Witness: Bosnian-Serb Authorities Did Their Best To Prevent And Punish Crimes In Chaotic Wartime Conditions

www.slobodan-milosevic.org - April 5, 2012


Written by: Andy Wilcoxson


Summary of Karadzic Trial for July 14, 2010


The marathon testimony of Momcilo Mandic continued in the Radovan Karadzic trial on July 14th. Mandic was the assistant minister of interior for Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1991 until April 1992. After the outbreak of the conflict, Mr. Mandic was, for a short period, served as a deputy to Mr. Mico Stanisic for the Serbian Ministry of the Interior, before becoming the minister of justice for Republika Srpska on 12 May 1992. From December 1992 to 1994, Mr. Mandic served as the director of the Bureau of Republika Srpska in Belgrade.


Karadzic's Orders


Karadzic began his cross-examination by showing the witness an order (exhibit D234) that he issued at the beginning of the war.


Mandic looked at the order and said, "Since there was a shortage of regulations on imminent threat of war, two months into the armed conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina you issued an order on the observance of International Law of War in the Serb Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina, in the army."


Mandic explained that "On the basis of your order, Minister Subotic issued instructions on the treatment of captured persons." And that order (exhibit P1134) says, "The representatives of the International Red Cross and other humanitarian organizations shall be enabled to visit and assist captured persons as far as possible."


Karadzic showed the witness a proclamation (exhibit D445) he issued on the 11th of July 1992 which said, "The Presidency recalls that the Geneva Convention states that civilians living in areas affected by war must be allowed to leave the area. Furthermore, emigration can only be voluntary; all citizens of the Serb Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina of Croat and Muslim ethnicity shall be guaranteed all rights ensured by a state based on the rule of law."


After reading out the proclamation, Karadzic asked the witness, "You know that Serb military conscripts had to respond to call-up, but do you agree that Muslims and Croats in Republika Srpska did not have to go into the Army of Republika Srpska?" And Mandic replied, "I know that they didn't have to, and I know that, for instance, in Trebinje, there was a brigade that consisted of ethnic Muslims who fought in the Army of Republika Srpska."


Chaotic Situation in Republika Srpska


Mandic told the court about the conditions under which the Bosnian-Serb government operated in the first part of the war. He said, "The seat of government and republican organs were terribly isolated. The road network barely functioned and we did not have any communication with a large part of Bosnia-Herzegovina that was under Serb control." As a result the Bosnian-Serb government did not have control over what Bosnian-Serb forces were doing in the field, and the real power was with the SAOs and the local crisis staffs.


Mandic expressed his view that "the SAOs were a mistake in the organization of Republika Srpska, because, in that way, mini-states were created in which all branches of government existed; the executive, the judiciary, the legislative. And, of course, right-wingers that we heard about here at this trial made inappropriate decisions and had inappropriate views at that given point in time, especially at the beginning of the war. It seems to me this worked to our detriment and it back-fired."


Karadzic showed the witness a transcript of a session of the Bosnian-Serb government dated July 8, 1992 (exhibit D441) where they decided to abolish the SAOs.


Mandic looked at the document and said, "What was particularly pointed out at the session was that it was indispensable for the government and the ministers to exercise their rights and responsibilities based on law incessantly in the field" He said, "since the SAOs were a constitutional category, then the Constitution had to be amended and these autonomous provinces had to be thrown out of the Constitution. That is why the Constitution was being amended."


The Fight Against Crime


He told the court that "In July or August 1992 we established a government commission consisting of representatives of the Ministries of Justice, Police, and Defence respectively. They toured all of Republika Srpska, they went to all municipalities, and they instructed crisis staffs and the army to close down illegal camps, detention centres, and so on. On several occasions, they found civilians there who had not participated at all in any of the war operations." He said, "The police of Republika Srpska was trying, in every conceivable way, to enforce legality on all levels on the ground."


Mandic agreed with Karadzic's suggestion that in the beginning of the war "the situation was such that we did not have a military judiciary yet and that there was a feeling of powerlessness on the part of the state to regulate crimes in that area."


Mandic told the court that "When there is an imminent threat of war, a vast majority, over 95 per cent of crimes committed, all types, all levels, fall under the jurisdiction of the military judiciary."

He said that "the Constitution deals with the military and civilian judiciary, so the Constitution had to be amended. During August and September, I think, I asked for this to be carried out, because we had organized the civilian judiciary and prosecutors' office better than the military did, and most of the problems were in the field and fell under the jurisdiction of the military judiciary. "

He testified that "The proposal I made was that within the civilian judiciary, military departments be established and civilian departments as well, with appropriate jurisdiction, in order to use the judges and prosecutors who were already there and who could deal with these crimes committed both in the military and in the civilian area. The civilian organs were more professional and better organised. Until the government fell, that is to say, until that session that was held in Zvornik on the 23rd of November, that did not happen because the military was opposed to this. They thought that the civilian judiciary was taking over their powers that had been there for many, many years in the former Yugoslavia."

Mandic's proposal was admitted as exhibit D442.  He told the court, "I think it was a big mistake that the initiative of the Ministry of Justice was not accepted in early July." He said, "If we had started this earlier, there would have been fewer crimes and these judgments would have served as a deterrent to others."

As far as criminality in the ranks of the army was concerned, he told the court that "I know for a fact that persons who had been sentenced to terms of imprisonment were not released in order to be engaged in the army [of Republika Srpska]. As for the other side, I know, at least as far as Sarajevo is concerned, that there were some big-time criminals who were the leaders of some units of Bosnia and Herzegovina's army. They were convicts."

Karadzic and Mandic read extensively from (exhibit D447) which was a Summary of the meeting of senior MUP officials on the 11th of July 1992 where a number of problems were identified such as looting, unlawful imprisonment, crimes against civilians and the police are trying to figure out how to put a stop to it.

Mandic told the court that "I know that in 1992, in the summer, the police arrested some Yellow Wasps in Zvornik, and Zuca (who is listed in the indictment as Karadzic's co-conspirator) was one of them. I know that the army arrested Chetniks, or people who called themselves Seselj's men, at the Jewish cemetery. And I know that very often there were clashes between the army troops and the paramilitary units which did not wish to put themselves under the command of the regular army."

He said, "Mico Stanisic issued the order that these Wasps be arrested because of the crimes they had committed; that is, rapes, murders, looting of property, and destruction of property of the population that had fled"

He blamed Biljana Plavsic for causing these problems. He said "One of the reasons for the conflict between Mico Stanisic, the minister of the police, and Biljana Plavsic, a member of the Presidency, was that Stanisic ordered arrests and prosecutions of paramilitary units, and Biljana Plavsic opposed this. She called on those paramilitary units to come and enter the territory of Bosnia-Herzegovina." He said, "Professor Plavsic was in charge of humanitarian organisations and exercising control over the prisons and detention centres at local level where non-Serbs were detained."

Karadzic showed the witness exhibit P1096. The document had been admitted into evidence during his cross-examination by the prosecutor. The prosecutor only quoted one passage of the document that said, "The army, crisis staffs, and war presidencies have requested that the army round up or capture as many Muslim civilians as possible, and they leave such undefined camps to internal affairs organs. The conditions in some camps are poor: there is no food, individuals sometimes do not observe international norms, etc…"

However, when one looks at the document in context one sees that the police consider this a problem that needed to be solved. The document said, "The task that we should insist on is prevention of crime, irrespective of who the perpetrators may be" and especially "preventing and documenting war crimes, with all available means under the law."

The document concludes that in order "To resolve the observed problems and the dispute over jurisdiction between the MUP and the army of the Serbian Republic, a joint meeting should be prepared to address all the problems in order to reach an agreement, resolve problems and ensure more effective co-operation and coordinated action. Special emphasis should be placed on: the activity of paramilitary formations; the problem of engaging police in combat activities when not necessary; the coordinated efforts of the Army and MUP to prevent crime, especially crimes committed by military personnel and the procedure and jurisdiction with regard to the treatment and holding of prisoners."

After reading passages from the document, Karadzic asked the witness, "If this [i.e. imprisoning civilians in camps] were part of a state plan, would the police have opposed it?" And the witness answered, "No." He said, "All the police from the joint Ministry of the Interior of Bosnia-Herzegovina of Serb ethnicity transferred to the Serb MUP and they worked there, so these are professionals who were involved in that line of work for many years. It is certain, like in any police force in the world, there are individuals who are corrupt and who committed certain crimes. That can be the case in any police force in the world, in democratic countries, in different regimes, socialist and others. I'm certain that in 1992 the police did not commit any crimes in an organized fashion."


A complete transcript of this hearing is available at: http://ictytranscripts.dyndns.org/trials/karadzic/100714IT.htm

If you found this article useful please consider making a donation to the author by visiting the following URL: https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=AYU7SP3575BSQ