Krajisnik Testimony Nears End

Ex-Bosnian presidency member and local politician feature in the final witness hearings before the accused testifies.

Krajisnik Testimony Nears End

Ex-Bosnian presidency member and local politician feature in the final witness hearings before the accused testifies.

Lawyers representing former Bosnian Serb parliamentary speaker Momcilo Krajisnik have completed what is scheduled to be the last full week of evidence from defence witnesses prior to the accused himself taking the stand.

The trial is due to take a break from April 12 until April 20, when Krajisnik - who is charged with war crimes including genocide – will begin what could prove to be an epic testimony. It had originally been expected to mark the start of his defence case in August.

The proceedings this week featured evidence from Nenad Kecmanovic, a Serb who was a member of the Sarajevo-based Bosnian presidency for some weeks in 1992, after the mainstream Serb leadership broke away and established its own institutions.

More interesting for many observers, however, was an appearance by Milovan Bjelica, a former local official of the Serb Democratic Party, SDS, of which Krajisnik was a prominent member.

Bjelica was transferred to The Hague at the start of the week from a prison in the Republika Srpska, where he is currently awaiting trial on fraud charges. He has also been investigated by the Office of the High Representative in Bosnia, amid suspicions that he provided support to top war crimes fugitive Radovan Karadzic, an allegation which he denied in court.

In court, Bjelica was questioned about the alleged murder in September 1992 of over 40 Muslims in the village of Novoseoci, located in the municipality of Sokolac where he worked at the time. The crime features on the indictment against Krajisnik.

The Novoseoci episode received short shrift during Bjelica’s examination by defence lawyer David Josse. The witness acknowledged that the crime had taken place and described it as worthy of “every sort of condemnation”.

Bjelica sought to place responsibility for the crime on Radislav Krstic, the Bosnian Serb general who has since been found guilty of involvement in the massacre of thousands of Muslim prisoners following the fall of the Srebrenica enclave in July 1995. Krstic was linked to the local authorities in Sokolac at the time.

“It was Krstic who issued the order to do whatever was done,” Bjelica told the court, adding that he could see no other possible explanation for the atrocity.

Elsewhere in his testimony, Bjelica described the arming of Muslim “terrorist” groups during the war and recalled details of incidents in which Serbs fell victim to booby traps and ambushes.

Earlier in the week, Kecmanovic, who was a senior member of the multiethnic Union of Reform Forces described his role as a mediator between Sarajevo and the breakaway Serb leadership during the Bosnian conflict.

He told the court that from his observations, the Serbs’ SDS party was committed to finding a peaceful solution to the crisis in Bosnia. Right up to the outbreak of war, he said, “everybody harboured false hopes that this would be avoided”.

Kecmanovic also denied that in the early Nineties, Krajisnik showed a marked interest in carving up Bosnia along ethnic lines. He told the court that influential players in the international community also supported such ethnic divisions as a potential solution to the crisis.

Under cross-examination, prosecutors presented Kecmanovic with evidence that he has given as an expert witness in previous proceedings at the Hague tribunal. Kecmanovic distanced himself from his earlier assertions that “superior” Serbian artillery had “laid waste” to parts of Sarajevo during the war.

He was equally displeased when it was put to him by the prosecution that he had in the past described Serb-controlled parts of Bosnia as “a territorially defined entity with a population ethnically homogenised by force”.

Kecmanovic said the point he had been trying to make, during an interview with the Belgrade-based Tanjug news agency in August 1992, was “more complex” and that he had applied this description to the regions controlled by all three of Bosnia’s main ethnic groups.

Next week, the court is expected to hear evidence from Krajisnik’s last scheduled defence witness.

Michael Farquhar is an IWPR reporter in London.
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