Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change
Andrija Bjelosevic, witness in the case of Mico Stanisic and Stojan Zupljanin. (Photo: ICTY)
In the Hague tribunal trial of two former senior Bosnian Serb police officials, the ex-chief of police, or Centre of Security Services, CSB, in Doboj, this week testified about events leading up to the release of an alleged Bosnian Serb criminal group.
This was Andrija Bjelosevic’s second appearance in the case of Mico Stanisic and Stojan Zupljanin.
Zupljanin, former chief of the Banja Luka CSB, who became an adviser to the Bosnian Serb president and Hague indictee Radovan Karadzic in 1994, is accused of extermination, murder, persecution, and deportation of non-Serbs in northwestern Bosnia between April and December 1992.
Zupljanin’s co-accused Stanicic, the former Bosnian Serb interior minister, is charged with the murder, torture and cruel treatment of non-Serb civilians, as well as for his failure to prevent or punish crimes committed by his subordinates.
The defence team for Zupljanin sought to deny the prosecution’s claim that their client had a role in the freeing of members of the so-called Mice criminal group from Doboj, who were arrested by a unit of Bosnian Serb special police from Banja Luka, after allegedly killing some 40 non-Serbs in the municipality of Teslic, between Doboj and Banja Luka.
Zupljanin’s defence claims that after signing the arrest order, “he (Zupljanin) had nothing to do with them.”
Zupljanin’s lawyer, Dragan Krgovic, showed a letter from the Doboj CSB which was prepared in Bjelosevic’s name, but “signed by his assistant, Milan Savic”, demanding that the arrested Mice members be transferred to Doboj.
“This document caused quite some confusion, since there were people asking me why I had asked for the transfer of the Mice [members] to our region, yet I basically had no idea what they were talking about,” the witness said.
“Unfortunately, during that time it also happened that many people wanted to do whatever they wanted, they interpreted things however they wanted, so we had these meetings to clarify things and find solutions.”
He added that the meetings were attended by Zupljanin, a judge, prosecutor, himself “and some other people, but I can’t remember now who they were.
“The fact is, however, that these persons, these Mice [members], were [handed over to the judicial organs], and then since they were injured they were set free from prison to undergo health treatment, and then there was probably a later court proceeding at the local court in Teslic, yet when and how it happened is completely beyond my knowledge.”
Some weeks later, in late July 1992, the Mice members were freed by a court in Teslic after the military command asked for them to be involved in military actions, ACCORDING TO WHOM
The witness agreed when asked by the defence that “this fact speaks how Zupljanin was not involved in the setting free of the Mice [members]”. He added that “Zupljanin also personally confirmed that he was not involved during a meeting [about] this”.
“Are you familiar with a letter from the military command in Teslic asking for [them to be freed],” the defence asked.
“I heard that there was such a document but wasn’t familiar [with] it. I also heard that someone from the military was giving threats about what would happen if they [were not freed], but I don’t know anything more precise about these threats nor did I see any document in relation to this,” the witness said.
Questioned by Zupljanin’s defence, the witness said that in a meeting on May 9, 1992, in Banja Luka, “I wanted…. to see how come there was an order where my name was typed on it, but which was signed by Milan Savic, and how come the court in Doboj claimed closer jurisdiction for judging these persons; that was what I wanted to know.”
Judge Frederik Harhoff then asked “what the relevance of this entire discussion” was, to which the defence stated that the prosecution was suggesting that the Mice members were freed with the consent and by the action of Zupljanin, and that the defence had just proven, with Bjelosevic’s statement and appropriate documents, that this was not true.
Later in his testimony, Bjelosevic said that the “prosecutor’s claims that documents on irregularities in the Republika Srpska police work during 1992 were an …an insult implying that we did one thing, wrote another, and thought a third thing.”
In cross-examination, prosecutor Joanna Korner said that despite Bjelosevic having supplied his wartime notes to the tribunal, there are no records covering the period between April and July of 1992.
When Korner suggested that the witness possibly got rid of the documents which may imply his involvement in or knowledge of crimes in Doboj, the witness responded angrily, “As if I had nothing else to do.”
Stanisic surrendered to the Hague tribunal in March 2005, whereas Zupljanin was in hiding until June that same year, when he was arrested in the town of Pancevo just outside the Serbian capital Belgrade.
The trial began on September 14, 2009 and continues next week.
Velma Saric is an IWPR-trained journalist in Sarajevo.
- Europe & Eurasia
- Latin America
- Middle East & North Africa
- Focus Pages
- Training & Resources
- Print Publications
- IWPR Spotlight
As coronavirus sweeps the globe, IWPR’s network of local reporters, activists and analysts are examining the economic, social and political impact of this era-defining pandemic.