Former officer in the VRS 1st Krajina Corps Milos Solaja has claimed at the trial of Ratko Mladic that there was no barbed wire fence in Trnopolje. The prosecution has insisted that there was a fence, which was removed from 5 and 7 August 1992 as the camp was prepared for a ‘propaganda visit’ of foreign journalists. The visit was arranged in order to mitigate the shocking effect of the footage taken on 5 August 1992 which showed starving prisoners behind the barbed wire

Milos Solaja, defence witness at Rako Mladic trialMilos Solaja, defence witness at Rako Mladic trial

Milos Solaja, former officer in the VRS 1st Krajina Corps, testified at the trial of Ratko Mladic today. On 7 August 1992, Solaja escorted a group of about 40 foreign journalists on a visit to the prison camps in Trnopolje, Omarska and Keraterm. In his statement to Mladics defense Solaja said that there were no machine gun nests and barbed wire around Trnopolje.

As alleged by the prosecution, Trnopolje was one of the prison camps where civilians from the Prijedor area were detained, starved, beaten, raped and killed. The defense, on the other hand, maintains that it was a collection center where Muslim civilians sought shelter from attacks by out-of-control Serb groups.

In the cross-examination, prosecutor Arthur Traldi noted that the first small group of foreign journalists was able to enter Trnopolje on 5 August 1992. In the first footage from Trnopolje which was broadcast all over the world, a barbed wire fence could be seen. However, when another, larger, group of journalists visited the camp on 7 August 1992, the barbed wire was removed for propaganda purposes, in order to create a rosy picture of Trnopolje, Traldi said. Solaja repeated that he didn't see any barbed wire fence in Trnopolje on 7 August 1992. 'In the area where I live, the farmers put up such a fence to prevent people from jumping over it', the witness added.

Solaja claims he did not know that 1,000. prisoners had been moved from Omarska to Manjaca on 6 August in order to hide them from the journalists. This is contradicted by the documents in the possession of the prosecution which clearly show that his command had been notified of the transfer. As he explained, he learned from the media that on 7 August, the Republika Srpska government had reacted to the TV reports about the situation in Omarska by staging a press conference where officials admitted the conditions in the camp were bad and that it was overcrowded. The witness also claims he knew nothing about the massacre of prisoners in Keraterm which took place two weeks before the journalists' visit.

After Milos Solaja completed his evidence, the defense called Bojan Subotic. The witness, who was in the military police in the VRS 65th Motorized protection regiment, took part in the VRS Srebrenica operation in the summer of 1995.