In his answers to Radovan Karadzic, witness Asim Egrlic said that about 600 persons were killed in Kljuc, some 3,550 houses were destroyed, 17 mosques were torn down and 17,000 persons were forced to move out. ‘There is no justification’ for such a crime, the witness insisted

Asim Egrlic, witness at the Radovan Karadzic trialAsim Egrlic, witness at the Radovan Karadzic trial

The accused Radovan Karadzic continued his cross-examination of prosecution witness Asim Egrlic, trying to convince the former SDA official in Kljuc that the JNA’s training of its artillery on Kljuc on the eve of the conflict was not to be taken as a threat. As Karadzic explained, ‘artillery has to point somewhere’.

According to Egrlic, Karadzic’s questions were ‘pointless’ given that the army made good on its threat and took part side by side with the police in the attack on the town and in the crimes perpetrated there. The witness emphasized that the army even transported the people executed in Biljani to a mass grave in the Bezdana cave near Laniste.

Karadzic claimed this was a ‘clean-up operation’, ‘usual procedure’ in a war. Karadzic illustrated his claim with a document of the Civilian Defense from Sanski Most. The document speaks about the recovery, identification and interment of the dead in a common grave. ‘And then they picked them up, loaded them on trucks and threw them into a cave’, the witness replied. The witness insisted that throwing the dead into caves wasn’t an appropriate way to clean up the terrain.

Karadzic then asked the witness if he knew how many wounded and dead the Serb Kljuc brigade had suffered. Egrlic did not have specific information, he said. ‘But I do know that civilians were executed’, the witness said, adding ‘it is terrible to look at’ how many gravestones there were at the sites where the exhumed victims were buried after the war.

The witness didn’t question the fact that the Serb side also suffered losses. However, as far as Kljuc is concerned, the witness noted that it was an attempt to exterminate the Muslim culture and tradition: about 600 persons were killed, some 3,550 houses were destroyed and 17 mosques were torn down. 17,000 persons were forced to move out. ‘Mr. Karadzic, there is no justification for such a crime’, the witness added.

Karadzic claimed that the non-Serb population of Kljuc was ‘persecuted by fear and not by the authorities’. In a last bid to contest the witness’s claims, Karadzic asked, ‘have you personally seen any killings?’ ‘Others did’, the witness responded, adding that he believed the persons who told him about the killings and that he himself saw the victims’ bodies when they were exhumed.

Radovan Karadzic’s trial continues on Tuesday, 18 October 2011 after a one-week break ordered to allow Karadzic to prepare for the cross-examination of the next witnesses.