Radovan Karadzic’s defense witnesses tried to paint a rosier picture of the situation in the facilities described in the indictment as ‘prison camps’ under the Bosnian Serb control. The witnesses thus said that they were ‘collection centers’, ‘transit stations’ and ‘safe houses’. According to the witnesses, Muslims went there voluntarily because they didn’t feel safe in their homes

Mile Ujic, defence witness of Radovan KaradzicMile Ujic, defence witness of Radovan Karadzic

Pending results of the medical examination of the former Drina Corps commander Radislav Krstic, the defense case at the trial of Radovan Karadzic continued with the evidence of two new witnesses. Last week, Krstic refused to testify for medical reasons. In their statements to Karadzic’s defense and in their previous evidence, Mile Ujic and Vitomir Banduka denied the existence of prison camps in the Rogatica and Hadzici areas where non-Serb civilians were detained, held in inhumane conditions, abused, raped and killed.

As the indictment alleges, the Veljko Vlahovic secondary school in Rogatica was a prison facility. Former member of the Rogatica Crisis Staff and acting commander of the Rogatica Brigade Mile Ujic contradicted the claims, saying it was a ‘safe house’ used to accommodate civilians from all ethnic groups. According to Ujic, people went there because they didn’t feel safe in their homes. In the cross-examination, prosecutor Gustafson put it to the witness that Muslim and Croat civilians were forcibly brought to the school and were then expelled from the territory under the Bosnian Serb control.

The witness dismissed the suggestion, prompting the prosecutor to show him the BH State Court judgment of Radisav Ljubinac. He was sentenced to 10 years for capturing a group of Muslim civilians in August 1992, detaining them in the Veljko Vlahovic school and expelling them to the Sarajevo territory. ‘It is all true’, the witness said. He didn’t agree that the school was a prison camp. According to the witness, it was a place where the infirm were given shelter. They were held there until they expressed their desire to ‘move on’, to leave Republika Srpska. The indictment alleges that the civilians were not only detained and expelled from the area: some were taken out of the school and killed at other locations.

The Rasadnik prison camp also operated in the municipality. In August 1992, 27 men were taken out of the prison camp to dig trenches on the front line and were later shot to death. The witness said that Dragoje Paunovic Spiro killed them ‘in a fit of pique’ and ‘spontaneously’. The detainees were criminals, the witness noted. One of the three survivors from the execution line was 15-year-old Armin Bazdar who had appeared as a witness at the trial of Radovan Karadzic. The prosecutor noted that there were several other underage boys in the group; they couldn’t have had a criminal record. ‘No matter what their age, 15 or 150, every suspect was brought in. I am sorry for Bazdar but, hey, it turned out he was not guilty and he survived: I am glad for him’, Ujic replied tersely. Bazdar didn’t survive because of someone’s good will but by sheer luck. Bazdar was wounded and was able to flee the execution site.

Vitomir Banduka, former VRS soldier and president of the municipality of Hadzici in Sarajevo, told a similar story about the prison facilities under the Bosnian Serb control. Banduka claimed that the local Sports Center was used as a ‘collection center’ for civilians who were not safe in their houses for war operations and paramilitary actions during the war. Banduka called them ‘transit station’ for those who said they wanted to go to the territory under the BH Army control. Prosecutor McKenna confronted the witness with the testimony of three people who had been detained in the Sports Center and the statement of the Hadzici police chief Tihomir Glavas about the torture of prisoners. The detainees claimed that they were taken there by force. The witness replied that he didn’t agree with Glavas’s statement to the OTP investigators but didn’t want to comment on it. As for the allegations of the former detainees in the Sports Center, Banduka said they were ‘rather serious’, but he left it up to the Trial Chamber to conclude if civilians ‘agreed’ to be detained there, or were ‘persuaded’.

Vitomir Banduka will complete his evidence tomorrow.

Mile Ujic, defence witness of Radovan Karadzic
Vitomir Banduka, defence witness of Radovan Karadzic