A former VRS member who fought in Slavko Aleksic’s group during the war testified in Radovan Karadzic’s defense. The witness said that despite the beard and long hair his commander looked more like ‘Moses’ than a Chetnik warlord

Dragan Sojic, defence witness of Radovan KaradzicDragan Sojic, defence witness of Radovan Karadzic

Former Bosnian Serb president Radovan Karadzic continued his defense case with the evidence of Dragan Sojic, who was a member of various Serb municipal bodies in Novo Sarajevo and a member of a VRS unit from Grbavica under the command of Chetnik warlord Slavko Aleksic. In his statement to the defense team, admitted into evidence today, the witness said that the goal of the Serb municipal crisis staffs was never to persecute non-Serbs. Instead, their purpose was to normalize the living conditions in war-time, the witness explained.

In a brief examination-in-chief, the witness said that in his unit’s area of responsibility, Serbs didn’t commit any crimes. The crimes were committed by a handful of criminals behind the front lines, who targeted both Serbs and Muslims. One of them was Veselin Vlahovic Batko, also known as ‘the Monster of Grbavica’. At one point ‘there were rumors that Vlahovic would be arrested’, and the Serb fighters and people were ‘relieved’. According to the witness, vojvoda [Chetnik military leader] Aleksic was not one of those criminals. Aleksic had ‘great human and military qualities’ and his unit was not extraordinary in any way, except for its dedication to defend their positions, the witness said. The witness admitted that Aleksic had a peculiar fashion sense, sporting a beard and long hair but he did it ‘for personal reasons’ even before the war. According to the witness, there was nothing controversial about that.

In the cross-examination, prosecutor Gustafson noted that the beard and long hair were typical of Chetniks. The witness dismissed the allegation, and insisted that Aleksic had ‘a benevolent and enlightened mien’ and could not be a criminal. The prosecutor in turn insisted that Aleksic looked like a Chetnik but the witness snapped at her, saying, ‘to me he looked more like Moses’. The witness didn’t want to comment on the fact that ‘Moses’ from Grbavica signed official VRS documents as ‘vojvoda’ and used the stamp of the Serbian Radical Party, which espoused the Chetnik ideology.

As did several witnesses before him, Sojic contended that the Serb municipal bodies operated independently from the top bodies in the Serbian Democratic Party. The witness claimed that the crisis staffs were not established based on the instructions of the Main Board for the takeover of the municipalities listed in the document called Variant A and B issued on 19 December 1991. He remained adamant even when he was shown minutes from the inaugural session of the Novo Sarajevo crisis staff held four days later. The minutes state that before the body was established ‘materials from the SDS Main Board were reviewed’. The minutes of the SDS local board in Grbavica from late January 1992 state explicitly that the Novo Sarajevo crisis staff was ‘established based on the instructions of the Main Board’. Sojic refused to budge.

After Sojic completed his testimony, the accused called Mihajlo Vujasin, former deputy commander of the Rajlovac Brigade and chief engineer in the Sarajevo-Romanija Corps. The accused read out the summary of Vujasin’s statement. Vujasin said that the Bosnian Serb army around Sarajevo only defended their positions. When responding to the provocations from the city, they made sure to avoid civilian casualties. The witness claimed that the BH Army terrorized the Serbs in the Rajlovac area. The allegations in the indictment that the Sarajevo citizens were targeted by the artillery and snipers from Bosnian Serb positions were untrue, the witness said. Colonel Vujasin will complete the testimony tomorrow.

Dragan Sojic, defence witness of Radovan Karadzic
Mihajlo Vujasin, defence witness of Radovan Karadzic
Slavko Aleksic