The World According To...

A chilling encounter: My morning with a suspected Serb war criminal

First published on July 1997: Following ongoing ethnic cleansing in Prijedor, Robert Fisk comes face to face with Milan Kovacevic

Sunday 21 November 2021 00:43
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<p>Kovacevic was indicted by The Hague for his role during the Bosnian War </p>

Kovacevic was indicted by The Hague for his role during the Bosnian War

Milan Kovacevic looked self-confident on that August morning of 1992, his bushy yellow moustache and staring eyes so prominent that we scribbled his features into our notebooks as we sat in the mayor’s office in the northwest Bosnian town of Prijedor.

The Serb who was last week seized by British troops at gunpoint as a suspected war criminal had been introduced to us as “president of the council”; slivovitz brandy had been served at 10am and even the international delegation in the room – a group of CSCE (Council for Security and Cooperation in Europe) officials led by Sir John Thomson, Baroness Thatcher’s former UN ambassador – were sipping alcohol in fraternal fashion. But none of us would be able to forget the thousands of smashed and ruined Muslim homes we had passed in the suburb of Kozarac on the way to this meeting.

Sir John’s job was to talk to Prijedor’s self-appointed Serb mayor Milomar Stakic – who was dressed in a T-shirt oddly labelled “Portobello Road W11” – in a vain attempt to persuade him to cooperate with Alija Izetbegovic’s government in Sarajevo. But the Muslims of Prijedor, whose leaders had been elected at the last free poll, were already murdered, “cleansed” or trucked to the evil camps of Omarska and Manjaca outside Prijedor.

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