Krajisnik Trial Hears of Expulsion Documents

Bosnian Serbs fleeing Bosanski Samac left evidence of their criminal deeds scattered around the town hall.

Krajisnik Trial Hears of Expulsion Documents

Bosnian Serbs fleeing Bosanski Samac left evidence of their criminal deeds scattered around the town hall.

Wednesday, 9 November, 2005

Documents relating to the harsh treatment and expulsion of non-Serbs from the north-western Bosnian town of Bosanski Petrovac littered its town hall after Bosnian Serb forces retreated in 1995, the tribunal has heard.

"The [retreating] army had stampeded through the building," prosecution witness Ahmet Hidic said on April 22. "The documents were lying around everywhere, for anyone to find."

The official papers, which have already been brought before the tribunal in the Radoslav Brjdanin trial, appear to show how the local crisis staff conspired to drive the non-Serb population out of their jobs and eventually out of the district altogether.

The ad-hoc body military and civilian authority was created by the Serbian Democratic Party, within which the defendant Momcilo Krajisnik played a number of key roles.

The prosecution alleges that Krajisnik - who was the president of the Bosnian Serb assembly from October 1991 until late 1995 - was one of the driving forces behind the "joint criminal enterprise" to expel Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) and Croats from north-west Bosnia.

The indictment accuses Krajisnik - who is generally held to have been fugitive indictee Radovan karadzic's right-hand man - of crimes against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of war and genocide in six municipalities - Bosanski Novi, Brcko, Kljuc, Kotor Varos, Prijedor and Sanski Most.

The judges heard that the 1991 census for Bosanski Petrovac, which lies some 25 kilometres from the Croatian border, was 75 per cent Serb, 22.5 per cent Bosniak, with Croats and other nationalities making up the remainder.

Hidic explained that the various ethnic groups had enjoyed a good relationship before the war, but that a perceived policy of discrimination against non-Serbs had caused tensions to rise as far back as 1991.

The witness told the court that he had not been involved in politics when the war broke out, but later became a member of the Party of Democratic Action, SDA, and had served as president of the local party from 1999 until 2003.

After being expelled from the area and living through the war years in exile, Hidic returned to Bosanski Petrovac in September 1995 and began to work with the town's transitional administration, coordinating humanitarian efforts and liaising with international organisations, such as the Red Cross and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

He was allocated an office within the municipal headquarters, which was in a state of disarray following the withdrawal of the Serb forces. Documents were scattered all over the rooms, the witness said, and he at first began to collect those relating to the events of April - September 1992, the time when the bulk of the expulsions are alleged to have occurred, to see how closely they corresponded with a diary he had kept while in exile.

In his cross-examination, defence counsel Nicholas Stewart asked Hidic about a political rally which had been held by the Bosnian Serb leadership in 1990, at a time when ethnic tensions were beginning to be noticeable in the municipality.

The witness replied that while he had not personally attended the rally, he had heard many accounts from people who had. "At that time I was working in a cafe bar near a bus stop, and overheard many people returning [from the rally] discussing it," he said.

Former Bosnian Serb president Biljana Plavsic - who recently pleaded guilty to a series of war crimes in The Hague and received a seven-year jail sentence - was present, Hidic said, as were several other politicians and religious leaders.

"What about Mr Krajisnik?" Stewart asked. "Did people say that he had been present?"

"No, I did not hear any such information," the witness replied, adding that while the defendant had been known to him through the media, the two men had never met, and that such was his disinterest in politics pre-war that he "had never given Krajisnik a second thought".

While Stewart did not dispute the content of the documents the witness had collected in the abandoned town hall, he became increasingly frustrated by the witness' apparent reluctance to name the organisation he had coordinated aid for, and which had allocated him the office, answering instead that he worked for "Bosanski Petrovac".

"We all know of 'The man from Del Monte', almost everybody knows who he is, but if you introduced yourself as 'The man from Bosanski Patrovac', didn't people [from local and international agencies] want to know who you represented?" asked Stewart.

The witness replied, "I represented the municipality of Bosanki Petrovac."

Earlier in the week, the trial heard from former Brcko firefighter Jasmin Fazlovic, who told the court of the destruction of the town's three mosques - known locally as Savska, White and Wooden - in the summer of 1992. He described how he and his colleagues had heard a "tremendous explosion" one afternoon, and when they looked out of the window, they saw that the Savska mosque - so called because of its proximity to the Sava river - was in ruins.

After a Serb firefighter predicted that the other mosques would also be blown up, Fazlovic moved to another window, which had a view of the White mosque. Shortly after, smoke could be seen, and an explosion followed. The witness watched as the minaret fell.

At this stage, he told the court, the firefighters received a telephone call from the local police authorities asking them to go to the Wooden mosque and stand by to stop any flames spreading to neighbouring buildings such as the Brcko health centre.

As the Wooden mosque was not yet on fire, the witness suggested that the destruction of the mosques had been planned with the knowledge of the authorities.

While Favlovic's unit was still some distance from the Wooden mosque, it too exploded. The witness then claimed that the firefighters were stopped by a group of soldiers who ordered them not to tackle the blaze itself, but to merely ensure that it did not spread to neighbouring houses and buildings.

The fire did not spread and eventually died out, leaving the third mosque in ruins.

Among the counts listed in the indictment, Krajisnik is charged with being responsible for "the intentional or wanton destruction ... of cultural monuments and sacred sites".

The witness claimed that the firefighters were often told to ignore fires raging in Bosniak or Croat houses, and to intervene only when Serb property was at risk.

The trial continues.

Alison Freebairn is an IWPR editor in London.

Support our journalists