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

Brdjanin Appeals Conviction

Former regional commander claims he had no influence over army and police.
By Simon Jennings
Radoslav Brdjanin this week denied that as former president of the crisis staff in the so-called Autonomous Region of Krajina, ARK, he was responsible for failing to prevent war crimes committed during the conflict in former Yugoslavia.

The former Bosnian Serb official is appealing his conviction and 32-year prison sentence for the persecution, murder and torture of the non-Serb population in northwestern Bosnia in 1992.

The prosecution maintains that as the highest civilian authority in ARK, Brdjanin had a duty under international humanitarian law to ensure the non-Serbian prisoners of war were protected. Prosecutors also say that as head of the regional government he had de facto authority over the police and great influence over the army.

John Ackerman, for the defence, said Brdjanin’s duty to defend the prisoners of war did not exist “unless the act could effect something”. Rejecting the prosecution’s “chain of circumstantial evidence”, Ackerman said that unless it could be found that acting would have had a beneficial effect it is not possible to condemn Brdjanin.

Brdjanin said he did not have power over the police and the army. And he said that representatives of the international community like the Red Cross never addressed him, which they would have done had he carried the status claimed by the prosecution.

“It is only when people need to be blamed that it is said that I headed the government,” he told the tribunal.

Brdjanin went on to explain that crimes are kept secret during a war and he was not aware of them going on, hence his failure to prevent them. “It is absurd to think I was aware of everything going on,” he said.

Brdjanin emphasised his role as “a thorn in the side” of people who profited from the war in the Balkans and that he “deeply regretted that so many people fell victim to the war while certain individuals were making themselves rich”.

Simon Jennings is an IWPR reporter in London.

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