January 1997 Vol. 9, No. 1 (D)


The Unindicted: Reaping the Rewards of "Ethnic Cleansing"


The Importance of Conditionality for Reconstruction Aid 5




The "Crisis Committee"and Co-Conspirators 14


Simo Drljaca: Former Chief of Police and Head of Secret Police 17

Wartime Activities 18

Simo Drljaca and the Prijedor "Mafia" 22

Ranko Mijic: Acting Chief of Police 23

Zivko Jovic: Acting Deputy Chief of Police 23

Grozdan Mutic: Head of State Security 23

Milomir Stakic: Mayor of Prijedor 23

Momcilo Radanovic, a.k.a. "Cigo": Deputy Mayor of Prijedor 25

Srdjo Srdic: President of the "Serbian Red Cross" Prijedor 26

The Role of the Local Red Cross in "Ethnic Cleansing 26

Milan "Mico" Kovacevic: Director of Prijedor Hospital 28

Pero Colic: (Former) Commander Fifth Kozara Brigade and the Forty-Third Brigade, Prijedor 29

Milenko Vukic: Infrastructure (Electricity) 31

Marko Pavic: Infrastructure (Post Office, Telephone and Telegraph) 31


Radio Prijedor 32

Kozarski Vjesnik (Kozara Herald, Newspaper) 33

Television Prijedor 34


Non-Compliance with the Dayton Peace Agreement: The Prijedor Police 34

Drljaca Ousted, Turns Up Again 36

Persons Indicted for War Crimes Serve as Police Officers in Prijedor and Omarska 37

Restructuring the Police Force 39

Police Weapons 40

Ljubija Special Police Force 42

Obstruction of Freedom of Movement by Prijedor Authorities 43

Elections 47

"Disappearances" 48

Detention 51

Harassment of Journalists and Monitors 51

Evictions and Harassment of Persons Based Upon Their Ethnic or Political Affiliation 52

Destruction of Property to Prevent Repatriation 54

Linkages and Loyalties 55


Tangled in the Web: Reconstruction Aid and the Architects of "Ethnic Cleansing 63

British ODA Response to Information Gathered by Human Rights Watch/Helsinki 65

Aid to the Prijedor Hospital 66



APPENDIX A: Structure of the "Crisis Committee" of Prijedor Municipality: 1992 70

APPENDIX B: Letter from Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan 71


The same warlords who took control of the town of Prijedor, in northwestern Bosnia and Hercegovina, through systematic policies of ethnic cleansing -- including pre-meditated slaughter, concentration camps, mass rape, and the takeover of businesses, government offices, and all communal property -- have retained total control over key economic, infrastructure, and humanitarian sectors of the community in the post-war period. The architects of "ethnic cleansing," many of whom are under investigation by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, interact daily with representatives of international organizations. This contact grants them a wholly undeserved legitimacy, given that they achieved their positions by "disappearing" the duly elected mayor of the town, Muhamed Cehajic, and thousands of other Bosniak or Bosnian Croat community leaders and citizens. While international attention previously focused on the atrocities committed during and after the takeover of the town, little attention has been given to the fact that the mayor, deputy mayor, police chief, hospital director and director of the local "Red Cross" got away with their crimes and became rich men in the process, having expropriated businesses, homes, and other assets of the non-Serbs of the community, estimated to be worth several billion German marks.

In Prijedor, as elsewhere in the former Yugoslavia, the international community's failure to detain war criminals or to control ongoing abuses by unindicted war criminals has combined with the donation of aid to enrich and empower many of the very people most responsible for genocide and "ethnic cleansing." As we have recently also done in Doboj and Teslic, Human Rights Watch/Helsinki has conducted field research in Prijedor to uncover who is continuing the cycle of human rights abuses and intimidation and why these criminals remain at large and in positions of power. The detrimental impact that Bosnia's war criminals continue to have on respect for human rights and on long-term prospects for peace is abundantly clear. It is essential to the peace process in Bosnia and Hercegovina that the international community strategically utilize the economic and political leverage at its disposal to facilitate the successful implementation of the civilian components of the Dayton agreement, most important of which is to hold war criminals accountable and to bring an end to ongoing abuses against vulnerable populations in the region.

The Bosnian administrative district of Prijedor, located west of the city of Banja Luka in what is now Republika Srpska, was before 1992 a multi-ethnic area with a non-Serb population of well over 50,000. After the Bosnian Serbs took control of the region in April 1992, the communities and homes of non-Serbs were destroyed, families were separated, and thousands of people were incarcerated in concentration camps, where many were tortured and executed. Tens of thousands were forcibly deported under inhumane conditions. Today, only about 600 Bosniaks remain. The town also has a small Bosnian Croat community, left without a parish priest since the abduction and "disappearance" of Roman Catholic priest Father Tomislav Matanovic in September 1995. According to the Roman Catholic charity Caritas, there are approximately 2,674 Bosnian Croats remaining in the Prijedor municipality (1,405 in the town of Prijedor, 592 in Ljubija, 416 in Ravska, and 261 in Surkovac), out of more than 6,000 Bosnian Croats registered in the 1991 census. The Catholic church and all mosques in Prijedor were destroyed in 1992. Prior to the war, more than half a million non-Serbs lived in what is now the northern region of Republika Srpska. Today, fewer than 20,000 non-Serbs remain throughout the territory.

The criminal administration established in the town of Prijedor achieved their goal of eliminating non-Serbs from the society, through the planned murder, "disappearance," and expulsion of non-Serb officials, such as Mayor Cehajic, and civilians. According to survivor reports, Mayor Cehajic and six other men were removed by Bosnian Serb guards from Omarska camp on July 26, 1992, and have never been seen again.

Many of the men responsible for these crimes were members of the "Krizni Stab Srpske Opstine Prijedor," or "Crisis Committee of the Serbian Municipality of Prijedor," established to conduct the usurpation. The police, as will be shown in this report, also played a major part in the takeover and in subsequent abuses, both independently and as members of special units sent to round up community leaders or conduct "ethnic cleansing" operations. The police authorities and officers charged today with protecting the public good in Prijedor, are in many cases the sameindividuals who have been accused by numerous witnesses of participation in war crimes. As is true for many towns in the Republika Srpska today, the power structure in Prijedor mirrors that which existed during the war.

These same local Prijedor authorities have consistently refused to protect non-Serbs or to investigate crimes against them, even following the signing of the Dayton agreement. Civilian and police authorities work in tandem to prevent the return of refugees and displaced persons by organizing or inciting violence against those who attempt to return, and by orchestrating (with the assistance of the Bosnian Serb Army, according to NATO) the destruction of houses (see section "Destruction of Property to Prevent Repatriation"). Restrictions on freedom of movement, the destruction of property, and the ethnically-based eviction of persons through the application of discriminatory laws are further evidence that the Bosnian Serb authorities have maintained their goal of an ethnically pure entity (or as the Republika Srpska authorities put it, "state") -- the goal that led to massive "ethnic cleansing" campaigns during the war. Most recently, according to a reliable local source, the Prijedor authorities have reportedly destroyed property ownership records, which, if true, would make it nearly impossible for refugees and displaced persons who fled under immediate threat to prove ownership of their property.

To make matters worse, according to information gathered by Human Rights Watch/Helsinki, the international community is investing large sums of money in Prijedor through "community projects," many of which were funded by the British government relief agency, the Overseas Development Agency (ODA) and implemented by IFOR/SFOR. The illicitly installed local authorities control virtually all economic sectors in Prijedor, including infrastructure, public construction and other companies, the media, health care, education, and humanitarian aid. In at least some cases, Human Rights Watch/Helsinki has learned that persons believed responsible for flagrant abuses of the Geneva Conventions and international human rights law, and/or are participants in organized crime, have benefited from reconstruction and humanitarian assistance. Due to the current power structure in Prijedor, humanitarian aid and reconstruction assistance is easily misused.

Our research leads us to the conclusion that post-Dayton obstructionism by the Prijedor leadership is not only motivated by economic gain but represents a highly organized effort, directed to a significant extent by the Republika Srpska authorities in Pale (especially by the Ministry of the Interior), to prevent permanently the repatriation of non-Serb refugees and displaced persons to the Republika Srpska and to retain control over all municipal functions.

In addition, local Prijedor officials have consistently refused to cooperate with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), and their cooperation with the International Police Task Force (IPTF), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other international organizations charged with implementing the civilian aspects of the Dayton agreements has been minimal. This non-cooperation is in direct violation of their commitment under the Dayton agreement. Human Rights Watch/Helsinki believes that the failure of the Republika Srpska authorities to cooperate with certain aspects of the Dayton agreement is the result of an overall policy. Human Rights Watch/Helsinki's recent report on the municipalities of Doboj and Teslic, for example, reveals similar patterns to the policies carried out in Prijedor. Events in the Zone of Separation near Zvornik, the destruction of housing in Brcko, and the expulsion and harassment of minorities in Banja Luka seem to bear this out. According to the U.N. Commission of Experts, "The Bosnian Serb implementation of practically identical strategies and tactics for the conquest of territories and subsequent detention of non-Serb pop[ulation]s [during the war] suggest an overall plan devised prior to the conflict and carried out locally." Subsequent to the signing of the Dayton Peace Agreement, this overall strategy seems to have continued.

According to a November 29, 1996 report by Laura Kay Rozen of the U.S. newspaper The Christian Science Monitor, of the seventy-four people indicted for war crimes in Bosnia, approximately twenty are in the Prijedor area. In November 1996, four persons indicted for war crimes were discovered to be police officers in the Prijedor area. Two other indicted persons are reportedly serving in the reserve police, and a third as a member of the "special police." Their commander, Simo Drljaca, who by his own admission was responsible, along with others, for the administration of concentration camps in the Prijedor area, and who is expected to be indicted for war crimes by theICTY in the near future, continued to serve as police chief of Prijedor until IPTF demanded his removal from office in September 1996 following an armed altercation with soldiers of the International Implementation Force (IFOR). As of January 1997, however, Drljaca has continued to act as chief of police, giving orders directly to Ranko Mijic, his supposed replacement.

Control by the Srpska Demokratska Stranka (SDS), or Serbian Democratic Party, expresses itself in abuses of the rights of anyone not pledging loyalty to the SDS agenda and methods. The ongoing removal of non-SDS members from businesses, threats against private business owners by the local mafia (with direct links to local SDS leaders), and the control of the media by hard-line SDS representatives, indicate that members of opposition groups and moderates are very limited in their ability to affect the situation and are, in fact, under threat themselves.

Despite all the above, some international actors in Prijedor often fail to criticize the municipal authorities. An international monitor, for example, when asked in June 1996 about his interactions with Drljaca, told our investigators: "Drljaca knows he can trust us. [We] are completely neutral...it is not our mandate to judge...we never take any side...we never say who's right and who's wrong...we are here to work for [our organization]...and we have fine relations with them all."

The Importance of Conditionality for Reconstruction Aid

The international community has squandered much of the leverage available to enforce compliance with the Dayton peace agreement, especially by lifting sanctions against Republika Srpska. Therefore, the strategic use of reconstruction aid in ensuring compliance has become all the more important.

The international community has an obligation to reassure donors, including U.S. and European taxpayers, that reconstruction aid is used wisely, and that those who used ethnic nationalism as an excuse to murder, imprison and expel compatriots, to steal the property of others and to control humanitarian assistance do not continue to reap the benefits of their criminal activities. Otherwise, aid intended by donors to benefit the ordinary people of Bosnia who have suffered due to the war will reward their very persecutors or those who have exploited the war situation for personal gain. For this reason, reconstruction aid should be denied to municipalities where the authorities are under investigation for war crimes by the ICTY, or where there has been serious and/or protracted non-compliance with the Dayton agreement, including involvement by the authorities in human rights abuses, incitement to violence against returnees, violation of election rules and regulations, failure to cooperate with the ICTY (e.g. when indicted persons are known to reside in a particular town and are not arrested by the authorities and turned over to the ICTY for trial), and/or non-cooperation with the IPTF or other international organizations charged with assisting in the implementation of the Dayton agreement.

Under these guidelines, Prijedor would be ineligible for international reconstruction aid until there was a change in leadership. The guidelines would not restrict humanitarian assistance, although such assistance should be carefully monitored. An international source who spent months in Prijedor told Human Rights Watch/Helsinki in January 1997: "Only about 30 percent of humanitarian aid [to Prijedor] reaches the people."

In towns where there is general compliance with the Dayton agreement, Human Rights Watch/Helsinki recommends targeted reconstruction aid which will assist ordinary people directly, e.g. micro enterprise projects, support of the independent media, support for ethnically neutral educational programs, assistance to medical facilities which have demonstrated equity in the provision of treatment to all citizens, and bypassing publicly owned companies when possible. Strict guidelines should be established regarding equal access for all citizens as beneficiaries of these projects.

The World Bank, nongovernmental organizations, and government donors are advised to investigate carefully the ownership and history of companies applying for aid and to monitor closely spending. Donors should keep in mind the possibility that the legitimate owners or directors of companies may have been murdered or forciblyremoved by local authorities, who assumed control as the result of an organized strategy, as was the case in Prijedor in 1992. In a more recent example, as the Office of the High Representative reported in November, the SPRS (Socialist Party of Republika Srpska), a Republika Srpska opposition party, alleged that, in 1996 alone, 112 of its members had been removed from their jobs because of their political affiliation. According to a November-December 1996 report by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), local courts have ruled in many cases in favor of reinstatement, but in none of the cases have the judgements been enforced.

On January 2, 1997, Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic, in a letter to Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, informed him that the indictments of the ICTY were no longer valid and said that the arrest of Radovan Karadzic or Ratko Mladic would "threaten the existing peace" and rekindle "massive civil and political unrest." She continued, "The present position of the Republika Srpska is that we are unwilling to hand over Dr. Karadzic and General Mladic for trial in the Hague as we believe that any such trial now falls outside of the scope of the tribunal's constitutional framework." In a thinly veiled threat to the international community, Plavsic stated, "We believe that massive civil and military unrest would result in the Republika Srpska which might well prove uncontrollable by the civil authorities. The chances of fighting restarting would, in our judgement, be high. These would be even higher were any attempt made to hunt down Dr. Karadzic and General Mladic and forcibly bring them to trial." (See Plavsic letter attached as Appendix B.)

In response to Plavsic's letter, the European Commission stated that it would not consider giving aid to Republika Srpska (with the exception of inter-entity cooperation projects and humanitarian aid) until the Republika Srpska complied with its obligations to the ICTY. The Office of the High Representative (OHR), however, has sent mixed messages. In a statement to the London-based Institute for War and Peace Reporting, Carl Bildt said, "I do not accept that as an answer, and she knows that. I think that was a stupid letter. In direct talks with the leadership of the Republika Srpska, I made it very clear what we expect to happen, and what might be the consequences if that does not happen. Republika Srpska has an interest in cooperating with the Tribunal, and they are cooperating with the Tribunal better than they did...with the exception of handing over those that are indicted. Which is the fundamental exception. But that will not be tolerated for long, and they know that." Bildt's spokesman, however, seemed to send a different message, when he stated on January 10 that Plavsic's letter to Annan would not cause any disruption in aid going to the Republika Srpska. "It makes no difference as I would see it on the flow of reconstruction aid being discussed in Brussels at the moment," said spokesman Colum Murphy, who argued that Plavsic's assertions were legal arguments which she was entitled to make and did not constitute more than that, despite the apparent threat of violence. This response is most disappointing, particularly as it suggests to the Republika Srpska authorities that there will be no financial consequences for the outright defiance of binding agreements.

Many argue that economic aid should be used as a carrot rather than a stick. The infusion of aid money does not guarantee peace or respect for the rule of law, however. Huge expenditures of capital (over 260 million DM, or about US165 million) in the city of Mostar was invested to no avail between 1994 and 1996. The assistance did not serve to reunite the city or to prevent ongoing ethnically based harassment, evictions and expulsions. As has been shown in Mostar, in Prijedor, and in other towns, so long as those responsible for war crimes or involved in organized crime are allowed to retain control over resources, ordinary people, especially those who are now in the minority or who do not support the dominant parties, cannot expect to fully benefit from those resources.

More than a year has passed since the signing of the Dayton agreement, yet the vast majority of persons indicted for war crimes remain at large. There is increasing outrage about the failure to apprehend, detain and try these individuals. At a conference in Dayton, Ohio last November, OSCE Amb. Robert Frowick remarked, "The whole peace process rests on this issue. There will not be a better moment than right now," to apprehend the indicted persons. Action must be taken to ensure their apprehension; there must also be more focus on those who have not yet been indicted. Increased financial support to the ICTY is imperative to enable expedited investigations and indictments of those who have so far eluded international censure and to ensure their apprehension.

The failure of the Republika Srpska authorities to comply with the orders of the ICTY, combined with the refusal of IFOR/SFOR to arrest persons indicted for war crimes even when encountered in the course of their duty, has permitted war criminals to remain free and retain control. Furthermore, the international community's willingness to allow money to find its way into the hands of suspected war criminals and/or mafia members, leads to questions about the international community's will to confront the real problems that threaten the peace and place the region's stability at risk.

The international community has tolerated the continued exercise of power by persons responsible for the worst atrocities seen in Europe since World War II. This report names some of those individuals, describes their involvement in serious abuses of international humanitarian and human rights law, and highlights their continued obstruction of the Dayton agreement, with the expectation that the international community will finally take action to hold them accountable -- and, in the meantime, will prevent them from lining their pockets at the expense of their intimidated neighbors, the displaced, the purged and the dead.