Detainees at the Trnopolje Camp, near Prijedor, Bosnia and Herzegovina. (Photograph provided courtesy of the ICTY)
|Location||Bosnia and Herzegovina|
|Operated by||Bosnian Serb military and police authorities|
|Inmates||Bosniaks and Bosnian Croats|
|Number of inmates||4,000–7,000|
The Trnopolje camp was a prisoners camp established by Bosnian Serb military and police authorities in the village of Trnopolje near the city of Prijedor in northern Bosnia and Herzegovina in the first months of the Bosnian War. The camp kept a large a number of Bosniaks and Bosnian Croats, some of which were killed, raped, mistreated, and tortured. It also served "as a staging area for massive deportations of primarily women, children, and elderly men."
According to the local Bosnian Serb authorities Trnopolje was "a transit camp" for members of the non-Serb, mainly Bosniak, population of the Prijedor region. The camp was purportedly established and run by the authorities of Republika Srpska and local paramilitary Serb police to confine and detain members of the non-Serb (Bosniak and Bosnian Croat) civilian population found "innocent" after "investigation". The other Prijedor camps, Omarska, Keraterm and Manjača, served to detain those being "interrogated" or found "guilty" (and "awaiting trial"). The total number of camp inmates reportedly varied on average between 4,000 and 7,000 people.
Trnopolje has also been described variously as a ghetto, a prison and a detention camp. However, the Report of the United Nations Commission of Experts to the Security Council (the Bassiouni Commission Report) determined that "Logor Trnopolje" was "a concentration camp", functioning as a staging area for mass deportations mainly of women, children, and elderly men, and described the Omarska and Keraterm camps to which the adult non-Serb men were taken as death camps. The Report used the Bosnian word logor (from German Lager, "(prison) camp" or "storage area") specifically to distinguish the Prijedor camps from the wide range of institutions encompassed by the English term "camp". The use of the term was intended to establish the link with the inhumane characteristics of their regimes.
The report found that:
"Killings were not rare in the camp, nor was the infliction of torture. Harassment in general is claimed to have been the rule and not the exception. Rapes were reportedly the most common of the serious crimes to which camp inmates were subjected. The nights were when most of the injustice was performed. The nightly terror of possibly being called out for rape or other abuses was reportedly a severe mental constraint even for short-term detainees in the camp. Many detainees reportedly never returned after venturing with or without explicit permission outside of the camp. Other former detainees report that there were times when they were ordered to bury non- Serbs, who had been killed, in fields and meadows near the camp."
The camp's existence was discovered by the international media in July 1992 when footage of Omarska and Trnopolje filmed by a team of British journalists was shown around the world and caused public outrage which led to the closure of the camps. Claims published subsequently by the British magazine Living Marxism (LM) that footage filmed at Trnopolje deliberately misrepresented the situation in the camp eventually prompted the Independent Television News (ITN) network to sue LM for libel. Following ITN's victory in a court case in which the evidence given by the camp doctor led LM to abandon its defence, the magazine declared itself bankrupt, avoiding payment of the large damages awarded.
The camp was closed in November 1992.
Judgment of the ICJ
The ICJ presented its judgment in Bosnian Genocide Case on 26 February 2007, in which it had examined atrocities committed in detention camps, including Trnopolje, in relation to Article II (b) of the Genocide Convention. The Court stated in its judgment:
"Having carefully examined the evidence presented before it, and taken note of that presented to the ICTY, the Court considers that it has been established by fully conclusive evidence that members of the protected group were systematically victims of massive mistreatment, beatings, rape and torture causing serious bodily and mental harm during the conflict and, in particular, in the detention camps. The requirements of the material element, as defined by Article II (b) of the Convention are thus fulfilled. The Court finds, however, on the basis of evidence before it, that it has not been conclusively established that those atrocities, although they too may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, were committed with the specific intent (dolus specialis) to destroy the protected group, in whole or in part, required for a finding that genocide has been perpetrated."
- Bosnian Genocide
- Dretelj camp
- Gabela camp
- Heliodrom camp
- Keraterm camp
- Manjača camp
- Omarska camp
- Uzamnica camp
- Vilina Vlas
- Vojno camp
- Serbian war crimes in the Yugoslav Wars
- "Final report of the United Nations Commission of Experts established pursuant to security council resolution 780 (1992)". United Nations - Security Council. 28 December 1994.
- Vulliamy, Ed (15 March 2000). "Poison in the well of history". The Guardian.
- Connolly, Kate (4 August 2002). "He was the face of Bosnia's civil war - what happened next?". The Guardian.
- "Milomir Stakić Judgement". ICTY. 31 July 2003.
- Nizich, Ivana (1993). War crimes in Bosnia-Hercegovina. Helsinki Watch. p. 33. ISBN 1-56432-083-9.
- "The Application of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Bosnia and Herzegovina v. Serbia and Montenegro), case 91". ICJ. 26 February 2007. p. 119.
- Human Rights Watch
- David Campbell (2002): Atrocity, memory, photography: imaging the concentration camps of Bosnia - the case of ITN versus Living Marxism, Part 1. Journal of Human Rights, vol 1, number 1. Available at http://www.david-campbell.org/photography/atrocity-and-memory/
- David Campbell (2002): Atrocity, memory, photography: imaging the concentration camps of Bosnia - the case of ITN versus Living Marxism, Part 2. Journal of Human Rights, vol 1, number 2. Available at http://www.david-campbell.org/photography/atrocity-and-memory/
- "COURTSIDE: Prijedor Genocide Trial - Majority of detention camp inmates were "persecuted Muslims", court hears", Mirna Jancic, Institute for War and Peace Reporting, ICTY - Tribunal UpdateNo. 275, 15-20 July 2002
- "Poison in the well of history", Ed Vulliamy, The Guardian, 15 March 2000
- "High stakes in battle over Serbian guilt - ITN libel trial: Terrified eyes of a camp doctor said more than celebrity campaigning or the might of a giant news organisation", Julia Hartley-Brewer, The Guardian, 15 March 2000