Former member of the cabinet of the Serbian Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina claims he had no information about what was happening in the detention camps in 1992, while the prosecutor is trying to show that Milan Trbojevic knew more than he is ready to admit

Milan Trbojevic, witness in the Krajisnik trialMilan Trbojevic, witness in the Krajisnik trial

Had the political leadership of the Serbian republic of BH known in the spring of 1992 about the conditions in which detained Bosniaks and Croats were kept in its territory, “the first session of the cabinet would have been held in Omarska, to allow them to see what was happening on the site,” claims Milan Trbojevic, former deputy prime minister in the first cabinet formed at Pale.

“The government had no knowledge about the actual conditions in, say, Omarska” and “nobody thought about possibility that it could turn into a camp where crimes would be committed,” said the witness in the course of his lengthy testimony, lasting several days, at the trial of Momcilo Krajisnik, former speaker of the Bosnian Serb assembly.

The prosecutor relies on documents in his claim that at the session of the government on 15 June 1992 Trbojevic said that the exchange of prisoners was an urgent and serious affair, that would “have consequences for the entire republic if proper attention was not paid to it.” At the same session it was agreed that a working group, which included Trbojevic, should visit the detention camps in Krajina. Trbojevic said he did not know what had let him to conclude that the situation was urgent and serious, that he did “not remember the text of the report” that was discussed at that session, regardless of who actually had drafted the report: the Exchange Commission, the interior minister or the justice minister.

Later, in August, the inspector for detention facilities in the Serbian Republic of BH drafted a report on Omarska, indicating that the conditions were satisfactory, the witness said. The report was submitted only to the Justice Ministry and then forwarded to Karadzic.

Prosecutor Alan Tieger is trying to prove that Trbojevic had more information about what was happening with the civilian detainees in the territory of SRBH than he is willing to admit. Tieger presented documents which show that, in early August 1992, Trbojevic ordered an inspection of the detention centers in the Autonomous Region of Krajina and that the resulting report be discussed by the government behind closed doors. The witness continues to claim that he does not remember the report and that the session was “probably” held, if that is what the documents show. He claims that there was no special reason for those issues to be discussed in closed session, because the “public had already seen the images of emaciated people behind barbed wire in Trnopolje.”

At the hearing today, the judge reminded the witness that he was under the obligation to speak the truth and also that he might address the chamber whenever he felt his answers could incriminate him (but those answers could not be used against him). In his previous interviews with the OTP investigators, Trbojevic was treated as a suspect. His testimony continues tomorrow.