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Expert Testifies That Systematic Destruction of Bosnia's Non-Serb Cultural Heritage Largely Took Place in 1992

By Coalition for International Justice (CIJ)

Of the nearly 400 Islamic and Roman Catholic sacral sites surveyed throughout Bosnia-Hercegovina, almost all of them had been damaged or destroyed during the war, with 85% of the destruction occurring in the year 1992 alone – the operative time frame for the indictment against former Bosnian Serb Assembly President Momcilo Krajisnik.  This is according to the Prosecution's expert witness, Andras Riedlmayer an Islamic art and architecture specialist with HarvardUniversity's Fine Arts Library, who previously testified in the Milosevic case. 


 


Mr. Riedlmayer's evidence was largely tendered through Rules 92 and 94bis which allow, respectively, a transcript of his testimony from the Milosevic case, as well as his expert report to be submitted in lieu of a lengthy direct examination.  After Mr. Riedlmayer briefly presented his main findings, he was asked by the Prosecution to speak to the 'significance' of attacks on the Islamic and Roman Catholic sites.  This prompted a strong objection by the Defense on the grounds that even though Mr. Reidlmayer was allowed to render his opinion as an expert, this question fell outside his area of expertise.  Judge Orie sustained the objection and the Prosecution ended its examination – to the slight agitation of the Defense which had hoped to cross examine the witness on issues that, unfortunately for them, were not raised in direct evidence.  Defense attorney Nicholas Stewart even invited further direct examination on how the witness's findings related to the specifics of the indictment. 


 


According to the indictment, Momcilo Krajisnik is charged with persecution as a crime against humanity for 'the intentional or wanton destruction of …property including cultural monuments and sacred sites listed in Schedule D.'


 


Mr. Stewart argued that the indictment was 'very bare' and even suggested that he might 'go to Bosnia to inspect' purported destroyed sites himself.  The indictment against the accused Krajisnik lists in its Schedule D damaged or destroyed non-Serb cultural sites in 29 municipalities with hardly any more description than 'Mosque at ___' or 'Catholic Church in the town of ___'.  Mr. Stewart noted that while the indictment listed 29 municipalities, Mr. Riedlmayer only provided evidence from 11 municipalities, including from Banja Luka, which is not listed in the indictment.   Mr. Stewart's strategy may have been to show that the Prosecution had not met its burden of proving that the accused was responsible for the destruction of sacred sites because the Prosecutor's own expert brought evidence of cultural destruction (in Banja Luka) that was not attributed to the defendant in the indictment.  Therefore, it might not be so clear who was responsible for the destruction of property.  Following along this theme, the Defense questioned Mr. Riedlmayer on the destruction of the Alazda Mosque, which was documented both in the indictment and in the witness's own report.  Mr. Riedlmayer had interviewed a local resident who said the mosque was blown up by Serb 'extremists' in 1992.   The defense noted that 'extremists' suggested forces far different than organized military units which had the means to use heavily artillery to shell sites. (Mr. Riedlmayer had testified that some destruction was caused by shelling).


 


Mr. Reidlmayer conceded that he was not able to say which particular Bosnian Serb forces were responsible for the destruction of the mosque, but noted that his mandate was not to determine who the culprits were, but rather to assess the damage and ascertain the time period in which the destruction occurred. 


 


Mr. Stewart suggested that Mr. Riedlmayer could not conclude that destruction of certain sites described in his report fit a pattern of a systematic effort to destroy cultural property.  The witness shot back that in fact he could conclude exactly that - noting that in Foca, for example, none of the thirteen mosques previously standing were left functioning, and eleven of them had been completely razed.  However, the town itself had not been leveled, suggesting that the mosques were singled out for destruction.  When Mr. Stewart suggested that destruction was consistent with ardent extremists at work (not under the direction of the Republika Srpska authorities), the witness noted that resources needed to tear down these cultural sites – labor, explosives and heavy road moving equipment required a great deal of coordination and planning – suggesting a centralized plan.


 


The Prosecution case is expected to last until no later than the 22nd of July.    

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