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

Court Hears How Sarajevo Could Not Control Mujahedin

Witness claims Bosnian army couldn’t even get any personal information about foreign Muslim fighters.
By Denis Dzidic
The Hague war crimes trial of the former head of the Bosnian military this week heard that in the 1990s the army lacked a mechanism to force foreign Muslim fighters to obey orders.

Hajrudin Hubo, former chief of personnel in the 3rd Army Corps, testified that the corps command could not even force the El Mujahid unit to provide a list of its personnel.

Rasim Delic is charged with failing to prevent or punish crimes committed by the El Mujahid unit, which was made up of foreign Muslim volunteers who murdered and tortured captured Serb and Croat soldiers in 1995.

According to Hubo, the 3rd Army Corps worked from 1993 until the end of the war to try and get full data on all members of units, but “the El Mujahid unit refused to send complete information”.

“The information we needed was first and last names, passport numbers, country of origin, military experience and education,” he said.

Hubo explained that the El Mujahid unit first refused this and then started sending “completely useless data”.

“When they would send some information, it was always brought by a member of their unit called Muriz Supic. However, the data would contain more then 100 names starting with Abu; they also refused to give out their countries of origin, or passport numbers.”

As a result of this, the witness recalled, the Bosnian army headquarters issued an order in June 1995 to form a commission to examine steps to take in relation to units that refused to give this information.

“The commission was formed, and one of their jobs was to define the role of the El Mujahid unit within the corps. However, I never received any report, so clearly the unit again refused to obey orders,” he explained.

The witness was then asked by the judges if anything was done about the refusal to obey orders. Hubo replied that he was unaware of any disciplinary actions, but had “a feeling that we lacked mechanisms to ensure the subordination of that unit”.

Another witness, a former military policeman, identified only as DV4, was asked by the judges if he knew anything about the command structure or organisation of the El Mujahid unit. He said he had “no contact or knowledge about the El Mujahid unit and never knew under whose command they were”.

The witness also talked about a large military operation near the village of Borovnice, in the Zavidovici municipality, in which several Bosnian army units took part, and where he saw foreign Muslim fighters.

“It was a large group of about 40 or 50 Arabs, some of them were wearing uniforms without any emblem and others just Arab clothing, but we found out those were not the El Mujahid unit, they were a unit under the command of a certain Zubejir,” said the witness.

“They were moving toward the north, and I heard that they were going to the Vozuca region to continue the fighting.”

According to the indictment, in July and September 1995, the El Mujahid unit attacked the village of Vozuca in the Zavidovici municipality. During this attack, large groups of hostages were taken and placed in the Kamenica camp for detainees, where they were subject to torture and murder by the mujahedin soldiers.

The witness claimed he didn’t know if the El Mujahid unit took part in the attack in Vozuca, but was certain “the group led by Zubejir was heading in that direction”.

Prosecutor Laurie Sartorio challenged the witness’ view claiming his account was “second hand knowledge, and that he couldn’t be sure about their heading”.

Witness DV4 claimed he was “absolutely certain they (the Zubejir group) were heading to the north, toward Vozuca and had heard from someone that they were going to fight there”.

The trial will continue next week.

Denis Dzidic is an IWPR-trained reporter in Sarajevo.