News 08 Mar 13

Bosniaks ‘Left Homes Voluntarily’ During Wartime

Defence witnesses told the Hague trial of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic that his forces didn’t expel civilians or intern them in prison camps during the conflict.

Justice Report

Mane Djuric, former police chief in the town of Vlasenica, testified at the Hague Tribunal this week that Bosniaks were responsible for conflict that erupted there in 1992 because they were being illegally armed.

He said the Bosnian Serb Army “did not occupy anything” in Vlasenica, “it just liberated what Muslims had occupied”.

In late April 1992, the local Serbian Crisis Committee, of which he was a member, defined procedures for “enabling citizens to leave Vlasenica in case they wanted to”.

“The civilians, who wanted to leave, and that included Muslims, Croats and Serbs, were sent to a reception centre in Susica, which was not a detention camp for Muslims, as alleged by the prosecutors,” Djuric said.

In 2004, Susica’s commander Dragan Nikolic was sentenced to 20 years in jail by the Hague Tribunal after admitting the persecution, murder and torture of Bosniak detainees.

Former Bosnian Serb leader Karadzic is on trial for genocide, crimes against humanity and violations of the laws and customs of war, and part of his indictment alleges that he persecuted the Muslim population in Vlasenica.

Witness Djuric said that, during his meetings with Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb leader said laws should be applied equally to all citizens, irrespective of their ethnicity.

Karadzic this week also called a doctor from Bijeljina, Milivoje Kicanovic, who denied allegations that Serb forces deported Bosnikas from the town, claiming that actually they “helped” them leave.  

Kicanovic described the conflict in Bijeljina as a consequence of actions by “Muslim extremists” who “blocked the streets and shoot at people randomly”.

According to Kicanovic, who met Karadzic on several occasions, the Bosnian Serb leader called for the easing of tensions in Bijeljina and “sincerely wanted to prevent the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina”.

Savo Bojanovic, a former judge at the military court in Bijeljina, also testified in Karadzic’s defence and claimed that he tried Serbs who committed crimes including the murder of two prisoners and the rape of two Bosniak women.

Another defence witness Obren Markovic, denied that Bosniak and Croat civilians were deported from the town of Brcko. He blamed Bosniak and Croat forces for the outbreak of the war there.

Karadzic’s trial will resume next week.

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