Courtside

Judges Dismiss Evidence From Karadzic Witnesses

Defence witness testimony concerns mistreatment of Serbs by Bosnian government forces, rather than the crimes for which he is alleged to bear responsibility.
  • Radojka Pandurevic, one of the three defence witnesses in the Karadzic trial whose testimony was dismissed this week on the grounds that it was not relevant to the case. (Photo: ICTY)

Judges at the trial of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic this week dismissed most of the evidence given by three defence witnesses on the grounds that it was not relevant to the case.

One of the witnesses who appeared at the Hague tribunal this week was Radojka Pandurevic, who was deputy head of Karadzic’s Serb Democratic Party, SDS, in the Sarajevo suburb of Hadzici in 1992.

She told the court that she was arrested on May 26, 1992, after Bosnian government forces took over the village of Rastelica in the Hadzici municipality where she had lived. They took her to a detention centre in the nearby town of Tarcin.

“I was arrested only because I was a Serb and because I was actively supporting SDS and the Serb cause," she said.

Pandurevic said she was held in Tarcin for four years, “together with more than 40 other Serb prisoners”, and was released in 1996.

When prosecutor Caroline Edgerton asked the witness what happened to Muslims from Hadzici itself, which was held by Bosnian Serbs, she said that "they left voluntarily, and were allowed to leave".

The prosecutor then presented Pandurevic with evidence that 280 Bosnian Muslim civilians were arrested and taken to the Kula detention camp, run by the Bosnian Serbs. The witness said she had "no knowledge whatsoever about that".

Earlier in the week, the trial chamber had decided not to hear Pandurevic’s testimony about her experiences in the Tarcin detention centre, because they were “not the subject of the proceedings” against Karadzic and were therefore “not relevant to the case”.

Judges also decided to exclude the complete statement of Branislav Dukic, a witness who was called to testify about crimes committed against Serbs in Sarajevo between 1992 and 1995.

Karadzic, who represents himself in court, is accused of planning and overseeing the 44-month siege of Sarajevo which left nearly 12,000 people dead.

He tried to persuade judges that these witnesses were relevant because they would "explain" why the Bosnian Serb army, VRS, opened fire on the Bosnian government army, and why individuals from the VRS had committed crimes.

Judges stated that "revenge as a motive is not relevant for establishing your own personal responsibility for crimes and actions against civilians".

The third witness who testified for the defence this week, Angelina Pikulic, spoke about her life in the Sarajevo suburb of Pofalici, which was under the Bosnian government army’s control and was very close to the front line.

"I lived a horrible life. I felt like a hostage in my own house, with all those Muslim policemen around me. Some of them even stayed in my garage," Pikulic told the judges.

She also said she was not "allowed to go anywhere without their permission".

"You see, it was not easy to move around as a Serb. There was no Serb army, only Muslims were there in Pofalici, and all the Serb residents were scared and trying to run away in their nightgowns and what little they could pack in small bags," she said.

Pikulic said she and her husband were eventually arrested by Bosnian government forces "because we didn't leave Pofalici [like other Serbs] and were therefore suspicious".

She explained that she was unable to leave because she had relatives in Pofalici, “including a Muslim daughter-in-law with a small baby".

Part of her testimony concerning a crime she says she saw take place outside her house was also excluded from the evidence.

In addition to being accused of planning and overseeing the 44-month siege of Sarajevo, Karadzic is also indicted for the massacre of over 7,000 men and boys in Srebrenica in July 1995. According to prosecutors, he is responsible for crimes of genocide, persecution, extermination, murder and forcible transfer which "contributed to achieving the objective of the permanent removal of Bosnian Muslims and Croats from Bosnian Serb-claimed territory".

The trial continues next week.

Velma Saric is an IWPR-trained reporter in Sarajevo.
 


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