A defence witness at Radovan Karadzic’s Hague trial said the Bosnian Serb leader wanted “political and cultural” separation but not physical deportations.
Testifying in Karadzic’s defence, former Bosnian deputy interior minister Vitomir Zepinic said that, on the eve of the 1992-95 war, Karadzic advocated the separation of Serbs from Bosniaks and Croats.
But Zepinic said that he never thought that Karadzic was advocating the deportation of Bosniaks and Croats. He said that, knowing Karadzic’s personality, he did not believe that the Bosnian Serb leader wanted forced expulsions.
Zepinic said that while working as deputy interior minister, he had multiple problems with the late Alija Izetbegovic, then Bosnia’s leader, who was surrounded by “extreme nationalists”.
According to the witness, because of his presidential role, Izetbegovic held “the biggest responsibility” for the breakout of the war.
Karadzic is being tried for persecuting Bosniaks and Croats as part of a joint criminal enterprise aimed at forcibly and permanently removing them from territories claimed by Bosnian Serb leaders. He is charged with genocide, crimes against humanity and violation of the laws and customs of war.
According to Zepinic, Karadzic had nothing to do with the arrival of paramilitary units led by Zeljko Raznatovic, the notorious Serb fighter known as Arkan, in the north-eastern Bosnian town of Bijeljina in late March 1992, or the war crimes that were then committed in that area.
While being cross-examined by prosecutor Alan Tieger, Zepinic said that he objected to the division of the Bosnian interior ministry on ethnic grounds, which was advocated by Karadzic and other Bosnian Serb political leaders.
“The division of the police on ethnic grounds was a barrel of gunpowder or a trigger for the war in my country,” Zepinic said.
At his Hague trial this week, Karadzic also called witnesses who denied that Bosnian Serb forces forcibly detained the non-Serb population in improvised detention camps and abused them before committing mass deportations from Rogatica in eastern Bosnia and the Sarajevo suburb of Hadzici.
Vidomir Banduka, a former municipal official in Hadzici, said that Bosniaks left his area in May 1992 and that their departure was followed by “an attack by Muslim forces”. He added that Bosnian Serb territorial defence troops had only one goal – “to defend their houses and families”.
According to his testimony, hundreds of Bosniak civilians voluntarily came to the local sports centre in Hadzici in order to be “protected”.
Karadzic’s trial will resume on Monday.
To the media in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the arrest of Radovan Karadzic, indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, ICTY, for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, was a true sensation, and one to be exploited day after day.
In July 1995 Srebrenica was shelled and occupied by the Army of Republic of Srpska,VRS, despite being declared a protected area by the United Nations. More than 7,000 people were killed, the victims of genocide.