News 30 Jun 10

Karadzic's Minister of Justice Takes the Stand

The minister of justice in Radovan Karadzic's wartime government, Momcilo Mandic, began his testimony today at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, and asked not to be called the prosecution witness but rather the court witness.

Nidzara Ahmetasevic

Mandic asked the trial chamber to give him the status of the court witness.

None of the sides complained, and the chamber accepted the witness' request, reminding him that he must tell the truth.

The reason for this formal request by Mandic, as he explained upon entering the courtroom, was that he was considered by the prosecution as a person who helped wartime Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic remain in hiding until 2008, when he was finally arrested.   

Because of the prosecution's suspicion that Mandic was aiding Karadzic, the EU and the US put Mandic's name on a “black list” in 2003, restricting his ability to travel. Mandic is still on the list.

“My family and I, we went through years of suffering because of this... Even on my way to The Hague, I was stopped by the border police and held for over one hour,” Mandic said. “And as such, I have to give a testimony for the prosecution?!”

The Appellate Chamber of the State Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina acquitted Mandic on all charges for war crimes against civilians and crimes against humanity in February this year.

The trial chamber at the ICTY reminded Mandic that he had been subpoenaed by the court and is required to testify.

After Mandic was ordered to come to The Hague, the chamber issued an order for his safe travel during the period he is to testify at the trial of Radovan Karadzic.

In 1991 Mandic was appointed deputy minister of the interior of Bosnia and Herzegovina. In 1992 for a brief time Mandic was deputy to Mico Stanisic, the interior minister of the Serb Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which later became Republika Srpska, RS.

On May 12, 1992, he was appointed minister of justice of RS and he served until November 1992, when he was appointed chief of the RS office in Belgrade.

The prosecution submitted Mandic’s earlier testimony, which was given in 2004 during the trial of Momcilo Krajisnik, the former speaker of the Republika Srpska Assembly who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for war crimes.  

In the statement, which was partially read out in the courtroom, Mandic talked about ethnic division inside the police before the war, the arming of Serb officers and the opening of “collective centres or camps” for prisoners.

He said that Karadzic knew about the centres and that in at least one, women and children, as well as civilians were kept.

Mandic testified that in some cases prisoners were sent for forced labour.

He also said that one of the goals of the Serb government was the separation of Sarajevo along ethnic lines and that the way to achieve this was with war.

According to Mandic, Karadzic was “absolutely number one” in the RS, followed by Krajisnik.

Answering the questions of the prosecution, Mandic said that he met Karadzic for the first time in 1991 at the Sarajevo headquarters of the Serbian Democratic Party, SDS, when he was considered for a position in the Ministry of Interior.  

The SDS was headed by Karadzic.

He also said that before the war, the Bosnian police had “about 2,000 more Serbs" than Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims), Croats, or any other group, explaining that the situation was due to the “lack of interest" for the job among other groups.

“There is a saying – a Serb goes gladly into the army (Rado ide Srbin u vojnike) – and police I have to add. It was like that back in 60s and 70s since many Serbs were living in a remote areas, working in the fields, and they used to go to the police or army to have a better life,” Mandic explained.

His testimony will continue on July 1.

Before Mandic was called into the courtroom, Karadzic submitted a motion asking for an “additional 3 to 4 days” to prepare for the cross-examination. The chamber has yet to decide on his request.

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