In his evidence at the trial of Ratko Mladic, witness Sulejman Crncalo described the persecution of Muslims in Pale in late June and early July 1992 when they were told they could no longer live there. The defense claimed that Crncalo and his family left Pale of their own free will and allowed Serb refugees to use their property

Sulejman Crncalo, witness at the Ratko Mladic trialSulejman Crncalo, witness at the Ratko Mladic trial

The trial of Ratko Mladic continued with the evidence of Sulejman Crncalo who spoke about the persecution of Muslims in Pale in late June and early July 1992. The witness’s written statement from November 2009 was admitted into evidence. In the statement, the witness described how Muslims were fired, arrested and pressured psychologically by the Serb authorities that wanted to make Muslims leave Pale and abandon their homes.

As a member of the Muslim delegation from Pale, Crncalo met Nikola Koljevic in the spring of 1992. Koljevic told the delegation ‘on behalf of the Serb authorities’ that they were not wanted in Pale because ‘Serbs no longer want to live with Muslims’. In June 1992, Radovan Karadzic addressed a rally in Pale. Karadzic told the Serbs that ‘every Muslim house should be attacked wherever it may be because that is the way to defend your homes’.

In early July 1992, the witness and his family joined the last of the three convoys in which the Muslims from Pale were expelled to Sarajevo under the police escort. Tragedy struck while they were in Sarajevo: Crncalo lost his wife in the Markale market incident on 28 August 1995. The witness will never forget the images of the blood stained town market with the clothes, shoes and body parts strewn around.

In the cross-examination, Mladic’s defense counsel Dragan Ivetic tried to contest the witness’s evidence about the Muslims’ fear of ‘a resurrection of the Chetnik movement’; this fear spread among them after a rally in front of a place called Novakova Pecina on Mount Romanija. On 6 May 1991, Vojislav Seselj and Radovan Karadzic spoke about the newly forged ‘Serb concord and unity’ and plans for the activation of Chetnik units.

Ivetic said that it was the ‘usual, traditional’ celebration of the feast of St. George. The witness dismissed the claim, prompting the judges to ask for the transcript of the video footage recorded at the Romanija rally. The prosecution played the recording at Karadzic’s trial during the evidence of witness Radomir Kezunovic, in May 2011.

In a bid to prove that Muslims in Pale had nothing to fear, Ivetic claimed that until Crncalo left Pale in July 1992, he saw only two Chetniks, who were in uniform but were unarmed. Ivetic also said that ‘shooting in the air’ was what Serbs traditionally did when they celebrated something.

Finally, Ivetic put it to the witness that he had abandoned Pale of his own free will, and that he left his house, all the furnishings and his car to the Serb refugees voluntarily ‘for their temporary use’ until he could return. Crncalo did get his house back after the war, the defense counsel argued. Crncalo explained that he and his brother agreed to leave the house to a Serb family for their use a couple of hours before they left. ‘I didn’t want to, but I had to’, Crncalo said, dismissing the defense’s suggestion that he had done it voluntarily.

Today, Mladic complied with the ‘new regime’ the Trial Chamber imposed this morning because of the inappropriate comments he had made to some previous witnesses. Mladic may not say anything while the court is in session; he may not even consult with his defense. If he disobeys, he will be thrown out of court. At one point, Mladic got a bit carried away and tried to call one of his defense lawyers. Judge Orie intervened and told Mladic in no uncertain terms it was his ‘last warning’.