‘MIRAGE’ IN BIJELJINA
Karadzic’s defense witness said that Zeljko Raznatovic Arkan was a ‘mirage’ for both Muslims and Serbs in Bijeljina. Together with Mauzer’s volunteers, Arkan took part in liberating the town, the witness recounted. When he was shown photos, he was able to identify Arkan’s men standing next to dead civilians’ bodies. The second witness heard today testified about the events in Bijeljina. As he explained, he didn’t think Arkan was important and thus didn’t mention him in his statement to the defense team
After calling Mirko Sosic, a medical doctor from Sarajevo, Radovan Karadzic again focused on refuting the allegations in the indictment about the persecution and killing of Muslim civilians in Bijeljina in the early spring of 1992. Karadzic’s previous witnesses, primarily former local Bijeljina officials, tried hard to convince the Trial Chamber that Muslim paramilitary formations started the conflict in the municipality in eastern Bosnia. The Muslims put up road blocks and set up sniper nests, prompting the joint Serb units to respond. In a day or two, the Serb troops seized control of the town. This is how Zivko Filipovic and Dusan Spasojevic presented the situation in their evidence. Filipovic was the deputy commander of the Bijeljina Territorial Defense at the time. Spasojevic was a local crime police officer. Both shifted the blame on the Muslim side.
The Bijeljina witnesses heard so far had been very circumspect when it came to the role of Zeljko Raznatovic Arkan in the capture of Bijeljina: they either said nothing or very little on the topic. Unlike them, Zivko Filipovic openly said that ‘Arkan’s men’, Ljubisa Savic Mauzer’s unit and the JNA reservists took part in the fighting on 1 April 1992. Filipovic denied Raznatovic’s allegation from a TV interview that he had been asked to come and fight by the local Territorial Defense. In his replies to prosecutor Uertz-Retzlaff, the witness claimed that Arkan was probably invited by the members of his unit from Bijeljina who had previously undergone training in Erdut.
Contradicting the previous witnesses who were flabbergasted by the prosecution’s claim that non-Serbs in Bijeljina were afraid of Arkan, Filipovic admitted that this ‘dangerous man’ was a ‘mirage’ for both Muslims and Serbs. Filipovic also acknowledged that the unit comprised ‘tough guys who were prone to vices’. The witness also admitted that soldiers seen on Ron Haviv’s photos standing by the dead civilians in Bijeljina were ‘most likely Arkan’s men’. As a VRS soldier, the witness was later reassigned to Brcko. In the cross-examination, he said that the paramilitaries were stationed there as well, but he didn’t know ‘where they were from and where they went’. Filipovic remembered that ‘Zika Crnogorac’ was the leader of one of the groups. Zika Crnogorac was the nickname of Zivorad Ivanovic, one of the commanders of the Serbian State Security Service’s unit, the Red Berets.
Unlike Filipovic, a former officer in the crime police in Bijeljina Dusan Spasojevic never even mentioned Arkan in his statement to the defense. When prosecutor Gustafson asked Spasojevic how he managed to offer a detailed description of the beginning of the war in Bijeljina without once mentioning Arkan, he replied that for him Raznatovic ‘isn’t important and I didn’t consider it necessary to speak about him’. According to Spasojevic, the fact that in late March 1992 Muslims took over Bijeljina was important. As Spasojevic stated in one of his police documents from that time, in early April 1992 Muslims had the town under their control. The prosecutor put it to him that the claim was ‘false’: although the witness considers ‘Arkan’s men’ to be irrelevant, in actual fact they controlled Bijeljina as of 1 April 1992. The JNA documents also indicate that.
The indictment against Karadzic alleges that 48 non-Serb civilians were killed in Bijeljina on 1 and 2 April 1992. Spasojevic contends that at least half of them were killed in combat. When the prosecutor put it to him that his claims were groundless because he had no direct knowledge of the circumstances, the witness replied that it was just ‘my vision’ of the event. Spasojevic will complete his evidence on Friday.
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