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

Court Told Zupljanin Prevented Killing of Non-Serbs

Former Bosnian Serb intelligence officer said defendant intervened to stop executions of Bosniaks and Roma.
By Alexandra Arkin
  • Goran Sajinovic, a defence witness in the case against two former senior Bosnian Serb police officials, Zupljanin and Mico Stanisic. (Photo: ICTY)
    Goran Sajinovic, a defence witness in the case against two former senior Bosnian Serb police officials, Zupljanin and Mico Stanisic. (Photo: ICTY)

A former employee of the Bosnian Serb Security Services Centre, CSB, in Banja Luka told the trial of Stojan Zupljanin this week that the defendant prevented the deaths or abuse of non-Serb civilians on a number of occasions in 1992.

Goran Sajinovic, a member of the so-called Milos intelligence group, testified as a defence witness in the case against two former senior Bosnian Serb police officials, Zupljanin and Mico Stanisic.

The Milos intelligence group in 1992 gathered intelligence and security-related information on behalf of the CSB in Banja Luka, in northwestern Bosnia, but it was sent to Belgrade, the court heard.

Zupljanin, the former chief of the regional CSB in Banja Luka, and Stanisic, the former Bosnian Serb minister of internal affairs, are alleged to have participated in a joint criminal enterprise to permanently remove Bosniaks, Bosnian Croats and other non-Serbs from the territory of an intended Serb state.

They are accused of crimes committed between April 1 and December 31, 1992 in 20 municipalities throughout Bosnia.

Testifying this week at the tribunal, Sajinovic recounted one incident from May of 1992 that occurred when he and the Milos group’s leader, Predrag Radulovic, were driving to Banja Luka.

They reached a crossroads where they saw a large group of civilians and a few men wearing military uniforms and carrying automatic rifles. Sajinovic said the group - about 315 Bosniaks and Roma - was about to be executed.

Because the area they were in was a territorial boundary between the CSB Banja Luka and the CSB Doboj, Sajinovic called Zupljanin – who was his superior – and told him what was happening.

“[Zupljanin] told me that we should make every effort to keep everyone safe and sound, that no civilians should be killed, and that he would send the closest police unit he had to help us get the situation under control,” Sajinovic told the judges.

A police unit soon arrived and resolved the situation, and the civilians continued on their journey.

The witness also described Zupljanin’s reaction when he told him about the conditions at the Keraterm and Omarska prison camps - which Sajinovic called “reception centres” - near Prijedor in northwestern Bosnia.

Sajinovic and Radulovic went to these camps in the summer of 1992 to see if any of the Milos group’s informants were being held at either location and needed their assistance.

According to Sajinovic, neither camp had any Milos operatives, and the witness and Radulovic returned to Banja Luka.

Stopping at the CSB building to drop off their vehicle and equipment, they ran into Zupljanin and Djuro Bulic, deputy chief of the Banja Luka CSB, who were just leaving the centre.

Sajinovic recalled Radulovic briefly telling their superiors what they had seen - that the situation in the “reception centres” and detainees’ accommodation conditions were “not the best”.

“I think [Radulovic] mentioned that there was some abuse by the persons who were bringing these individuals in and providing security at the reception centres,” Sajinovic said. “However, I do not remember that Mr Radulovic mentioned any specific names or events. Basically he said that the situation was worse than he had thought.”

The witness said Zupljanin looked “surprised” and “in disbelief” at what he was hearing, “He said that he would check what Radulovic was saying, and that in accordance with the information he would receive, he would react within the scope of his possibilities.”

Prosecutor Matthew Olmsted cross-examined Sajinovic about the Milos group’s relationship to the state security services, and who had access to their reports.

The witness said that on the Milos team - which only consisted of three people - it was Radulovic who decided what intelligence to gather, and was most responsible for maintaining their network of operatives.

Sajinovic and his other co-worker were in charge of technical aspects of the work. The group’s reports were sometimes written by Sajinovic himself, sometimes by Sajinovic in conjunction with another colleague.

And, according to the witness, Milos reports were held at the CSB centre in Banja Luka – where Radulovic alone could access to them – and then sent to the state security centre in Belgrade.

Sajinovic said that Milos reports had been kept in a safe in the CSB, and only Radulovic had a key to the safe.

Olmsted suggested that Zupljanin had access to and contact with the Milos group, and used the group to convey information to the Serbian ministry of interior, MUP. Olmsted referred to reports bearing Zupljanin’s name at the bottom, saying that his name would not appear on them unless he authorised them in some way.

But the witness insisted that the defendant had little involvement in the Milos group’s daily activities or reports.

Olmsted showed the witness a document and suggested that it was a communication from the Serbian MUP to the Milos group asking the group to “work with Mr Zupljanin” on a specific issue if necessary.

Sajinovic said confirming that would be speculation, and that he was unfamiliar with the document and its subject. “What it says here - ‘If necessary, engage Zupljanin’ - I really cannot believe that this referred to Mr Stojan Zupljanin,” he said. “There were a number of people named Zupljanin in the area of Banja Luka.”

When asked about other reports, the witness said he had never seen them before or could not confirm who wrote them.

Stanisic surrendered in March 2005, while Zupljanin was arrested by Serbian authorities on June 10, 2008, after 13 years as a fugitive. Both defendants - whose indictments were joined together in September 2008 - have pleaded not guilty to all charges.

The trial began in September 2009. Unless a witness is available to testify earlier, it will reconvene on November 8.

Alexandra Arkin is IWPR’s intern in The Hague.