THE ROLE OF THE PRIJEDOR AUTHORITIES DURING THE WAR AND AFTER THE SIGNING OF THE DAYTON PEACE AGREEMENT
The "Crisis Committee"and Co-Conspirators
In 1992, the "Crisis Committee of the Serbian District of Prijedor" (Krizni Stab Srpske Opstine Prijedor) was established to organize the takeover of the town by Serbs and to eliminate the non-Serb population through a systematic "ethnic cleansing" campaign coordinated with Serbian and Bosnian Serb army and paramilitary units.14 The goal of the "Crisis Committee" was to establish complete Serb control over the Prijedor opstina, to arm Serbs within that area, to block communications of non-Serbs, to destroy multi-ethnic relations in all sectors of the community through the use of propaganda (to instill within the local Serb population the fear that they were under threat from non-Serbs), to provide logistical support and production for the army through the takeover of industryand production units, and to conduct the organized and meticulous larceny of funds from non-Serbs through control of the bank, expropriation of property, and burglary.15
Crisis committees were formed in a number of towns and villages in Bosnia and Hercegovina in order to facilitate the takeover by Serb forces and authorities. The "Crisis Committee" in Prijedor, aided by many others, targeted non-Serb community leaders and business owners, many of whom were summarily executed or immediately rounded up and imprisoned in concentration camps, particularly in Omarska camp.16 During the period when such committees were being set up in various towns in 1992, the Prijedor Bosnian Serb authorities secretly began developing nine new police stations. In early April 1992, Serb police officers in Croatia and Bosnia and Hercegovina simultaneously left the established police forces to form their own police. Simo Drljaca headed the secret effort in Opstina Prijedor to create such a force. The local Prijedor police, according to numerous witness accounts and independent investigations, played a major role in violations of international humanitarian and human rights law during and after the war. Local police were often involved in paramilitary-type activities, such as armed attacks on civilians in and around Prijedor, and in interrogations and torture in the concentration camps.
A number of current officials in Prijedor were members of the Crisis Committee, including the recently-ousted but still powerful police chief, Simo Drljaca; current Mayor Milomir Stakic; the president of the local (self-designated) Serbian Red Cross, Srdjo Srdic; and Prijedor Hospital Director Milan ("Mico") Kovacevic (previously president of the Prijedor Executive Committee, or city council). According to the U.N. Commission of Experts, Slobodan Kuruzovic, now director of a local newspaper, was an officer in the Bosnian Serb Army, a key military figure on the "Crisis Committee" and the commander of the Trnopolje concentration camp.
Other alleged abettors in the "ethnic cleansing" include Deputy Mayor Momcilo Radanovic (nom de guerre "Cigo"), who has been accused of atrocities in Kozarac and in the concentration camps; Marko Pavic, director of the PTT (Post Office, Telegraph and Telephone); and Milenko Vukic, director of the electric company.17
Several police officials and numerous police officers have been accused of participation in war crimes. The civil, secret, and military police provided the camps with guards and interrogators. Joint police and military "intervention units" were used to trace and capture the non-Serb leadership. These units participated in mass killings.
According to the Commission of Experts, "members of the `Crisis Committee' ran the community in which all these violations occurred. They participated in administrative decision-making. The gains of the systematic looting of non-Serbian property were shared by many Serbs on different levels."18
A local resident of Prijedor recently told Human Rights Watch/Helsinki that the "Crisis Committee" "got rich during the war through theft and looting of those killed, and through bribery [i.e. freedom offered for cash]. They also stole businesses of those killed. That is how they got some of the businesses they have now in Prijedor. Others took that money and opened businesses or companies. Only those with connections to these guys can have a business because that is the only way to be sure you are protected."19 Those without connections or those who refuse to pay protection money run the risk of having their business destroyed or worse.
A survivor of Keraterm and Trnopolje told Omarska survivor Jadranka Cigelj in November 1992:
I blame the following for the atrocities that were committed: 1. The entire county authorities -[including] president of the county Milomir Stakic, medic by profession; 2. The local police forces -chief of staff Simo Drljaca, lawyer, and head commander Zivko Jovic; 3.Simo Miskovic, leader of the Serbian Democratic Party, a policeman from the communist era, now retired, and successor to Srd[j]o Srdic, now president of the Prijedor Red Cross; 4. An army representative, Colonel Arsic...who was in charge of the brigade which destroyed Pakrac and other Slavonian and Banian towns and villages, he participated in the events and gave orders; he and Major Radmilo Zeljaja practically controlled all of the events until now, therefore, the destroyed town of Kozarac is now called Radmilovo in honor of Major Zeljaja."20
Another survivor of Keraterm also mentions the names of some of those responsible for "ethnic cleansing":
I have not [yet] described here the horrible sufferings of famished, sick and beaten people, who died in the worst pain imaginable, the bestiality of guards who forced the beaten people to put their genitals in each other's mouths, the beaten up boy who died in his father's arms. According to my estimate, over 300 people were killed in "Keraterm" during my stay from June 10 to August 5, 1992. Besides the already mentioned, the perpetrators of those crimes include: Banovic called Cupa, Kondic, Radic, Rodic, D[jo]rd[j]e Dosen called Dole, Lajic, Stojan Madzar, Civerica and others whose names are known by their commanders. The investigators were: Gostimir Modic, Brane Siljegovic, Ranko Bucalo, Dragan Radetic, and Dragan Radakovic. Order-issuing authorities were: Simo Miskovic (president of the Serbian Democratic Party of Prijedor), Milomir Stakic (Prijedor county supervisor), Simo Drljaca (head of the Prijedor police), Dule Jankovic (the police commander) and Jovic (the commander of the military police).21
Dispatches, a British documentary film series, covered the story of the concentration camps in and around Prijedor in 1992 and featured interviews with survivors of the Omarska, Keraterm, and Trnopolje camps. 22 Some of the witnesses interviewed bravely named those responsible. Among those named were Simo Drljaca, Milomir Stakic, Zeljko Meakic [indicted], Mlado Krkan [Mladen "Krkan" Radic, indicted], and Nada Balaban. Dispatchesalso gained access to the Omarska and Trnopolje camps, resulting in powerful footage of the conditions there. The film makers went to the main office inside Omarska camp, where they met and filmed Simo Drljaca with his assistant Nada Balaban. Balaban states in the film, as Drljaca stands next to her, "This is not a camp, this is a center, a transit center. Omarska and Trnopolje. Both are centers, not camps." Dispatches interviewed Mayor Stakic in his office after their visit to the camps. Stakic told the crew:
Those places like Omarska, Keraterm and Trnopolje were the necessity of the moment and were formed on decisions of the Prijedor civil authorities. . .According to the information there was no mistreatment or violence in the centers themselves. . There were cases [of death] as the commander in charge let me know--natural deaths with medical documentation of death, but not of murder. . .not many [deaths occurred].
The U.N. Commission of Experts states: "It is claimed that young women from `inter alia,' the villages Gornja Ravska, Gornji Volar, Stara Rijeka and Surkovac together with young women from other districts were detained and sexually abused by Serbian military in Korcanica motel [Korcanica is a village near Sanski Most]. It is claimed that they were abused to `give birth to better and more beautiful Serbs.' Among the high ranking Serbian military named as rapists and/or organizers of these sexual orgies are two identified members of the `Krizni Stab Srpske Opstina Prijedor' [ `Crisis Committee of the Serb Municipality of Prijedor'], whose names are not disclosed for confidentiality or prosecutorial reasons."23
Human Rights Watch/Helsinki's investigations indicate that the "Crisis Committee" presently continues to operate in Prijedor in much the same way as it did during the war, although more informally and with some changes in the positions of individuals. This conclusion is based upon evidence regarding the continued, well-coordinated involvement of "Crisis Committee" members and their collaborators in preventing the return of non-Serbs and retaining near-total control over the municipality.14 Final Report of the U.N. Commission of Experts, Annex V, Part 2, Section IX. It is important to note that the"Crisis Committee"may have been formed as early as February 1992. 15 Final Report of the U.N. Commission of Experts, Annex V, Part 2, Section V, Subsection C. 16 It is difficult to determine how many people died at the Omarska camp. According to Roy Gutman of Newsday (New York), who conducted numerous interviews with persons who were survivors of Omarska, the U.S. State Department and other Western officials confirmed to him that between 4,000 and 5,000 persons, the vast majority of them non-Serb civilians, were killed in Omarska. Some were held and killed in open pits. Thousands more would probably have died if the camps had not been closed due to international outrage. A number of detainees "disappeared" at the time of the closing of the camp. Some were later found at the Batkovic camp, having been moved there without proper notification of the ICRC, but at least 130 transferred detainees have never been found. 17 See Appendix A for a list of known members of the Serb "Crisis Committee" of Prijedor. Information about additional members has been documented by the U.N. Commission of Experts and is in the possession of the ICTY. The information is not currently available for public use. Crisis Committees were created in other towns in Bosnian-Serb controlled areas as well. 18 Final Report of the U.N. Commission of Experts, Annex V, Part 2, Section IX. 19 Human Rights Watch/Helsinki interview, Prijedor, Bosnia and Hercegovina, November 1996. 20 Interview conducted by Jadranka Cigelj, Zagreb, Croatia, November 5, 1992. 21 Interview conducted by Jadranka Cigelj, Zagreb, Croatia, January 8, 1993.
Although Human Rights Watch/Helsinki has not itself conducted a comprehensive investigation into the activities of all of the individuals named in this report, they have been included because they were mentioned by survivors and witnesses to atrocities (and often corroborated by other sources), and it is believed that further investigation of their activities is warranted.22 Dispatches, "A Town Called Kozarac," Gold Hawk Productions, April 2, 1993. Written and directed by Ed Harriman, produced by Alan Lowery. 23 Final Report of the U.N. Commission of Experts, Part 2, Section V, Subsection A.