News 22 Feb 13

Bosniaks ‘Could Have Stopped Years of Bloodshed’

A former international mediator told Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic’s Hague trial that a proposed 1992 peace deal, rejected by the Bosniaks, could have prevented the war.

Justice Report

Former peace mediator in Bosnia Jose Cutileiro told Radovan Karadzic’s trial this week that in 1992, the Bosniaks initially accepted and then refused a plan for the reorganisation of the country into three entities, which could have prevented further conflict.

Portuguese diplomat Cutileiro, who was compelled to testify under a subpoena by the Tribunal after a request from Karadzic’s defence, said that the failure of the proposed ‘Lisbon Agreement’ was “a true tragedy”.

Cutileiro said that the Dayton peace agreement that ended the war three years later was “nearly the same”, which meant that “numerous lives could have been saved”.

The witness specified that the lost lives were “predominantly Muslim”.

The Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs initially signed the agreement, which was created by Cutileiro and Britain's Lord Carrington, but the Bosniaks changed their position a few days later, saying they would not accept the division of Bosnia on ethnic grounds.

Cutileiro said that “[late Bosnian president Alija] Izetbegovic’s refusal to accept that the real Bosnia was different from the one he wanted, contributed to the prolongation of the war as much as the dreams about ‘Greater Serbia’ and Croatian hegemony”.

According to the witness, the Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs in Bosnia all lied during negotiations, but “the Bosnian Serbs lied the least”.  

While being cross-examined by Prosecutor Alan Tieger, Cutileiro said that when the agreement failed, the Bosnian Serbs “continued conducting a brutal offensive”.

Karadzic is charged with genocide in Srebrenica, the persecution of Bosniaks and Croats, terrorising the citizens of Sarajevo and taking UN peacekeepers hostage during the 1992-95 conflict.

Karadzic’s defence also called to the stand this week the former president of the Bosnian Serbs’ supreme military court, Novak Todorovic, who claimed that Bosnian Serb soldiers were indicted and tried for serious crimes during the war.  
In his statement, Todorovic said that Karadzic insisted on the “independence” and “objectivity” of the Bosnian Serb military judiciary.

Todorovic further said that he was totally independent in his work and that the civilian and military authorities never tried to influence him.

According to the witness, “a certain number of Serbs were tried for grave crimes, including rape and murders”.

The trial this week also heard from ex-policeman Zoran Durmic, ex-member of Karadzic’s party Slavko Veselinovic and former prison camp guard Momir Deuric, who all accused Bosniaks of causing the breakout of the war in the eastern towns of Rogatica and Vlasenica.

All three witnesses claimed that the Bosniaks began arming their forces and preparing for the war in 1991.

Durmic and Veselinovic told the court that in May 1992, Bosniak forces attacked Serb villages in the Rogatica area and the town itself, killing and deporting civilians.

Karadzic’s trial continues next week.

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