Former assistant to the BH interior minister Vitomir Zepinic testified today as Radovan Karadzic’s defense witness, yet he told the court he was an ‘idiot because I did not arrest’ the accused before the war broke out. Zepinic claimed that his mother had been killed because of his conflicts with the Pale leadership, and he revealed that the RS president ‘went gambling with Arkan’ in Belgrade as roadblocks were put up in Sarajevo

Vitomir Zepinic, defence witness of Radovan KaradzicVitomir Zepinic, defence witness of Radovan Karadzic

Through the testimony of the former municipal official from Vlasenica Sava Celikovic, Radovan Karadzic continued refuting the allegations in the indictment about the Bosnian Serb leadership’s responsibility for the ethnic cleansing in large parts of BH. Celikovic’s evidence followed the same pattern as that of the previous defense witnesses: he blamed the Muslims for starting the war and insisted that the Serbs were only defending themselves. In the defense, according to Celikovic, Serbs treated the civilians kindly and provided them with shelter in the Susica prison camp. In his statement the witness said that it was a collection center where non-Serb civilians were brought to protect them from the ‘stress’ they were exposed to because of the fighting.

Prosecutor Jason File put it to Celikovic in the cross-examination that the Muslims in Vlasenica had been expelled from their houses and taken to the Susica prison camp. Celikovic admitted that sometimes Serb refugees from other parts of BH were ‘impatient as they wanted to solve their housing problem’ so they mistreated and evicted local Muslims. That is why the Susica prison camp was established: to provide accommodation for those people and to keep them safe. The prosecutor confronted the witness with the evidence that more than 500 non-Serbs were held in Susica in 1992 in a hangar that was 15 by 30 meters. The detainees ate from 10 unwashed plates and relieved themselves in an overflowing bucket. The prosecutor also recalled that some detainees in the Susica prison camp were beaten to death. That ‘doesn’t quite sound’ like protection, the prosecutor noted. ‘Well it doesn’t sound like that’, the witness agreed, adding that he didn’t have such information. The witness said that the detainees were there ‘only temporarily’ until they could be transferred to the territory under the BH Army control, ‘just as they wanted to’.

Vitomir Zepinic, pre-war assistant to the BH police minister, was called next. Although he was called by the defense, Zepinic sparred verbally with Karadzic several times during his evidence. In a number of statements given since 2002 and in his testimony against Stanisic and Zupljanin in 2010, the witness accused the Pale leadership of extremism. He claimed they had decided to resort to violence and war in order to separate Serbs from other nations in BH.

When the accused read out the summary of the statement Zepinic had recently given to the defense team, it sounded as if Zepinic had recanted. However, in the cross-examination, the picture changed completely. In the summary of the statement, Zepinic blamed Alija Izetbegovic and the Muslim leadership for starting the war and explained that although he remained convinced that Karadzic didn’t want Serbs to live side by side with the two other nations, he assumed that Karadzic didn’t mean that the three nations could not coexist physically, but only culturally and politically.

In the cross-examination prosecutor Alan Tieger reminded the witness of his evidence at the trial of Stanisic and Zupljanin, where Zepinic said that Karadzic and Nikola Koljevic were ‘aggressively’ opposed to his advocating of the multi-ethnic concept and even called him ‘an idiot’ at a meeting. ‘I admit that I am an idiot’, the witness said, ‘but only because I didn’t eliminate them before that meeting’.

The more the prosecutor reminded the witness of the disagreements and conflicts with the Pale leadership, the witness became more and more incensed as he spoke about Karadzic. The problems with the Bosnian Serb leadership culminated in 1992, after the war broke out. Zepinic stepped down and was arrested in Belgrade. The witness was first detained in Pale, then in the Kula prison in Sarajevo and finally he was held in the military barracks in Lukavica. Later that year, when he was allowed to visit his family in Serbia, he took the opportunity to flee. In early 1993, he emigrated to Australia.

As he recalled that period, the witness said that during the long months of his imprisonment, Karadzic visited him twice. Zepinic didn’t want to tell Karadzic where his wife and children were as he was afraid they would suffer the same fate as his parents, who were regularly mistreated. As a consequence, Zepinic’s mother died of a heart attack. Zepinic said that Karadzic ‘knows that very well’. ‘Dr. Karadzic, matricide is the worst crime in the Orthodox faith. You and I have talked many times about the love you had for your mother and I don’t understand why my mother had to be killed’, the witness told Karadzic.

In his statement Zepinic said that Karadzic didn’t have anything to do with the killing of Muslims in Bijeljina in early April 1992. The crime was committed by ‘Arkan’s criminals’. In the cross-examination, the witness did tie Zeljko Raznatovic with the accused. As Zepinic recounted, Fikret Abdic told him that in March 1992 Karadzic was with Arkan in the Yugoslavia Hotel in Belgrade and ‘did a bit of gambling’ after a meeting with Milosevic. At that time, roadblocks were put up in Sarajevo.

Zepinic’s evidence clearly contradicted Karadzic’s claim that the SDA sent thousands of Muslims to be trained in Croatia as part of their preparations for the war. The witness said that standard procedure was followed throughout. Before the war, 400 police officers from Western Herzegovina were sent to the Croatian MUP training center, the witness said, just as other officers from BH were sent to be trained in Serbia.

As the hearing drew to a close, the accused began re-examining his witness.

Vitomir Zepinic, defence witness of Radovan Karadzic
Savo Celikovic, defence witness of Radovan Karadzic