Continuing his evidence at the trial of Radovan Karadzic Momcilo Mandic contended that he wasn’t involved in prisoner exchanges. He was ‘busy with establishing rule of law’, Mandic claimed. Mandic blamed Biljana Plavsic for all the evils, calling her a ‘doctor for snails’ and claiming she had invited ‘wild animals’ such as Arkan’s Tigers, White Eagles and other paramilitary formations to Republika Srpska

Momcilo Mandic, witness at the Radovan Karadzic trialMomcilo Mandic, witness at the Radovan Karadzic trial

Momcilo Mandic contends that he doesn’t know who and how arrested the non-Serbs who were held by the Serb authorities in collection centers, prison camps and other facilities. ‘Those who took part in their arrest know about it’, Mandic said as he continued his evidence at the trial of Radovan Karadzic. Mandic also maintained he wasn’t aware of the detainees’ status: he didn’t know whether they had been captured in combat or were just civilians ‘removed from places of conflict for their protection’. According to prosecution documents, Mandic was personally involved in some of the exchanges.

Prosecutor Alan Tieger noted that the Pale government was kept well-informed about the problem of the inhumane treatment of prisoners and detained civilians in Serb prisons and camps. Mandic was justice minister in that government. The witness was shown several minutes from government meetings when the problem was discussed. In one case, it was pointed, the Justice Ministry was asked to prepare a detailed report on the treatment of detainees.

Mandic said that the government took measures to unify all the prisoner exchange commissions, to get out in the field, to prevent breaches of the Geneva conventions and to ‘legalize camps’. Mandic was a member of the government task force which had to deal with the prisoner exchanges. According to him, he never actually did anything in that respect, because he spent his time in the field, ‘busy with establishing prosecutor offices and courts’. Mandic maintains that the Exchange Commission – created in April 1992 – was the only body in charge of the exchange of ‘detained persons’.

The prosecutor then brought up a report the Interior Ministry of the Serbian Republic of BH sent on 17 July 1992 to the Presidency and the Government. According to the report, the municipal crisis staffs and war presidencies wanted ‘as many Muslim civilians as possible to be gathered and captured’. The conditions in which Muslim detainees were held were bad and they were not treated in line with the international standards, the report went on to state. ‘I have no reasons to doubt the report drafted by the police minister’, Mandic responded.

The prosecutor then showed the witness an interview with Biljana Plavsic on TV, aired on 17 July 1992. Plavsic denied the existence of concentration camps. According to Plavsic, the Omarska camp near Prijedor was a ‘regular prison’ where 3,000 persons were held in line with legal procedure. Mandic explained that those remarks were made by a person not ‘versed in justice’. Not hiding his contempt, Mandic added that Plavsic ‘got her doctor’s degree with a thesis on snails’; evidently Plavsic spoke as an ‘expert on snails’, he said. According to him, it was ‘nonsensical’ to claim that so many people could have been convicted through a regular procedure. Also, as far as Mandic knew, Omarska was a ‘military prison’.

The prosecutor brought up an intercepted conversation between Mandic and two of his erstwhile colleagues from the BH MUP, Branko Kvesic and Bruno Stojic. In the conversation, Mandic tells Kvesic that the Serb forces ‘got into the city and cleansed Grbavica’, they held Dobrinja, Ilidza and the territory up to the student halls of residence in the Nedarici neighborhood and had ‘the Turks under siege’. Mandic explained this was a ‘humorous banter among former colleagues’ who wanted to play a trick on Munir Alibabic because they purportedly knew he was eavesdropping. ‘You are too serious to understand Sarajevo-style jokes and teasing’ Mandic told the prosecutor.

The prosecutor then moved on to presence of paramilitary units in BH, reminding Mandic that in his evidence at the trial of Stanisic and Zupljanin he said Biljana Plavsic ‘invited Arkan’s Tigers, White Eagles and other animals and beasts to Republika Srpska’. Mandic confirmed this, saying that the ‘beasts’ Plavsic invited in the ‘name of people’ first killed and looted non-Serb population, and then, when they had nothing else to loot, they turned to the Serb property. As Mandic said, this prompted Mico Stanisic to issue the arrest warrant for some members of the Yellow Wasps. After that, the conflict between him and Stanisic on one side and Biljana Plavsic and Branko Djeric on the other side came to a head.

Mandic confirmed what he had stated earlier, that he refused to speak to Karadzic for half a year after Karadzic allowed Biljana Plavsic to invite paramilitaries to Republika Srpska. Mandic noted that Plavsic, Nikola Koljevic and other ‘Serb sycophants’ served Karadzic a bunch of lies. Labeling Plavsic a ‘mean woman’, Mandic said she violated international law and the laws of Republika Srpska. In Mandic’s view, Plavsic was a person of great authority; ‘in some segments, her powers were greater than Karadzic’s’.

Mandic also claims he didn’t know anything about the presence of ‘Arkan’s men’ and ‘Seselj’s men’ on the Sarajevo front. Speaking about ‘Seselj’s men’, Mandic said that Brne Gavrilovic, commander of Chetniks in Grbavica, was a Sarajevo native. Seselj, who ‘liked to take credit for other people’s successes’, claimed Gavrilovic ‘was his’.

Momcilo Mandic continues his evidence tomorrow.