In her evidence at the trial of Radovan Karadzic, Munira Selmanovic from Novoseoce near Sokolac described how the Serb forces expelled the women, children and the elderly from the village on 22 September 1992. The Serb forces then proceeded to kill their husbands, fathers and sons. Concluding her evidence, the witness asked whomever had separated those families to say publicly for whose sake he had done it: his own or Karadzic’s

Munira Selmanovic, witness at the Radovan Karadzic trialMunira Selmanovic, witness at the Radovan Karadzic trial

At the trial of Radovan Karadzic for genocide and other crimes in the war in BH, the court heard testimony of Munira Selmanovic. In September 1992, Selmanovic and all the women, children and the elderly people were expelled from Novoseoce, a village near Sokolac. Serb forces detained the male villagers and later killed them.

Prosecutor Hildegard Uertz-Retzlaff read out the summary of the witness’s statement in the courtroom. After the conflict broke out, the Muslims from the village of Novoseoce handed over their weapons to the Serb authorities; they had been reassured that they could remain in their homes and go on with their lives, ‘without any cause for fear’. Despite this promise, the Serb troops entered the village on 22 September 1992 and killed a woman.

As the witness recounted, the Serb soldiers headed by Momcilo Pajic took the remaining women, children and the elderly to the front line and made them go to a part of Sarajevo under the BH Army control. The men, a total of 44, including the witness’s husband and son, were detained. The explanation was that they were needed for ‘work’. They were killed at a later date. Most of their bodies were recovered after the war from a mass grave in Ivan Polje.

In her description of the exhumation of the victims, Selmanovic said that she recognized her son by a piece of jewelry he wore, his clothes and bones. When the bodies were being exhumed, the witness noticed that the front of the pullover worn by her son was not damaged. When the body was turned over, seven bullets fell out from the back. The bodies of 42 men from Novoseoce were recovered from the grave. The witness still hasn’t found remains of her husband and nephew.

In his cross-examination, Radovan Karadzic tried to prove that the villagers had asked to be evacuated from the village in fear of ‘Arkan’s men’ and ‘Seselj’s men’. Karadzic asked the witness to elaborate how she was able to identify her son’s body during the exhumation, insisting on the ‘different degrees of decomposition’ of the clothes and footwear worn by the victims.

At the end of the cross-examination, Karadzic said he ‘never heard of the village until the indictment was issued against me’. Karadzic tried to convince the witness that his ‘friends, admirers and followers’ would never harm any witness or their families’. This, Karadzic explained, was his ‘public message to everyone to respect all the witnesses, especially those who were victims too’.

Before leaving the courtroom, the witness said she also wanted to say something in public to the person who arrested the residents of her village and separated women from their husbands and sons. The witness wanted to know ‘for whose sake he did it’: his own or Karadzic’s?