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Wednesday, 23 January, 2002, 10:30 GMT
Bosnian Serbs on trial for genocide
Radoslav Brdjanin (left) and prison guard
Brdjanin (left) is accused of torture and deportation
Two former Bosnian Serb leaders have gone on trial on genocide charges at the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague.

The former Deputy Prime Minister, Radoslav Brdjanin, and the former chief of staff of the Bosnian Serb army, General Momir Talic, are accused of organising a bloody campaign to expel non-Serbs from north-west Bosnia.

As well as the genocide accusations, both men face charges of crimes against humanity, including extermination, murder and persecution, alleged to have taken place in the early stages of the 1992-1995 Bosnian war.

They deny all the charges.

The campaign was part of a plan, conceived by Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic, to create an ethnically-pure Serbian state.

Camp cruelty

The Hague's indictment alleges that Mr Brdjanin and General Talic played a pivotal role in the killing, torture and deportation of thousands of Bosnian Muslims and Croats from the Prijedor region.

Former head of the Bosnian Serb army, General Momir Talic
General Talic was arrested in a surprise swoop in Vienna in 1999
Hundreds were killed and many were interned in appalling conditions in camps at Omarska and Keraterm.

At the time of the alleged crimes in 1992, Mr Brdjanin and General Talic were members of the Autonomous Region of Krajina Crisis Staff - a committee which, according to the prosecution, was set up by Mr Karadzic and General Mladic to co-ordinate the ethnic cleansing campaign.

Mr Brdjan is also accused of using the media, which was under his control, to urge Bosnian Serbs to "commmit crimes against their neighbours under the banner of defending the Serbian people".

Surprise arrests

Mr Brdjan and General Talic were both arrested in 1999 under sealed indictments - a controversial practice operated by the Hague tribunal to try to arrest suspects before they go underground.

Mr Brdjan was picked up by Nato-led troops in the Bosnian Serb town of Banja Luka.

General Talic was arrested in a swoop while attending a conference in Vienna organised by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

At his first court appearance two years ago, General Talic challenged the jurisdiction of the tribunal and said he could only receive a fair trial in a military court.

Last year the tribunal secured its first conviction for genocide - the most serious of war crimes - in the trial of former Bosnian Serb general, Radislav Krstic.

He was found guilty over the massacre of thousands of Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica and sentenced to 46 years in prison.

But officials have so far failed to detain the tribunal's two most wanted suspects, Mr Karadzic and General Mladic, who are also indicted on genocide.

Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic has already been charged for his alleged role in the Bosnian genocide.

See also:

02 Aug 01 | Europe
General guilty of Bosnia genocide
06 Jul 01 | Europe
Where are Karadzic and Mladic?
05 Jul 01 | Europe
Mixed views on Balkans pair
12 Jan 00 | Talking Point
Should we pursue crimes of the past?
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