The accused Radovan Karadzic and prosecution witness Nedjeljko Prstojevic both claim there were no mass expulsions of Muslims from Ilidza. The reports about the expulsions were in fact based on ‘rumors and gossip’. Karadzic’s trial will be adjourned for two months to allow the accused to study the materials disclosed to him with delay

Nedjeljko Prstojevic, witness at the Radovan Karadzic trialNedjeljko Prstojevic, witness at the Radovan Karadzic trial

Nedjeljko Prstojevic, former president of the crisis staff in the Serb Municipality of Ilidza, told the OTP investigators in 2003 that ‘Radovan Karadzic and Momcilo Krajisnik could have removed him from this office whenever they felt like it’. He repeated this claim at the trial of the former Republika Srpska Assembly speaker, Momcilo Krajisnik, in 2005, saying it was ‘crystal clear’ that Karadzic could easily have dismissed him if he had wanted to.

In the course of his examination-in-chief at the trial of Radovan Karadzic, Prstojevic retracted the statement, claiming he could not have said anything of the sort, since Karadzic or Krajisnik ‘did not have any say in his election as the president of the municipality and could not have dismissed him from this post’.

Prstojevic said this in an effort to support Karadzic’s argument that ‘party officials were not part of the government, but merely a service to the elected officials’, i.e., deputies in the Assembly. ‘This is absolutely true,’ Prstojevic said, adding that the party officials like Karadzic ‘did nothing but serve their people’.

With Prstojevic’s help, Karadzic was trying to prove that the Serbs were unprepared for the war; before the Republika Srpska Army was established in May 1992, the ‘defense of the Serb territories’ was the responsibility of the municipal authorities and the Territorial Defense. There were no expulsions of the Muslim population. According to Karadzic, the purpose of the ‘temporary relocation of the people’ on both sides of the front line was to ‘save lives’ and it was done in line with ‘at least four international agreements’.

Prstojevic confirmed everything that Karadzic put to him: according to him, the Muslims were not moved out in an organized way from Ilidza. As for isolated incidents, the Serb refugees who had moved to Ilidza at the beginning of the war were to blame. He was prompted by the mention of international agreements to note that ‘the only thing he knows from the international conventions is that it is permissible to move out civilians from combat zones’.

Karadzic brought up an intercepted conversation between Prstojevic and former justice minister in the Republika Srpska government, Momcilo Mandic, on 2 June 1992. In the conversation, Mandic says the government has received reports that Prstojevic is setting ultimatums to the ‘Turks’ to leave, and is ‘making people leave from some areas’, which “was badly perceived by people”. Prstojevic answers to Mandic that he has never said or wrote anything to that effect ‘in public’.

When Karadzic put it to Prstojevic that this shows that a lot of ‘rumors and gossip’ flew around about events that ‘actually never took place’, the witness unsurprisingly agreed. According to Prstojevic, a ‘thorough analysis’ of the intercepted conversation between him and Mandic shows that the people had never been moved out and that he actually explained it in the conversation. He also confirmed that the ‘introduction of the rule of law’ was an arduous and lengthy process.

Since in his cross examination the witness claimed there were only the JNA, MUP and Territorial Defense formations in Ilidza, prosecutor Alan Tieger used documents and intercepted conversations in his re-examination to prove that Arkan’s Tigers, Bokan’s group and Seselj’s men under the command of Branislav Gavrilovic Brne had been active on the Sarajevo front. The prosecutor also tendered into evidence a number of excerpts from Prstojevic’s testimony at the Krajisnik trial that the unwilling prosecution witness tried to retract.

After Nedjeljko Prstojevic’s testimony, the trial of Radovan Karadzic will be adjourned for two months in order for the accused to study the documents disclosed to him by the prosecution with a delay. The trial will resume on 23 May.