Mevludin Sejmenovic began his evidence at the trial of Ratko Mladic about the ethnic cleansing in Prijedor in 1992 and about the Trnopolje and Omarska prison camps. Sejmenovic also explained in his testimony why Vojo Kupresanin saved him from the prison camp and gave him clothes and food on Radovan Karadzic’s orders

Mevludin Sejmenovic, witness at the Ratko Mladic trialMevludin Sejmenovic, witness at the Ratko Mladic trial

Mevludin Sejmenovic, former SDA official from Prijedor, said in his evidence at the trial of Ratko Mladic that in 1992 the Serbian Democratic Party wanted to have 70 percent of the territory in Prijedor municipality under Serb control. According to the ‘property map’ of Prijedor, published in the Kozarski Vjesnik newspaper on the eve of the conflict, Serbs contended that they were entitled to all state-owned property: public companies, national parks, forests etc in Prijedor municipality.

According to the 1991 census, there were 49,000 Muslims, 47,000 Serbs and 6,000 Croats living in Prijedor before the war. As the witness explained, Muslims and Croats were ‘shocked’ when they learned of the Serb territorial aspirations, but didn’t have ‘the power or any other means’ to contest them. After the SDS took power in the town, it decided that only Serbs could take key management posts and other prominent positions. Muslims and Croats lost their jobs.

In a bid to find the ‘last ray of hope for salvation’, the witness and some other SDA officials accepted the invitation to meet the Serb civilian and military authorities. As the witness recounted, Colonel Arsic and Major Zeljaja took over the meeting. They demanded that Muslims surrender 7,000 guns; ‘if not, they would raze Kozarac to the ground’. When Zeljaja was told that Muslims couldn’t meet the request because they didn’t have so many weapons, he said, ‘Gentlemen, that’s your problem’.

Radmilo Zeljaja fulfilled his promise. Kozarac was renamed Radmilovo, after Zeljaja. About 800 persons were killed in the attack, the indictment alleges. The ‘cleansing’ of Kozarac followed the same pattern as in other villages in the Prijedor area. The Serb forces first surrounded Kozarac, and then opened fire on it. The survivors were rounded up and taken to Trnopolje and Omarska.

Sejmenovic was detained in both prison camps. In Trnopolje, Sejmenovic saw men ‘walking slowly, with vacant eyes, exhausted’ by fear, hunger and beatings they sustained. In Omarska, Sejmenovic was himself tortured in the place called the ‘white house’. The house ‘was all covered in blood’. There were ‘people lying all around, moaning’. After he was beaten up, a civilian inspector interrogated Sejmenovic. The inspector told him military inspectors would take over his case and a military court would decide what would happen to him.

Quite accidentally, Sejmenovic ended up in Vojo Kupresanin’s office; he was the president of the Autonomous Region of Krajina at the time. ‘You find yourself in a kettle, with death all around you, death and only death, and then a high-ranking person arrives and wants to discuss high politics with you’, Sejmenovic said. He heard Karadzic order Kupresanin in a telephone conversation to ‘find some clothes’ for Sejmenovic, to ‘feed him and let him have some rest’. Their intention was to ‘use me to fake a multi-ethnic government’ in Republika Srpska and to ‘wash away the blame for the many crimes that they had committed until then,’ Sejmenovic explained.

After Sejmenovic’s examination-in chief ended, Mladic’s defense counsel Branko Lukic began the cross-examination. The trial continues tomorrow morning.