Conflicting Evidence in Delic Trial

Two former Bosnian army soldiers give differing accounts of their visit to a house where Serb prisoners were held.

Conflicting Evidence in Delic Trial

Two former Bosnian army soldiers give differing accounts of their visit to a house where Serb prisoners were held.

Friday, 12 October, 2007
A witness testifying in the trial of former Bosnian army chief Rasim Delic this week contradicted the testimony of his ex-colleague who said they witnessed Serb prisoners being mistreated by the foreign fighters Muslim known as mujahedin.

Fadil Imamovic, former assistant commander for security at the 35th Division of the Bosnian Army, ABiH, told judges this week that he went alone to a house in the village of Livade on the July 22, 1995. There he saw Serb prisoners, but was scared away by mujahedin before he could get any detailed information from them.

This contradicted the testimony of Izudin Hajdarhodzic - a former assistant commander for intelligence in the 35th

Division - who earlier in the week told the court that he went to visit the prisoners at the house together with Imamovic, after receiving reports that a large number of Serb soldiers had been captured in an ABiH operation.

Once inside, said Hajdarhodzic, he saw a prisoner brought in tied to a long wooden pole with wire. According to him, when the two ABiH officers asked the mujahedin to untie the prisoner, they refused.

Hundreds of foreign Muslim volunteers fought alongside the Bosnian army during the 1992-1995 war.

Prosecutors in the Delic case have been trying to show that Serb prisoners of war were mistreated by members of the El Mujahed detachment which they say was under the effective command of the ABiH.

The defence, however, insists this was not the case and therefore that Delic cannot be held accountable for crimes committed by the detachment.

Delic, who was the commander of the main staff of the ABiH from June 1993, is charged with war crimes, including murder, cruel treatment and rape. He is accused of failing to prevent or punish foreign Muslim fighters who allegedly executed and mistreated tens of captured Serb soldiers and civilians during 1995.

The indictment alleges that on July 21, 1995, the El Mujahed detachment of the ABiH launched an attack in Krcevine in the Zavidovici municipality in Bosnia.

Following the attack, “soldiers of the [Bosnian Serb army] were captured and taken to Livade village. Two captured soldiers, Momir Mitrovic and Predrag Knezevic, were killed and decapitated by the ABiH soldiers. The prisoners were subjected to daily beatings in Livade and on July 23 1995, they were taken to the Kamenica Camp,” said the indictment.

It was in the Croatian village of Livade that Imamovic said he encountered the prisoners.

This week, Imamovic explained to the court that he went along to a house in Livade on July 22, 1995, after being told by another soldier that Serb prisoners were being held there by the El-Mujahed detachment of the Bosnian army.

He went to the house to investigate, and a mujahedin fighter standing guard outside to his “great surprise” allowed him into the house.

The witness testified that in one room of the house, he saw a group of 11 Bosniaks and three Bosnian Serb prisoners. He said that he only managed to get the names of Serb soldiers and the names of their units before another mujahedin soldier came in.

The soldier spoke to him in a language he didn’t understand. “But I understood it would be better for me to get out, for my personal safety,” said the witness.

Because of the “pressure” the witness felt, he could not remember whether the hands of the prisoners were tied.

“Everything went really fast so I didn’t [notice many] details,” he said.

Imamovic added he had been “very, very scared”.

Afterwards, he included the incident in a report that was then sent to the commands of the 35th Division and the 3rd Corps.

During his testimony, the judges asked Imamovic several times whether he had been alone while he saw the prisoners.

At first, Imamovic insisted he was alone, but when asked again later, he said, “I can’t recall whether anybody was with me.”

During cross examination, Delic’s defence counsel seemed to have a field day.

As well as giving contradictory testimony on whether he visited the house in Livade alone, Imamovic also seemed to undermine the prosecution argument that the El Mujahed detachment was under the effective control of the ABiH.

When the defence confronted him with two ABiH reports both dated June 2, 1995 - which contained different numbers of mujahedin fighters - Fadil Imamovic testified that nobody in the Bosnian army knew any detailed information on the El Mujahed detachment.

´The exact strength of the El Mujahed detachment could never be determined,” said Imamovic.

While the exact number of forces in every other ABiH unit was always known at any given time, he said.

Imamovic also testified he received security reports from his associates in all units except from the El Mujahed detachment – in which he had no associates.

As the session ended, defence counsel Vasvija Vidovic seemed eager to continue the cross examination. The witness was “very valuable” for the defence, she said.

Marije van der Werff is an IWPR reporter in The Hague.
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