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Karadzic: Krajisnik Not Part of Bosnian Serb Presidency

Former Bosnian Serb leader said records which seem to show Krajisnik as Bosnian Serb presidency member are imprecise.
By Simon Jennings
Ex-Bosnian Serb president Radovan Karadzic told the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal this week that his former close associate was not part of a key decision-making body during the Bosnian war.

Karadzic, himself a war crimes suspect, was giving evidence in support of an appeal lodged by ex-Bosnian Serb parliamentary speaker Momcilo Krajisnik, who was sentenced to 27 years in prison by Hague tribunal judges in September 2006.

Krajisnik was convicted of crimes against humanity, including the murder, persecution and extermination carried out by the Bosnian Serb regime against Bosniaks and Bosnian Croats during 1992, but was acquitted of genocide charges.

In its judgement, the trial chamber found that during 1992, Krajisnik was an active member of a war-time, five-member presidency of the Bosnian Serb entity that later became Republika Srpska, RS. Judges supported this finding with three sets of presidency minutes taken from meetings held between June and October that year which had been signed by the accused as the meetings’ chairman.

However, at a hearing on November 5, Karadzic denied that the three-member presidency of the Bosnian Serb entity was expanded during the war to include Krajisnik. He explained that the minutes from the meetings which suggested the accused was a member of the presidency during 1992 had been written in error.

“Krajisnik was not a member of the presidency and the minutes are not a document on the basis of which you can conclude that,” Karadzic told judges.

“That’s an imprecision of the person who kept the minutes.”

At the main appeals hearing on August 20, prosecutors called on judges to sentence Krajisnik to life imprisonment, which they had originally asked for during the first-instance trial, while Krajisnik sought acquittal on all charges.

This week, Karadzic was providing supplementary evidence, having been called as a witness by Krajisnik, as he was unavailable during the trial. Karadzic was only arrested in July after 13 years on the run and faces charges of war crimes, and crimes against humanity, including genocide, carried out in Bosnia during the war.

Prosecutor Alan Tieger cross-examined Karadzic in court, following the ex-Bosnian Serb president’s submission of an 11-page statement in place of oral testimony.

Tieger pointed to a specific set of minutes from the 21st session of the presidency, signed by Karadzic himself, which mentioned Krajisnik as an attending member.

Karadzic explained that the minutes “were something quite unimportant” and that only orders and decisions were official presidency documents.

“Minutes [on their own] mean nothing because they are kept by someone who does not have a lot of knowledge about the constitution and state administration,” he said.

Karadzic asserted in his statement that the presidency consisted of only three members, who did not include Krajisnik, and that there was no functioning expanded or war-time presidency, as prosecutors contend.

However, Tieger put it to Karadzic that there were seven presidency sessions at which the minutes – signed by Karadzic – indicated Krajisnik was a member of such a presidency.

Karadzic denied the documents showed Krajisnik was a presidency member. He also explained that at one of the sessions in question, on October 9, two members of the presidency were absent which meant that it did not constitute a presidency meeting at all.

“The presidency was not sitting in a quorum… that’s the essence of the matter,” he said.

Faced with similar defence arguments during the original trial, judges had cast aside the intricacies of how any war-time presidency may have actually functioned.

“What is relevant… is that the accused was present at practically every recorded meeting of the presidency from May 12 1992 onwards, as well as in informal meetings for which minutes are not available, but which were confirmed by witnesses and documents,” ruled judges.

Karadzic’s testimony this week was limited by the fact that he himself is on trial for events closely related to Krajisnik’s case. His lawyer, Peter Robinson, continuously objected to questions put to Karadzic on the grounds that the accused could incriminate himself by answering. Robinson even accused Tieger of structuring questions to incriminate Karadzic in his own trial in which Tieger is also a lead prosecutor. Tieger denied doing this.

During the hearing, the prosecutor presented further evidence that an expanded war-time presidency existed, and Krajisnik was part of it, citing evidence that war commissioners were appointed by this presidency to support municipal authorities. Tieger also pointed to evidence that certain commissioners told an assembly session in Zvornik about their appointment by a war-time presidency.

“They spoke about their existence and their activities and the war presidency to which they reported in late November 1992,” Tieger told Karadzic.

Yet Karadzic maintained that the war-time presidency was something that was only ever envisaged and never actually established.

“This was just a preparation for the eventuality of a state of war in which the municipal authorities would not be able to function,” he said.

Karadzic was then questioned by Krajisnik himself, followed by his American defence lawyer Nathan Dershowitz, who is representing Krajisnik on the charges relating to his alleged involvement in a joint criminal enterprise.

Karadzic denied that the accused had encouraged or supported the murder and removal of Bosniaks or Bosnian Croats and said he was sympathetic to Muslims.

“It’s not only that [Krajisnik] was well known as a conciliatory person, he was also well known as a person who understood the Muslims,” said Karadzic. “The Muslims themselves, [Bosnian President Alija] Izetbegovic himself asked that Krajisnik always be on the negotiating team because they had a good understanding.”

Karadzic supported Dershowitz’s distinction between an operational expanded presidency, which the prosecution claims Krajisnik was a member of, and what the defence claims were expanded sessions of the three-member presidency attended by Krajisnik.

In his statement, Karadzic claimed Krajisnik only attended presidency meetings “as an invitee” along with others who were not presidency members.

“An expanded session means that that session is attended by someone who is not a member of that body,” said Karadzic in court.

He explained that while ministers would sometimes attend such sessions as advisors, that did not make them members of the presidency.

Prosecutors also argued this week that a document of six strategic goals drawn up at the Bosnian Serb assembly on May 12, 1992, at which the accused was present, defined its military objectives in the war. The defence argues that the objectives served only as a platform for a political solution.

Karadzic said the goals were drawn up in coordination with the Cutilhero plan – a document drafted by the international community in Lisbon in 1992 to bring about peace.

Karadzic said Krajisnik’s negotiating position was as a representative of the parliament, a separate body from the presidency and the cabinet which also took part in negotiations to find a solution to the war.

Karadzic further asserted that there was no connection between the political negotiations involving the accused and the military action carried out on the ground.

“Mr Krajisnik throughout [that] time was a member of the negotiating team… We never lost hope that a political solution would be found,” testified Karadzic. “This has nothing to do with military goals.”

A further evidentiary hearing will be held on November 11 relating to allegations that Krajisnik received ineffective legal assistance and had an unfair trial as a result.

Simon Jennings is an IWPR reporter in The Hague.

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