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Krajisnik Ran The Show, Witness Claims

Former Bosnian Croat leader speaks of Serb plans to create a “Greater Serbia” by redrawing Bosnia’s borders.
By Carla Sapsford

Bosnian Serb politician Momcilo Krajisnik was a key figure in wartime plans to create a “Greater Serbia”, a high-profile witness claimed this week.


Stjepan Kljuic, former president of the nationalist Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ, party in Bosnia, told the court that he truly believed that Krajisnik had known about - and indeed helped to orchestrate – the ethnic cleansing that occurred in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1992.


The defendant, a former president of the Republika Srpska, RS, assembly and one of the leaders of the nationalist Serbian Democratic Party, SDS, is generally viewed as having been second in command to former Bosnian Serb leader and most-wanted fugitive indictee Radovan Karadzic.


Krajisnik’s trial began in The Hague in February this year. He is accused of individual and superior criminal responsibility for two counts of genocide, five of crimes against humanity and one of violations of the laws and customs of war. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.


The prosecution appears to hope that the testimony of Kljuic – a veteran tribunal witness – will establish that Krajisnik’s role within the SDS leadership was a very senior one.


Kljuic said that Krajisnik – whom he described as a “really serious, measured personality” - possessed the greatest “power and authority” in the SDS after that of Karadzic, and claimed the defendant was the one who ran the show behind the scenes.


“Every citizen of Bosnia could tell you that Krajisnik and Karadzic were at the top,” the witness said. “It was no secret that they were not only leading politicians, they were the best friends in the entire Serbian leadership. The only sincere friendship was between [those two men].”


But the witness told the court that at that time, if he wanted to resolve an incident in the field, he would go to Krajisnik for aid – not Karadzic.


“Karadzic would wave his hands and say it would be all right, but he never wrote anything down. If I spoke to [Krajisnik] and he agreed, the problem would be solved,” Kljuic said.


The witness claimed that the main aim of the SDS, which was then led by Krajisnik, was to establish a “Greater Serbia” by redrawing the borders of Bosnia and Herzegovina so that its Serb-dominated areas would be connected to Serbia itself.


The prosecution played a substantial number of intercepts – some containing specific references to the towns being cleansed in 1992 – to the court in an attempt to prove this connection. However, many of the intercepts did not feature the defendant.


Kljuic told the court that he and the HDZ had been misled by Karadzic and Krajisnik throughout 1991 and 1992, as the Bosnian Serbs were already arming and preparing themselves for offensives against the non-Serb population.


The Muslim community was expected “to do as they [the SDS] say, or Bosnia and Herzegovina will cease to be”, the witness told the court, adding that the non-Serb population “would have to leave the territory one way or another”.


Kljuic also recalled an all-night assembly session during which Karadzic stated that if Croats and Muslims “don’t abide by the will of the Serbian people, there will be war”.


He added that Krajisnik and Karadzic did not appear to fear the censure of the international community, apparently believing that it would support whichever side proved to be the strongest.


In cross-examination, the defence tried to downplay the extent to which Kljuic had direct contact with Krajisnik during 1991 and 1992, and the defendant himself challenged the witness, dismissing Kljuic’s outline of key dates as “wrong”.


Krajisnik appeared to take extensive notes during the course of the testimony, at times rubbing his forehead. Elegantly dressed, the defendant wore a discrete earpiece in place of the usual bulky translation headset.


The trial chamber had previously agreed to an adjournment of the case from late June to September to allow the defence more time to prepare. Kljuic will be recalled to finish his cross-examination in November.


Carla Sapsford is a freelance reporter based in The Hague.


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