COURTSIDE: Bosanska Krajina Trial

Defence calls judges to be withdrawn after a procedural gaffe.

COURTSIDE: Bosanska Krajina Trial

Defence calls judges to be withdrawn after a procedural gaffe.

The Bosanska Krajina genocide case took a new turn last week after the defence accused the trial chamber of bias.

The claim was made after the court attempted to shorten the proceedings by issuing a document listing issues that neither prosecution nor defence disputed. But the defence complained that the list contained several events not mentioned in the indictment, accusing the judges of partiality and demanding that they be withdrawn.

The judges maintained that they had no involvement in compiling the list - and had not even seen it prior to its release - shifting responsibility to the court clerks.

Radoslav Brdjanin's US counsel, John Ackerman, insisted that the judges (like the accused) must accept superior responsibility for documents emanating from their office.

When the defence then demanded the withdrawal of at least the presiding judge, Carmel Agius, of Malta, the case was sent to Judge Wolfgang Schomburg, to adjudicate. His decision will be announced soon.

Meanwhile, the prosecutor in the trial of Brdjanin and Momir Talic, former members of the Bosnian Serb crisis staff for north-west Bosnia, presented evidence about crimes in Sanski Most, one of the Bosanska Krajina municipalities where it is alleged the persecution of non-Serbs in 1992 amounted to genocide.

The former chief judge of the Sanski Most municipal court, Adil Draganovic, testified about the Serbian take-over. One of the priorities of the new authorities was to remove all Bosniaks and Croats from leading positions and then deprive them of any employment, he said.

Draganovic said he received a letter that read, "You Ustasha (Croatian fascist) will not be our judge any more. We know what you did against the Serbian people. You have until May 15 to leave the municipality with your family. If not, we will kill your wife and children and you will be impaled and roasted ".

The White Eagles, a well-known Serbian paramilitary force, signed the letter. Draganovic immediately sent his family to Germany but remained in the town. "I was waiting. I don't know what for," he said.

The crisis staff under Brdjanin then organised a purge of non-Serb members of the court. He said the military and civil police surrounded it and took Draganovic and other Bosniaks down to the basement. He escaped the next day, but was arrested and beaten after returning to visit his parents 10 days later. He was taken 24 days later to Manjaca camp, near Banja Luka.

The prosecution alleges that the camp was under the control of the military police, which makes Talic responsible for the torture and forced labour there. Draganovic will continue his testimony, subject to the outcome of the complaint against the trial chamber.

Vjera Bogati is an IWPR special correspondent at The Hague and a journalist with SENSE News Agency.

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