal to be achieved, all non-Serbs had to be forcibly removed from those territories.

The prosecutor quoted entries from Mladic’s war diary which indicate that Belgrade continued supporting the accomplishment of those goals even after Milosevic launched his charm offensive against the West. Milosevic told the Western players that he condemned the Bosnian Serb crimes while on the other hand he allowed Mladic to proceed with the ethnic cleansing by providing military and other assistance.

Today Traldi focused on the Prijedor case, one of the six municipalities where, as alleged by the prosecution, the crimes reached the scale of genocide. Traldi described the attacks of the 1st Krajina Corps artillery and infantry on the villages of Hambarine and Kozarac, the killing of hundreds of non-Serbs and the arrests of thousands of civilians. The prosecutor didn’t forget to mention the destruction of the Muslim quarter in Prijedor. As stated in a report received by Mladic’s Main Staff, 7,000 non-Serbs were detained following the destruction of the Muslim quarter. All of them were held in inhumane conditions in the prison camps in Omarska, Keraterm and Trnopolje. By September 1992, more than 23,000 Muslims and Croats had passed through those prison camps.

According to Traldi, the prosecution evidence shows clearly that the ethnic cleansing in Prijedor reached its climax in the period between 20 and 25 July 1992, when almost 1,000 people were killed in nine locations in the nine incidents listed in the indictment. Bodies of the victims were found in the mass graves at Tomasica and Jakarina Kosa.

Alan Tieger, the prosecution team leader, completed the Prijedor part of the closing argument. According to Tieger, the Bosnian Serb leadership decided to make Prijedor theirs. The fact that before the World War II Serbs had been in majority in that area was their reason for the decision. Given the ethnic composition of the population in 1992, Traldi noted, that goal had required the army to create a new situation, one that the international community and Muslims would have to accept. According to the prosecutor, the means used were ‘brutally efficient’: in a short period of time more than 1,500 persons were killed. Thousands were starved, abused, degraded, humiliated, tortured in prisons and prison camps. The victims’ homes were destroyed and their mosques razed to the ground. Many of the victims left their homes and were scattered all over the world as refugees. ‘The intent to annihilate this community and to prevent its reconstruction is unquestionable, and the term for that is – genocide’, Tieger concluded.