Red Cross to inspect all Bosnia camps

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The Independent Online
Banja Luka - Officials of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said yesterday they had been promised access to all prisoners held in the Bosnian conflict after international outrage at brutal conditions in detention camps.

Red Cross sources said a team of 20 had already visited 6,000 prisoners in the Serb-run detention centres of Omarska, Manjaca and Trnopolje - among the most notorious of the camps. The sources said they knew of people aged more than 90 being held prisoner in Bosnia, but added that those detained often had nowhere else to go.

'The (Red Cross) now has access. We are in there. It has lots of experience and is doing its job,' said Beat Schweizer, head of the ICRC office in Banja Luka.

'International pressure triggered by global publicity has brought about this movement, giving us general access,' another ICRC official said.

ICRC sources said Serbian, Croatian and Muslim authorities had promised to let them visit all their detention centres. The ICRC expected to be able to provide the first comprehensive figures on the numbers of prisoners at the end of next week.

The ICRC accused all three communities in Bosnia of using 'systematic brutality' against civilians. It said in Geneva, after visiting camps run by Muslims, Croats and Serbs, that all were flouting Geneva conventions regulating the treatment of civilians and prisoners of war. An ICRC report said all three communities were guilty of 'ethnic cleansing'. 'Following visits carried out in recent days . . . the ICRC has been able to establish that innocent civilians have been arrested and made the victims of inhuman treatment,' the report said.

A sniper killed a United States television journalist yesterday in an attack on a convoy taking the Yugoslav Prime Minister, Milan Panic, into Sarajevo for peace talks. Mr Panic, who was in an armoured infantry vehicle provided by UN peace-keepers, was unhurt. But David Kaplan, 45, a producer for ABC television, was hit in the back by a bullet and died later at UN headquarters. Kaplan was the 30th journalist killed in the war in the former Yugoslavia.

Mr Panic, clearly distressed, said: 'Criminals killed him . . . Terrorists killed him . . . These are crippled people mentally.' Apparently quoting from a report which he had read during his flight from Belgrade, he said: 'Do you know, to kill one journalist they (the snipers) get 500 bucks.'

Mr Panic had flown to the Bosnian capital to meet leaders of the warring Muslim, Croatian and Serbian communities before peace talks sponsored by the European Community in Brussels today. An aide told the Yugoslav news agency Tanjug that Kaplan's death disrupted Mr Panic's schedule; he managed only a 20-minute telephone call with Bosnia's Muslim President, Alija Izetbegovic.

The Bosnian leader met the British Foreign Office minister, Douglas Hogg, who is finalising arrangements for an international conference on Yugoslavia in London later this month. Mr Hogg told journalists that if the conference made progress there was 'a chance, just a chance of getting a ceasefire'. Previous ceasefire attempts have failed in Bosnia where more than 8,000 people have been killed since April.

Mr Hogg said he stressed to Mr Izetbegovic that there would be no Western military intervention in the war although the United Nations was preparing to sanction the use of force to protect humanitarian convoys.

'I explained very clearly there is no cavalry coming over the hill, that there is no international force coming . . .' he said. 'The only way this killing is going to stop is by negotiation.'