Court Hears Mujahedin Operated Independently

Former Bosnian army officer says El Mujahid unit took orders from no one.

Court Hears Mujahedin Operated Independently

Former Bosnian army officer says El Mujahid unit took orders from no one.

Saturday, 20 October, 2007
A witness testifying this week at the trial of former Bosnian army chief General Rasim Delic said that the El Mujahid unit, comprising mostly foreign Muslim fighters, or mujahedin, was outside the command and control of the Army of Bosnia Hercegovina, ABiH

Ismet Alija, former chief of the operational planning department in the ABiH, confirmed testimonies of several previous prosecution witnesses who claimed the mujahedin were very independent and didn’t communicate much with the rest of the ABiH.

This week, the prosecutors showed the witness a regular combat report sent to the ABiH general staff in August 1995. In that report, the El Mujahid unit was mentioned as being in charge of deciding the timing of an upcoming military operation.

When Judge Frederik Harhoff from Denmark asked the witness whether this document indicated that the El Mujahid was a leading force in the ABiH, the witness was adamant this was not the case.

He said members of the unit were not often assigned tasks in which they were allowed to determine the start of the operations.

Alija also said that in his opinion the El Mujahid was not within an ABiH system of command and control, adding they were a “closed unit” and “very hard to reach”.

“If they decided to do something, they did it,” the witness told the court.

Hundreds of foreign Muslim volunteers fought alongside the Bosnian army during the 1992-1995 war, and the El Mujahid detachment was formed in August 1993.

Delic is charged on the basis of his command responsibility for failing to take necessary and reasonable measures to prevent crimes committed by his subordinates during the Bosnian 1992-95 war.

The indictment holds Delic responsible for crimes mujahedin allegedly committed against civilians and captured soldiers in the villages of Maline and Bikoši in the Travnik municipality, central Bosnia, in June 1993.

Delic is also being held accountable for the mistreatment and killings of prisoners of war in July and September 1995, allegedly by El Mujahid members, who were then officially subordinated to the ABiH.

So far, the prosecution has been trying to show that mujahedin were under the effective command and control of the ABiH.

In order to support their claim that all ABiH units, including El Mujahid, were under Delic´s command, the prosecutors played a video apparently recorded in September 1995, upon Delic’s return from a ten-day visit to Malaysia. During Delic’s absence, General Enver Hadzihasanovic acted as his deputy.

In the video played in court this week, Delic was heard saying that even though he had been abroad, “command and control still functions”.

He was further heard explaining that he had been personally involved in planning combat operations.

Alija agreed it was Delic on the video, but said he couldn´t comment on it.

He said he did not know what kind of communication took place between the general when he was abroad and Hadzihasanovic.

The defence tried to prevent the video being entered into evidence, arguing that since the witness had no comments on its content, it could not be considered evidence.

The objection was overruled by the judges.

Throughout his testimony, Alija appeared to be very uncomfortable and visibly annoyed by the fact that he had to testify in the trial of his former commander.

This week, the prosecution informed the court that they would not be calling their next witness. Previously, they had informed the judges that they needed to discuss additional security measures for this witness.

It was not immediately clear who the witness was, or why he was withdrawn.

The trial continues next week.

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