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Courtside: Bosanski Samac Trial

“Insider witness” testimony is heard in secret.
By Mirna Jancic

Eagerly awaited testimony by insider witness Stevan Todorovic was last week held behind closed doors because of safety fears.

Bosanski Samac's former police chief said he had received unspecified threats and would only continue to testify in private. The request for secrecy came after the prosecution inquired whether the witness had visited specific mass grave sites in Bosnia in the company of tribunal prosecutors.

Todorovic was indicted alongside Simo Zaric, Blagoje Simic, Miroslav Tadic and Milan Simic for crimes against non-Serbs in Bosanski Samac. He unexpectedly changed his plea to guilty in December 2000 and agreed to testify against his former co-accused.

There are several possible explanations for Todorovic's fears: he was known for his particular cruelty during the ethnic cleansing of non-Serbs in the area - so much so that judges stressed his 10-year sentence would have been doubled had he not pleaded guilty; and his testimony could prove crucial in establishing the guilt of his former co-accused.

The men facing trial are former colleagues of the "insider witness". Milan and Blagoje Simic and Tadic were members of the town's crisis staff, while Zaric led the Serbian Democratic Party's paramilitary group.

Todorovic told the tribunal how the men had organised the takeover of the town and were aware of the crimes committed by their subordinates.

Mirna Jancic is an IWPR assistant editor.

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