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Krajisnik Testifies for Popovic Defence

Former politician says Bosnian Serb leadership aimed to achieve goals through negotiation, rather than military action.
By Simon Jennings
Bosnian Serb politician Momcilo Krajisnik told Hague judges this week that a list of “strategic goals” drawn up by local politicians was not a blueprint for military action, as the prosecution contends.

Krajisnik, the former president of the Bosnian Serb assembly of Republika Srpska, RS, was called as a defence witness for Vujadin Popovic at his Hague tribunal trial.

He gave evidence to counter prosecution claims that a list of strategic goals produced by politicians at an assembly meeting in Banja Luka in May 1992 was evidence of the advance planning of crimes later committed against Bosniaks and Croats in Bosnia by the Bosnian Serb Army, VRS.

“None of [the goals of the army] reflect any…of the [assembly’s] six strategic goals,” he said.

Former VRS colonel Popovic is standing trial along with four other high-ranking military and police officials charged with genocide – Ljubisa Beara, Ljubomir Borovcanin, Vinko Pandurevic and Drago Nikolic. Two other co-accused, Radivoje Miletic and Milan Gvero, are accused of restricting the supply of aid to the area.

When Srebrenica fell to Serb forces in July 1995, more than 8,000 Bosniak men and boys were executed in the worst mass killing in Europe since the Second World War.

This week, Krajisnik told judges that the six goals were, in fact, a direct result of the Cutilhero plan – a document drafted by the international community in Lisbon in 1992 to bring an end to the hostilities.

“The strategic goals were in fact reformulated Cutilhero principles which we believed we could achieve through negotiation, along with all the other aspects upon which we had the consensus of the international community…and the Croat and Muslim side,” Krajisnik told the court.

The six objectives were also implemented as part of the Dayton agreement which brought an end to the war, he said.

The indictment cites Krajisnik’s decision, published in the Official Gazette of Republika Srpska in 1993, to “establish state borders separating the Serbian people from the other two ethnic communities”.

But the witness said the strategic goals envisaged there would be room for people of other ethnicities within mono-ethnic entities.

“In no way did we strive for any movement of the population. That was completely excluded,” he said.

In September 2006, Krajisnik was sentenced by the Hague tribunal to 27 years in prison after being found guilty of persecutions, exterminations, murder, deportation, and forced transfer of Croats and Muslims during the war in the former Yugoslavia. He is now appealing the conviction.

Defence lawyer Zoran Zivanovic, representing Popovic, asked the witness to clarify the third strategic goal – the creation of a corridor in the Drina river valley, the border between Bosnia and Serbia, to “eliminate the Drina as a border separating the two worlds”.

Krajisnik told the court that the then president of Bosnia Alija Izetbegovic shared his concern that an independent Bosnia would mean Bosnian Serbs were separated from their homeland.

Izetbegovic advocated a “permeable” border without passport controls, he said. He also confirmed extracts from a speech Izetbegovic made, in which he said, “The Serbs should not feel they are divided from Serbia by a state border, the same applies for Croats.”

At the start of his cross-examination, prosecutor Julian Nicholls asked Krajisnik to confirm that the chamber at his own trial described him as being of “very low credibility”.

Nicholls then read an extract from the Bosnian Serb assembly’s first strategic goal to try to show that its intention was to separate ethnic groups, rather than to resolve the conflict.

“The first such goal is separation…from those who are our enemies and have used every opportunity in this century to attack us and who would continue with such practices if we were to continue to stay together in the same state,” it said.

Nicholls then examined documentation of meetings between presidents of Serb municipalities and military commanders to suggest that the six goals were passed on to the army in the field. He showed the court a military directive signed by Bosnian Serb army commander Ratko Mladic, on June 6 1992 that, he argued, matched the second goal “almost verbatim”.

The second goal related to establishing a corridor between the Serb municipalities of Semberija and Bosanska Krajina.

Nicholls asked the witness to comment on the military order that gave instructions to “create the corridor between Semberija and Bosanska Krajina…and extend the corridor permanently”.

“The military did this irrespective of the strategic goals,” said Krajisnik, arguing that there was no link between the political objectives and military action.

When asked by Nicholls if the similarity was a coincidence, Krajisnik did not comment.

Nicholls then showed a proposal from president of the Serbian municipality of Bosanska Krupa Gojko Klickovic on May 25, 1992, issuing commands, based on the political objectives, to prepare for the cleansing of the west bank of the Una river and for the destruction of “as many residential buildings as possible”.

Krajisnik replied that it had been decided the Una would be the border – to be established by political rather than military means – before the strategic goals were formulated in May 1992. He did not know why Klickovic mentioned it, he said.

Nicholls pointed out that strategic goal four aimed to “establish a border at the Una and Neretva rivers”.

“Is that another coincidence, him mentioning the exact language of strategic objective four?” he asked the witness.

Krajisnik said he could not comment.

Popovic’s defence team also denied that genocide had ever taken place at Srebrenica, in spite of both Hague tribunal and International Court of Justice rulings to the contrary.

His lawyer Zivanovic sought to justify the attack on the Bosnian enclave by challenging that it “ever became a safe haven in a true sense”.

He said it was never demilitarised to the extent intended by the United Nations Security Council resolution, and argued that in 1995, the VRS attack launched a “completely legitimate” operation in the enclave, after two years of fighting unsuccessfully against the 6,000 armed members of the Bosnian army who remained there.

Simon Jennings is an IWPR reporter in The Hague.

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