Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Bosnian Serb Officer on Mladic-Karadzic Rivalry

Army chief Mladic checked subordinate’s office for pictures of himself and Karadzic.
By Rachel Irwin
  • Dragomir Milosevic, defence witness in the Karadzic  trial. (Photo: ICTY)
    Dragomir Milosevic, defence witness in the Karadzic trial. (Photo: ICTY)

Testifying for a second consecutive week, a Bosnian Serb general deployed at Sarajevo insisted that his soldiers committed “no crimes” against Bosnian Muslims in the area under his command.

The witness, Dragomir Milosevic, was testifying on behalf of wartime Bosnian Serb president Radovan Karadzic in his defence case at the Hague tribunal. Karadzic, who was president of the self-declared Republika Srpska from 1992 until 1996, is charged with planning and overseeing the siege of Sarajevo.

General Milosevic commanded the Bosnian Serb army’s Sarajevo-Romanija Corps from August 1994 until the end of the conflict. He stood trial in The Hague in 2007, and was found guilty of terror, murder and inhumane acts for deliberately targeting civilians in the 44-month campaign of shelling and sniping against Sarajevo that ravaged the city and left some 12,000 people dead.

He was initially given 33 years in prison, but that was reduced to 29 years on appeal. Milosevic is currently serving his sentence in Estonia.

(For IWPR’s report on the first part of Milosevic’s testimony, see Sarajevo Units Fired on Own Side to "Blame Serbs".)

The accused spent a total of 14 hours questioning his former general on a range of matters, including the treatment of “civilians of other ethnicities” in the area where he was in command.

“In the area of the Sarajevo Romanija Corps… there were a number of people of another ethnicity, in this case Muslims. I know that no crimes were committed against them… such as beatings, detentions, torture, mistreating, killings, etc. The same status was accorded to Muslims as other citizens. They were not tortured or approached in a negative way,” Milosevic said.

When judges asked him to expand on some earlier statements, the witness described tensions between Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, the commander of the Bosnian Serb army.

“We started feeling, or rather sensing that there were problems in relations between Mr. Karadzic and General Mladic. The relationship was one of domination, or rather Mladic wanted to be independent and not controlled by any superior body, and that was the structure of their overall relationship,” Milosevic said.

Mladic, the witness said, “wanted to reap rewards of his popularity among the people and achieve certain affects, perhaps in certain future elections or something”.

Milosevic said he respected Mladic’s orders, but not in an “overzealous” way.

“I was not overzealous in my dealings with him and that’s why I was put under lots of pressure. It was implied that I obeyed Mr Karadzic, that I obeyed his orders,” the witness said.

“When General Mladic entered my office at corps command he inspected my walls to see whether his photo was hanging on them,” Milosevic said, adding that it was not.

However, Mladic “was also happy that President Karadzic’s photo was not on wall.”

There were rumours that Karadzic wanted to remove Mladic as army chief, but the witness said he “couldn’t confirm where and when [Karadzic] may have put forth any requests” for this.

“Any details about the conflict between the two people is something I’m not aware of. I’m merely discussing the general impression,” Milosevic said.

However, at a meeting of top military officials in Banja Luka, “it was clear that they accepted General Mladic’s position, in the sense that Karadzic was wrong and that Mladic should not be removed”.

When presiding Judge O-Gon Kwon asked the witness to clarify, he said that “at the meeting, they support Mladic”.

“That means that they believed Karadzic was wrong. If all of them arrived there and in their conversations they expressed… that they support Mladic, this is in turn meant that they were trying to say that Mr Karadzic was wrong,” he said.

Milosevic will be cross-examined by prosecutors next week.

Rachel Irwin is IWPR’s Senior Reporter in The Hague.

More IWPR's Global Voices