Karadzic’s defense witness worked in the military department 300 meters from the notorious Luka prison camp in Brcko. He nevertheless contends that he ‘heard [about the crimes in the prison camp], but had no official information’. The witness also ‘heard, but didn’t know’ that Captain Dragan’s special unit was training in the town several months before the war began. The witness ‘knew but didn’t have anything to do with’ other paramilitary units

Obren Markovic, defence witness of Radovan KaradzicObren Markovic, defence witness of Radovan Karadzic

If Obren Markovic, Karadzic’s defense witness, is to be believed, this is how the war started in Brcko: first, in April and May 1992, ‘strong and well-organized’ Muslim and Croat units attacked the JNA. The JNA responded and ‘unblocked’ the town, only to withdraw once their task was completed. In the ensuing ‘chaos and anarchy’, the Serb paramilitary forces hit the ground running: they looted property and mistreated the people. Markovic, who was a member of the war presidency in the Serb municipality of Brcko, contends that the local authorities and the Bosnian Serb MUP expelled the paramilitary units and managed to establish control of the town after a few months.

According to the documents showed by prosecutor McKenna in the cross-examination, members of Captain Dragan’s special unit were trained in Brcko months before the conflict started. The documents also showed that in the spring of 1992 ‘Seselj’s men’ under the command of Mirko Blagojevic and Mauzer’s Serb Guard fought there side by side with the JNA. The witness, who worked in the military department at the time, said he ‘knew’ about Mauzer’s and Blagojevic’s groups, ‘but the army had nothing to do with them’.

The military department was located only 300 meters from the Luka prison camp. As alleged in the indictment, non-Serb detainees were held in inhumane conditions, beaten, raped and killed in Luka. As regards the events in the camp, Markovic said he ‘only heard about them, but had no official information’. The prosecutor reminded Markovic that a police officer from Brcko, Ranko Cesic, had pleaded guilty to the abuse and murder in the Luka prison camp and other witnesses identified other perpetrators as police officers. Cesic was sentenced to 18 years in prison by the Tribunal. The prosecutor put it to the witness that the police didn’t take the town away from the paramilitary units but committed crimes together with them. The witness said that ‘the police as a whole didn’t take part in the crimes: individual police officers, such as Cesic, did’. Markovic explained that ‘at the beginning’ Cesic worked in the MUP, but was then fired from the police because of his involvement in the crimes. He went on to join the army.

As the hearing continued, a former military court judge from Bijeljina, Savo Bojanovic began his testimony. In his statement to the defense team, Bojanovic said that the Bosnian Serb judiciary prosecuted all those who committed crimes regardless of their ethnic background. Bojanovic illustrated his claim with several examples of Serb soldiers who were indicted for the murder and rape of Muslims and Croats. Also, the defense showed several convictions for the looting of abandoned non-Serb property. Serb soldiers mostly received suspended sentences for that.

In the cross-examination, the prosecutor remarked that the Serb army soldiers who committed crimes were rarely prosecuted fully. They would be released from custody, and then would abscond, and would be either tried in absentia or convicted after many years. ‘Judges who released them from custody couldn’t know that they would flee’, the witness explained. As the prosecutor also noted, Bojanovic issued warrants for the arrest of ‘unknown perpetrators’ for the murders of the Muslim detainees in Bijeljina despite the fact that the perpetrators were well known. The witness claimed the ‘law enforcement’ agencies - the public prosecutor’s office and the police - were in charge of identifying the perpetrators.

As the hearing drew to a close, Karadzic called his next witness, Milivoj Kicanovic, a doctor from Bijeljina.

Obren Markovic, defence witness of Radovan Karadzic
Savo Bojanovic, defence witness of Radovan Karadzic