KARADZIC’S HONEST WITNESS
Ilija Miscevic, an ethnic Serb from Sarajevo, claims that the Serb army shelled Hrasnica only after fire was opened from that neighborhood. However, one ‘should be honest and say’ that shells fell on civilian buildings ‘in other cases, when there was no fire’. The witness’s skyscraper was hit hundreds of times during the war and civilians of all ethnicities were killed by the shells. A prison guard from Foca who testified next said he ‘doesn’t know anything’ about the rapes
The trial of Radovan Karadzic continued with the evidence of two Bosnian Serbs, Janko Ivanovic and Ilija Miscevic. They spent the BH war in Sarajevo under siege, in the neighborhood of Hrasnica, which was targeted by the Sarajevo-Romanija Corps artillery, as the prosecution alleges. The Corps was part of the VRS. The prosecution also alleges that the area was targeted as part of a broad artillery and sniper terror campaign against the citizens of Sarajevo. Karadzic’s defense case is that the Serbs merely responded to the BH Army provocations and always fired on military targets.
In the statements to the defense admitted into evidence and read out in court, Ivanovic and Miscevic state that they saw armed Muslims soldiers regularly in Hrasnica and that there were several military targets in the neighborhood. The HQ of the BH Army 4th Brigade was located in the post office, while artillery ammunition was manufactured in Aleksa Santic Elementary School and in the garages of the tower blocks. They claim that they saw mortars mounted on truck trailers, that were used to target Serb positions around the city.
In the cross-examination Janko Ivanovic agreed with the prosecutor that the soldiers he saw in fact lived in Hrasnica with their families and that they would only walk around armed when they were on their way to the front lines or back to their homes. Ilija Miscevic implied that the Serb forces targeted military facilities in Hrasnica, stating that in April 1995, a private home about a hundred meters from the elementary school building was hit. He said he heard a strange sound, ‘similar to a fan’, and an explosion stronger than usual artillery impacts. This would jibe with the allegation in the indictment that a modified air bomb was fired on the neighborhood. It is an inaccurate weapon used by the Bosnian Serb army at the time.
Miscevic contends that fire was opened from Hrasnica from mobile mortars. In those situations, the Serb side would ‘respond fiercely’ and fire on the residential area. The witness added that ‘to be honest, we should say’ that ‘fire was frequently opened [on Hrasnica] even when there no fire’ had been opened at the Serb positions. During the war the witness’s skyscraper was hit ‘hundreds of times’ and the witness’s apartment received six to seven hits. The attacks caused many civilian casualties among all ethnic groups in the building, the witness explained. Most of the residents, including the witness’s daughter, spent days and nights in the shelter in the basement of the skyscraper.
The last witness today was a former Bosnian Serb army soldier from Foca, Milutin Vujacic. In his statement to the defense, Vujacic stubbornly accused the Muslims from that municipality of arming themselves first, attacking Serb villages and perpetrating ‘gruesome crimes’. The Serbs responded to this and after winning a military victory, they ‘placed’ the civilians in various locations in the town. Men were primarily placed in the correctional and penal facility while the women were put up in the Partizan sports hall and in private houses. As the witness explained, this was done to prevent the members of the renegade Serb paramilitary groups from hurting them. In late April 1992 the witness was involved in ‘protecting women’ in the sports hall.
In the cross-examination, prosecutor Uertz-Retzlaff confronted the witness with some adjudicated facts from several of the Tribunal’s cases. It was established beyond reasonable doubt that Muslim women had been raped in the Partizan sports hall and in other locations in the town. The witness replied that he didn’t know anything about it. The Tribunal’s judgments also state that the Muslim villages were looted and burned down, that civilians were detained, beaten and killed and the survivors were left with no alternative but to leave the area. The witness claimed that the evacuation was voluntary and that the Serb authorities only ‘met’ the demands of the Muslims who wanted to join their relatives who had fled earlier.
Two more defense witnesses will testify tomorrow.
- Case : Karadzic
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