In the cross-examination of the first prosecution witness, Radovan Karadzic contended that the Serb authorities ‘didn’t force Muslims to leave Sanski Most; on the contrary, the Muslims forced the Serb authorities to allow them to leave’. The Serb authorities ‘tried to discourage them with various procedures’ from leaving town. The ‘procedures’ included signing a statement handing over their houses and other property to the Serb authorities

Ahmet Zulic, witness at the Radovan Karadzic trialAhmet Zulic, witness at the Radovan Karadzic trial

Radovan Karadzic left it to the end of Ahmet Zulic’s cross-examination to deal with the actual crimes the first prosecution witness described in his evidence – the massacre at Kriva Cesta and the suffocation of prisoners en route to Manjaca. Both incidents are listed in the indictment charging the former Republika Srpska president with genocide and other crimes in BH.

Zulic said in his evidence that on 22 June 1992 he was in a group of 20 Muslim detainees who were taken out of a make-shift prison in the garages of the Betonirka factory in Sanski Most. They were taken to a location called Kriva Cesta where they were forced to dig graves. Simo Simetic, a local butcher, then cut their throats; Zulic and two other prisoners were the only survivors. A group of SDS officials headed by the president of the municipality Nedeljko Rasula were present at the crime scene.

Karadzic contends that Zulic made up everything, in particular the SDS ‘slaughter committee’. Karadzic also claims that he had evidence that on that day Simetic was ‘with his unit in the corridor’. He challenged the witness’s identification of Rasula because the witness hadn’t seen his face. Zulic however stood by his story, adding that he still bore scars of Simetic’s knife – Simetic carved a cross on Zulic’s chest. Zulic explained he had known Rasula for 30 years. That day at Kriva Cesta, he recognized his voice and ‘the checkered suit’ Simetic always wore.

Karadzic also contested the second incident, the suffocation of a number of prisoners en route from Sanski Most to the Manjaca prison camp on 7 July 1992. According to Karadzic, it was impossible to cram 60 prisoners in a truck, especially as Zulic claimed ‘some were standing and others were sitting down’. Zulic remained adamant and explained that the guards forced the men to climb onto the trucks with batons and cables, cramming them in.

For the most part in his cross-examination Karadzic aired his views on how things actually developed in BH and Sanski Most before and in the beginning of the war. The witness rejected the suggestion of the accused that the SDA was arming the Muslims and preparing for the war while Serbs tried to negotiate a ‘transformation of BH’ and the carve-up of the municipality of Sanski Brod. The witness also rejected Karadzic’s claims that the Green Berets and the Patriotic League were the first to attack the JNA and other Serb units which then merely responded to the attacks. Karadzic argued that the Serb authorities ‘didn’t force Muslims to leave Sanski Most and the neighboring villages. On the contrary, the Muslims forced the Serb authorities to allow them to leave’.

In his statement, Zulic notes that his wife had trouble obtaining the permit to leave Sanski Most with her children in late 1992. Karadzic argued that the Serb authorities ‘discouraged Muslim through various procedures’ from leaving Sanski Most. One of the procedures used to discourage them was making them sign a statement in which they agreed to hand over their houses, apartments and other property to the Serb authorities.