Krajisnik Judgement Condemned Across Bosnia

Serbs say 27-year sentence too severe, while Muslims very disappointed by acquittal on genocide charges.

Krajisnik Judgement Condemned Across Bosnia

Serbs say 27-year sentence too severe, while Muslims very disappointed by acquittal on genocide charges.

Friday, 29 September, 2006
Tension in the packed public gallery prior to the judgement in the case of the former Bosnian Serb parliamentary speaker Momcilo Krajisnik was almost palpable.

So much so, that even one of the guards turned to the press and public gathered to watch the last day of the marathon trial and said, “Whatever the outcome might be, please stay calm.”

Krajisnik himself appeared to be quite nervous. He paced up and down at the back of the courtroom as he waited for about ten minutes for the judges to come inside.

When they finally did, his mood suddenly changed. As Presiding Judge Alphons Orie from Holland began reading out a summary of the findings, Krajisnik sat impassively, occasionally lowering his eyes to the ground when the judge was listing some particularly gruesome atrocity he was charged with.

The judge then announced that Krajisnik was found guilty of extermination, murder, persecution, deportation and forced transfer of non-Serb civilians from large parts of Bosnia during the 1992-95 war, but added that the accused was acquitted of genocide charges.

“The evidence does not show that…the crime of genocide formed a part of the common objective of the joint criminal enterprise in which Mr. Krajisnik is shown on the evidence to have participated, nor that he had the specific intent necessary for genocide”, said Judge Orie.

However, he emphasised the role Krajisnik had in ethnic cleansing which took place in the territories under Serb control.

According to the judgement, the trial chamber established the existence of a joint criminal enterprise, involving top war crimes fugitive Radovan Karadzic and other Bosnian leaders, intended to “ethnically recompose the territories targeted by the Bosnian Serb leadership by drastically reducing the proportion of Bosnian Muslims and Croats through expulsion”.

The trial chamber found that Krajisnik “gave the go-ahead for the expulsion programme to commence during a session of the Bosnian Serb parliament when he called for ‘implementing what we have agreed upon, the ethnic division on the ground’”.

Judge Orie noted that Krajisnik’s position within the Bosnian Serb leadership “gave him the authority to facilitate the military, police and paramilitary groups to implement the objective of the joint criminal enterprise.

“Immense suffering was inflicted upon the victims in this case, and the consequences that the crimes have had on the Muslim and Croat ethnic groups in Bosnia are profound.”

When he finished reading the summary, Judge Orie ordered Krajisnik to stand up. The accused buttoned up his jacket and fiddled with his pen waiting to hear the judgement.

“For your role in these crimes, we sentence you to a single sentence of 27 years of imprisonment,” said Judge Orie.

No one in the audience moved upon hearing the verdict. Krajisnik showed no visible reaction either as the judge read the sentence, and just nodded as the judge said he was entitled to credit for 2369 days already spent in detention.

But his defence counsel Nicholas Stewart, who at the end of the trial called on judges to be “brave enough” and acquit his client of all charges, didn’t hide his emotions. After the judgement was read out, he turned to Krajisnik and took hold of both his hands, in an apparent expression of sympathy.

However, reactions back home were much more heated. Predictably, Bosnian Serbs slammed the verdict as another sign of the tribunal’s “anti-Serb campaign” and condemned the outcome of the trial as “bias and unfair”.

The President of Republika Srpska, RS, Dragan Cavic told the local media that the sentence passed on the former Bosnian Serb parliamentary speaker is “shocking”, as it can also be viewed as a verdict against the first composition of the Bosnian Serb assembly and everyone in it.

“All this shows that the trial has acquired a political character and that it was conducted not against an individual, but ultimately against RS,” he said.

Serb member of the joint Bosnian presidency Borislav Paravac told RS television that the verdict against Krajisnik proves that “this is all part of the anti-Serb propaganda directed against all Serbs”.

Bosnia’s foreign minister Mladen Ivanic, also a Serb, was more measured in his views, saying the most important outcome of Krajisnik’s trial is that he was not found guilty of genocide or complicity in genocide.

“Considering that Krajisnik was one of the top political leaders of the Bosnian Serbs during the war, this definitely proves that the Serb people or their leaders cannot be accused of genocide,” he told the local media.

Across in the Federation, Bosnian Muslim politicians and victims’ associations said they were also “shocked” – not by the sentence but by the decision to acquit Krajsinik of genocide charges.

“We still cannot believe [it],” Bakira Hasecic, head of the Women-Victims of War association, told French agency AFP. “The sentence is a major blow to justice. It is an insult for the victims.”

Muslim member of the joint Bosnian presidency and its current chairman, Sulejman Tihic, said in a statement issued shortly after the judgement was announced that it only “partially served the justice”, adding that he hoped “the prosecutor will appeal the verdict and that Krajisnik will be found guilty in a final judgement”.

So far, the tribunal has handed down only two genocide convictions, both for Bosnian Serb army officers who helped organise the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys.

In view of that fact, Director of the Sarajevo-based Research and Documentation Centre Mirsad Tokaca, who in June last year testified as a prosecution witness in Krajisinik’s trial, finds the verdict particularly unsatisfactory.

He says it’s completely illogical to convict army officers of genocide, and acquit a man who was a member of the political leadership who issued orders to the army.

“Bosnian Serb leaders, including Krajisnik, were the creators of the genocidal policy, and I find it shocking that he was acquitted of genocide,” he told IWPR.

He added that Krajsnik was much more influential and even more powerful than Karadzic, but always stayed in the shadow, carefully covering the traces of his role in the crimes. He admitted that this could be one of the main reasons why judges said they couldn’t find enough evidence, which would convince them of Krajisnik’s genocidal intent.

Despite the highly charged statements issued by Bosnian Serb politicians, ordinary people in Republika Srpska didn’t appear to be too moved by the fate of their war-time parliamentary speaker.

Political analyst from Banja Luka, Tanja Topic, says this is due to the fact that Krajisnik - unlike Karadzic and Mladic - was never seen as a hero among Serb people. On the contrary, she told IWPR, he was quite disliked because of the allegations of his involvement in illegal financial schemes and gaining personal wealth at the expense of his own people.

“Nobody took to the streets in protest against Krajsnik’s judgement,” she said. “And while no one among the Bosnian Serbs dispute the fact that he was one of the most influential Serb politicians during the war, he never enjoyed the same support as Karadzic and Mladic. So most people here actually believe that he got what he deserved,” said Topic.

Merdijana Sadovic is IWPR’s Hague tribunal programme manager. Caroline Tosh is an IWPR reporter in The Hague.
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