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Institute for the Research of Genocide Canada

Ed Vuliamy: “I don’t want to be neutral” in cases involving racist violence

Institute for the Research of Genocide Canada
Published: November 11, 2011  

Ed Vuliamy - ‘I don’t want to be neutral’ in cases involving racist violenceEd Vuliamy: “I don’t want to be neutral” in cases involving racist violence

Ed Vulliamy testified at the trial of Radovan Karadzic. In early August 1992 Vulliamy was in a group of British journalist who visited the Omarska and Trnopolje prison camps at the invitation of the Republika Srpska president, now in the Tribunal’s dock. When Karadzic claimed Vuillamy was ‘anti-Serb’, the witness replied ‘I don’t want to be neutral’ in cases involving racist violence

Ed Vulliamy, British journalist who writes for the Guardian, was in a group of foreign journalists who were the first to enter the Omarska and Trnopolje prison camps in the Prijedor region in early August 1992. Their video recordings and reports about the abominable treatment of the prisoners there triggered the international response that resulted in the establishment of the Tribunal in The Hague in May 1993.

Interestingly, it was Radovan Karadzic who personally opened the gates of Omarska and Trnopolje to the foreign journalist. In the summer of 1992 when the first articles about the prison camps under the Serb control were first published in the world press, Karadzic openly invited the British journalists to come and see that it was all a ‘fabrication of the Muslim propaganda’.

Now, 19 years later, Vulliamy faced Karadzic for the second time, in a Tribunal’s courtroom where the former Republika Srpska president is on trial for double genocide and other crimes in BH. Murder and inhumane treatment of prisoners in the prison camps in the Prijedor region are among those crimes. The transcript of Vulliamy’s evidence from the trial of former president of the Prijedor Crisis Staff Milomir Stakic was admitted into evidence, together with a series of video recordings the British journalists made on 5 August 1992 in Omarska and Trnopolje.

Vulliamy recounted that the British journalists were only allowed to enter the camp mess, and not the rooms where prisoners were held. Later he learned that about 80 prisoners ‘who were in better shape’ were selected to be paraded before the guests from Great Britain, the witness said. The prisoners were starved and scared to death. ‘I don’t want to lie to you, but I can’t tell you the truth’, a prisoner told the British journalists.

After Omarska, journalists were taken to the Trnopolje prison camp. According to the witness, the prison camp was surrounded by barbed wire on three sides and prisoners were held inside. A prisoner told Vulliamy that he had been brought in from Keraterm where about 200 persons had been killed in a single night. The prisoner said that even more people were killed in Omarska. The British journalists visited the make-shift prison infirmary. There they asked Dr Idriz Merdzanic if prisoners were beaten up. Merdzanic replied by nodding almost imperceptibly.

In the cross-examination, Karadzic brought up excerpts from Vulliamy’s book Seasons in Hell. According to Karadzic, the book shows the witness is not ‘neutral’ but ‘anti-Serb’. ‘I don’t want to be neutral if I have to make judgments about prisoners and their guards, or victims of rape and their rapists’ Vulliamy said, adding that this didn’t mean he was not objective. ‘If you enter a house and see six bodies there, you can’t say there are 12 bodies because they are Muslims or three because they are Serbs. Six remains six’, Vulliamy said, illustrating his standpoint.

Karadzic put it to the witness that the mass murders that the prisoners in Trnopolje described to the British journalists never took place in the camps. As Karadzic said, the prosecution witnesses have all claimed they saw only one murder in Omarska. Karadzic criticized Vulliamy, saying he put far too much trust in the stories ‘that blamed the Serbs’ about the mass murders in Keraterm and Omarska. ‘With all due respect, I don’t believe you’, the witness replied. As Vulliamy explained, the information about the murders he got from the prisoners in Trnopolje was corroborated by what he learned as he talked to dozens of other prisoners. These were the adjudicated facts, established in a number of trials before the Tribunal, Vulliamy noted.

Karadzic also claimed that Omarska was an investigation center and that the witness himself used the term in his book. The witness reminded Karadzic that the term was used in his text in quotation marks. This means that he only quoted what the Serb officials in Prijedor who ‘hosted’ the British journalists claimed. The witness agreed with the accused that Trnopolje couldn’t be considered a ‘concentration camp’ because it was not apposite to draw parallels with the Holocaust. However, the witness insisted that it was a prison camp where a large group of civilians was concentrated before they were deported in convoys from the Bosnian Serb-controlled territory.

Sense agency: http://www.sense-agency.com/icty/radovan-karadzic-meets-ed-vulliamy-for-the-second-time.29.html?news_id=13357&cat_id=1

Edi Vulijami ne zeli biti neutralan kada se radi o rasistickom nasilju

Na suđenju Radovanu Karadžiću svjedočio Ed Vulijami koji je početkom avgusta 1992. godine bio u grupi britanskih novinara koji su, na poziv optuženog predsjednika Republike Srpske, obišli logore Omarska i Trnopolje. Na Karadžićevu sugestiju da je “pristrasan protiv Srba”, Vulijami kaže da “ne želi da bude neutralan” kada se radi o rasističkom nasilju

Novinar britanskog Gardijana/The Guardian Ed Vulijami/Vulliamy je bio u prvoj grupi stranih novinara koji su početkom avgusta 1992. godine uspjeli da uđu u prijedorske logore Omarska i Trnopolje. Njihovi snimci i informacije o užasnom tretmanu logoraša pokrenuli su lavinu međunarodnih reakcija koje su dovele do formiranja Haškog tribunala u maju 1993. godine.

Zanimljivo je da je vrata Omarske i Trnopolja stranim novinarima otvorio lično Radovan Karadžić koji je u ljeto 1992. godine, nakon što su u zapadnim medijima objavljeni prvi članci o logorima na području pod srpskom kontrolom, uputio javni poziv britanskim novinarima da dođu i uvjere se da se radi o “izmišljotinama muslimanske propagande”.

Devetnaest godina kasnije Vulijami se ponovo našao licem u lice sa Karadžićem, ovog puta u tribunalovoj sudnici u kojoj se bivšem predsjedniku Republike Srpske sudi za dvostruki genocid i druge zločine počinjene u BiH, uključujući i ubistva i nehuman tretman logoraša u prijedorskim logorima. U dokaze je uveden transkript Vulijamijevog svjedočenja sa suđenja bivšem predsjedniku Kriznog štaba Prijedora Milomiru Stakiću, kao i niz snimaka od 5. avgusta 1992. godine, koje su britanski novinari snimili u Omarskoj i Trnopolju.

Vulijami je, između ostalog, naveo da je britanskim novinarima u Omarskoj dozvoljen pristup samo logorskoj trpezariji, ali ne i prostorijama u kojima su držani zatočenici. Naknadno je, kaže, saznao da je dan uoči njihovog dolaska odabrano osamdesetak zatočenika u “boljoj formi” koje će prikazati gostima iz Britanije. Zatočenici su bili izgladnjeli i prestravljeni, a jedan od njih im je rekao: “Ne želim da vas lažem, a ne mogu da vam kažem istinu”.

Nakon Omarske novinari su odvedeni u logor Trnopolje koji je, prema riječima svjedoka, sa tri strane bio okružen bodljikavom žicom unutar koje su se nalazili zatočenici. Jedan od njih je Vulijamiju rekao da je doveden iz Keraterma gdje je u jednoj noći ubijeno oko 200 ljudi, a da je broj ubijenih u Omarskoj još veći. Britanski novinari posjetili su i improvizovanu logorsku ambulantu u kojoj im je doktor Idriz Merdžanić, na pitanje da li je u logoru ima slučajeva prebijanja zatvorenika, odgovorio jedva vidljivim klimanjem glavom.

Karadžić je u unakrsnom ispitivanju ukazivao na dijelove Vulijamijeve knjige “Sezone u paklu” koji, po njemu, pokazuju da svjedok nije bio “neutralan” već “anti-srpski” orijentisan. “Ja i ne želim da budem neutralan ako treba da sudim o zatočenicima i njihovim stražarima, ili žrtvama silovanja i silovateljima”. Dodao je da to, međutim, ne znači da nije objektivan, ilustrujući to sljedećim primjerom: “Ako uđete u neku kuću i vidite šest leševa, nije ih dvanaest zato što su Muslimani ili tri jer su Srbi. Šest je šest.”

Karadžić je dalje tvrdio da u logorima nije bilo masovnih ubistava o kojima su britanskim novinarima govorili zatočenici u Trnopolju, tvrdeći da su svjedoci koje je do sada izvela optužba vidjeli u Omarskoj samo jedno ubistvo. On je prebacio Vulijamiju da je isuviše lako povjerovao u priče “na štetu Srba” o masovnim ubistvima u Keratermu i Omarskoj. “Uz svo dužno poštovanje ja vam ne vjerujem”, rekao je svjedok navodeći da je, osim onoga što mu je u Trnopolju rečeno o ubistvima u logoru, u međuvremenu razgovarao sa desetinama drugih logoraša koji su to potkrijepili, kao i da su to utvrđene i presuđene činjenice sa mnogih suđenja pred Tribunalom.

Karadžić je, također, tvrdio da je Omarska bila istražni centar, te da se i sam svjedok poslužio tim izrazom u svom tekstu. Svjedok je, međutim, podsjetio Karadžića da je taj izraz u njegovom tekstu napisan pod znacima navoda, što je značilo da je samo citirao ono što su tvrdili srpski zvaničnici u Prijedoru koji su bili “domaćini” britanskim novinarima. On se složio sa optuženim da se Trnopolje ne može smatrati “koncentracionim logorom” iz prostog razloga jer smatra da su paralele sa holokaustom nepotrebne, ali je naglasio da se po njegovom uvjerenju radilo o logoru u kojem je bila koncentrisana velika grupa civila prije nego što su u konvojima deportovani sa teritorije pod kontrolom bosanskih Srba.

Sense Agency: http://www.sense-agency.com/tribunal_%28mksj%29/drugi-susret-radovana-karadzica-i-eda-vulijamija.25.html?cat_id=1&news_id=13355

Concentration Camps

By Ed Vulliamy

The laws governing warfare and conflict make no reference to concentration camps. But for more than a century, concentration camps have been a venue for wholesale war crimes and the symbol of the worst abuses against civilians in wartime.

It was a Spanish general, Valeriano Weyler, who established the first reconcentrados or “concentration centers” in Cuba in his drive to suppress the 1895 rebellion. Britain introduced concentration camps on a massive scale during the Boer War from 1899 to 1902. To deny the Boer guerrillas food and intelligence, Gen. Lord Kitchener ordered the British Army to sweep the Transvaal and Orange River territories of South Africa “clean.” Civilians—women, children, the elderly, and some men of fighting age—were herded from their homes and concentrated in camps along railway lines, with a view to their eventual removal from the territory. The Boers, to whom these camps became a symbol of genocide, called them laagers.

The Nazis developed a vast network of Konzentrationslager, using them at first to hold political prisoners, later slave labor, and finally to annihilate European Jewry and to kill large numbers of Poles, Russians, and Gypsies. Of the nearly 6 million Jews killed under Hitler’s “Final Solution,” 2 million died in Auschwitz, the main extermination center.

No one in the post–World War II generation could have anticipated the reappearance of such camps in Europe. On that August 1992 day when my colleagues and I from the British television network ITN alighted from our vans, it was hard to gauge who was more amazed to see whom. Before us, there was a landscape of human misery that seemed to recall another time: men, some of them skeletal, lined up behind a barbed wire fence, with lantern jaws and xylophone ribcages visible beneath their putrefied skin. They, in turn, saw a camera crew and a clutch of reporters advancing across the withered summer grass.

This was Logor Trnopolje, a teeming mass of wretched humanity—scared, sunburned, and driven out of house and home. Among them was the figure of Fikret Alic, whose emaciated torso behind sharp knots of wire would become the enduring symbol of Bosnia’s war, of its cruelty and its echo of the worst calamities of our century. Alic had come from yet another camp, Kereterm, where he had broken down in tears, having been ordered to help clear up some 150 corpses, the result of the previous night’s massacre.

I ventured into Trnopolje, past families crammed against one another on the floor of what had been a school, past stinking holes dug into the ground for what were intended to be cesspits. “I can’t tell you everything that goes on,” said one young inmate, Ibrahim Demirovic, “but they do whatever they want.” A gracious doctor, Idriz, had been put in charge of a “medical center” where he gave us an undeveloped film—it showed his patients, beaten literally black and blue.

The day after the discovery of Trnopolje and Omarska, I shied from calling them concentration camps because of the inevitable association with the bestial policies of the Third Reich. I reasoned that we must take extreme care in relating genocides of our lifetime and the Holocaust, which was singular and inimitable. While thousands were purposefully killed in the gulag of Serbian camps, did that equate with the Nazis’ industrial mass murder of Jews and others?

On reflection, concentration camp is exactly the right term for what we uncovered that day. For here civilian populations were literally concentrated —frog-marched in columns or bused to locations for illegal purposes of maltreatment, torture, abuse, killing, and, crucially, enforced transfer, or ethnic cleansing. Indeed, The UN’s independent Commission of Experts determined after a year long study that Trnopolje was a concentration camp, and Omarska and Keraterm “de facto death camps.”

In general, the laws which would apply to concentration camps address the topic piecemeal, and the principal element is unlawful confinement, a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Confinement of civilians is not necessarily unlawful. “Foreign” civilians who pose a threat to a party to a conflict may be put in “places of internment” or given an “assigned residence.” However, the threat they pose must be genuine, evidenced by some clear action, not merely by their nationality. It is also lawful to remove civilians for their own security in an emergency, such as an impending battle, and set up temporary shelters for them. Even so, they must be returned home as soon as it is safe to do so and be well cared for in the meantime. Also, some civilians may be held or imprisoned as suspects or criminals, so long as they are given due process. In an internal conflict, noncombatants may be interned but are entitled to humane treatment and the judicial protections guaranteed by a regularly constituted court. None of these safeguards exist in concentration camps. Confinement under such conditions is thus unlawful. The arbitrary imprisonment of large numbers of civilians during conflicts—internal or international—can be a crime against humanity.

The themes of the “concentration” and “clearance” of civilians came to dominate the last phase of the Boer War, just as they dominated the entire Bosnian War, most notably in its early stages. As we know, the removal of Bosniaks and Croats from Serbian terrain was not a by-product of a war between armies, it was the raw material, the declared aim, of the Serbs.

The Boer War concentration camps aroused outrage and fury back in Britain, led by temperance crusader Emily Hobhouse. She described “deportations… a burned-out population brought in by hundreds of convoys… semi-starvation in the camps… fever-stricken children lying on the bare earth… appalling mortality.”

The camps provoked Lloyd George to thunder, “When is a war not a war? When it is carried on by methods of barbarism.” Even the all-woman Fawcett Committee, which supported the British war but made intrepid inspections of the concentration camps, was struck by the conditions at Mafeking, where women were washing clothes in water fouled by excreta, or at Brandfort, where an epidemic killed 337 people in three weeks. These places were by no means Auschwitz or Belsen, but they were concentration camps.

The term concentration camp implies not so much a prison or assigned residence for POWs or even civilians, but a role in an overall process of “clearance.” The fact that the Serbs sought to defend Trnopolje by describing it as a “transit camp” confirms the point: there is an entwinement between concentration camps and the forced movement or clearance of population.

In their description of Trnopolje in the trial verdict against Dusko Tadic, judges in The Hague noted that “there was no regular regime of interrogations or beating, as in other camps, but beatings and killings did occur.” They referred to testimony about “dead people wrapped in paper and wired together, their tongues pulled out… and the slaughtered bodies of young girls and old men.” The judges acknowledged that some inmates were allowed to forage for food in the village beyond the camp. But this “in effect amounted to imprisonment,” since many were killed during these excursions, and survivors feared repeating them.

Moreover, “because this camp housed the largest number of women and girls, there were more rapes at this camp than any other. Girls between the ages of 16 and 19 were at the greatest risk… the youngest girl being 12 years of age.” One girl serially raped by seven Serbian soldiers suffered “terrible pains… and hemorrhaging.”

But what hallmarked Trnopolje was the fact that the camp was, as the judges said, “the culmination of the campaign of ethnic cleansing, since those Bosniaks and Croats who were not killed at the Omarska and Keraterm camps were, from Trnopolje, deported.” This is one of the defining essences of concentration camps—that the detaining power wishes to be rid of their inmates, either by killing them, or else by enforced transit elsewhere.

In the case of Trnopolje, these transits—the concentration camp’s purpose—were utterly terrifying. I went on one of them, in this instance of Bosniaks from the town of Sanski Most. Because they were internal displacements, from Serb-controlled northern Bosnia into government-held regions, they attracted little attention aside from the news media.

A year later, in September 1993, I found myself uncovering another concentration camp: Dretelj. This time the inmates were Bosniaks, their guards Bosnian-Croat. Most of the prisoners were locked away in the dank darkness of two underground hangars, dug into facing hillsides. The metal doors had been slid open for our visit, but many men preferred to stay inside, staring as though blind into the ether. “We’re not really allowed out,” said one. These men had been locked in here for up to seventy-two hours at a time, without food or water, drinking their own urine to survive. They all remembered the night in July 1993 when the Croat guards got drunk and began firing through the doors—between ten and twelve men died that night; the back wall of the hangar was pockmarked with bullets.

The plan was simple; the Bosnian Croat authorities explained them to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) at a meeting in the coastal resort of Makarska during the week before our discovery of the camp. The proposal was to ship fifty thousand Bosniak men to a transit camp at nearby Ljubuski, and thence to third countries. The Croatian Foreign Minister Mate Granic said his country would do all it could to help. Would the UNHCR? The aid workers were flabbergasted, caught in a heinous dilemma: to cooperate with the aim of Dretelij and three other concentration camps, or else to leave the men festering in conditions which had been hidden from the International Committee of the Red Cross for two months.

Any such fulfillment of the concentrations camps’ goal is illegal deportation anyway. But in addition to its laws on confinement, the Geneva Convention of 1949 does regulate the transfer of internees—to take the Serbs’ and Croats’ own sanitized description of their concentration camps. This shall, says Article 127, “always be effected humanely,” and as a general rule by rail or other means of transport. “If, as an exceptional measure, such removals have to be effected on foot, they may not take place unless the internees are in a fit state of health.”

The convention continues: “When making decisions regarding the transfer of internees, the detaining power shall take their interests into account, and in particular shall not do anything to increase the difficulties of repatriating them or returning them to their own homes.” At the time of writing, that provision, with regard to those “concentrated” at Trnopolje and Dretelj, remains infamously and horribly unfulfilled.

Institute for the Research of Genocide Canada