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Mujahedin Role Not Discussed by Bosnian Army Chiefs

A witness at the trial of the former Bosnian army chief says he was unaware that mujahedin forces were accused of criminal acts.
By Merdijana Sadović
A former high-ranking Bosnian army officer, testifying last week at the trial of General Rasim Delic, told the Hague tribunal he became aware of the crimes committed by foreign Muslim paramilitaries only after the war.

General Jovan Divjak, who was Delic’s wartime deputy, also claimed he was present at only one Bosnian army high command meeting where problems with the behaviour of “mujahedin” forces were raised.

Delic, now 56, was appointed commander of the Main Staff of the Army of Bosnia-Hercegovina, ABiH, in June 1993, and is on trial in The Hague for allegedly violating the “rules or customs of war” between 1993 and 1995.

According to the indictment, Delic failed to take the required steps to punish subordinates who executed captured Bosnian Croat civilians and soldiers in the villages of Maline and Bikosi in central Bosnia’s Travnik municipality in June 1993.

Prosecutors say his position made him responsible for planning and directing the Bosnian army’s operations, and meant he was in command of its forces including the foreign Muslim volunteers, some of whom had been incorporated into regular ABiH units at the time of the Maline/Bikosi incident.

Divjak, who appeared as a prosecution witness at Delic’s trial on September 11 to 13, said he first heard of the mujahedin presence in Bosnia on June 18, 1993, at a morning meeting of the ABiH Main Staff.

He told the court that other members of the Main Staff reported on “the problems this group of foreign fighters had caused” in some areas under ABiH control.

“Their behaviour was discussed because it was not in line with the behaviour expected from members of the Bosnian army,” said the witness.

He said the meeting heard that “a group of 300 to 400 mujahedin had confronted police, were very violent towards the local population, and were stealing food from them”.

At the meeting, said Divjak, members of the Main Staff suggested to General Delic that “these foreign fighters should either be sent [back] to the countries they came from, or should be put under the command of the Bosnian army”.

When prosecutor Laurie Sartorio asked the witness what Delic’s reaction to this suggestion was, he replied that “Delic accepted it and agreed to inform [then Bosnian president Alija] Izetbegovic about it”.

“Do you know whether anything was done about the problem with mujahedin after it had been discussed at this meeting?” Sartorio asked the witness.

“No, I don’t,” he responded. “But I’m sure General Delic informed the president about our conclusions.

According to the indictment, Delic issued an order on August 13, 1993, for a new foreign volunteer unit called El Mujahed to be set up as part of the ABiH’s Third Corps. Prior to the creation of this unit, mujahedin combatants were already “incorporated and subordinated” within the Third Corps and had taken part in its combat operations including at Maline and Bikosi, the document said.

Prosecutors are trying to prove that Delic was informed about the crimes committed by Muslim volunteers subordinated to the ABiH, including those serving in the El Mujahed unit, but failed to punish the perpetrators although they were officially subordinated to him.

Divjak told judges last week that he was not aware that Delic had signed an order creating the El Mujahed force until very recently, when tribunal prosecutors showed him the document. He said he was unsure whether the defendant ordered the establishment of the unit himself, or was instructed to do so by President Izetbegovic.

The witness added that he did know of El Mujahed’s existence in 1994 “from reports we received from our subordinates… related to operations this unit was involved in together with the Third Corps”.

He added that the field reports in question contained no mention of atrocities.

Divjak said that after that one meeting in June 1993, crimes attributed to the mujahedin were never discussed at any further staff meetings he attended.

He acknowledged that he “heard some rumours”, but said he never discovered anything to confirm these.

“I heard about the crimes allegedly committed by this unit only after the war, especially at some trials taking place at this tribunal,” he said.

Merdijana Sadovic is IWPR’s Tribunal Programme Project Manager.

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