In early 1993, almost all the Muslim residents fled the municipality of Trebinje, but the former mayor of Trebinje is proud of his role there. Muslims claimed that they left Trebinje because of the threats and abuse by the Serb authorities. The witness contradicted their claims, saying they left voluntarily and because of their ‘fanaticism’. Karadzic’s witness was apparently clairvoyant: he said he would build ‘an older and more beautiful Dubrovnik’ once it was torn down, and according to his testimony, this was a reference to the Bosnian Croats saying they would build ‘an older and more beautiful’ Old Bridge in Mostar; the only problem is that the Old Bridge was destroyed two years after the attack on Dubrovnik

Bozidar Vucurevic, defence witness of Radovan KaradzicBozidar Vucurevic, defence witness of Radovan Karadzic

Radovan Karadzic took a statement from the former Trebinje mayor Bozidar Vucurevic, obtained for him a ‘safe conduct’ granting that he would not be arrested based on an indictment against him issued by the Croatian authorities for the shelling of Dubrovnik, and in the end, he wasted an entire day in court to elicit evidence from Vucurevic that was not really relevant for his defense case. Trebinje is not listed in the indictment and Vucurevic’s testimony is relevant only for the issue of the general pattern of conduct of the SDS leadership headed by the accused Karadzic.

The witness didn’t deny that the Muslim population left the Trebinje municipality in Herzegovina, but insisted that the leaders of the Muslim SDA party were responsible for the exodus. Vucurevic argued that a local Muslim – whose name Vucurevic refused to disclose – asked him in late January 1993 to get him a passport because he wanted to leave BH. In return, the man gave Vucurevic the orders of the SDA secretary Hasan Cengic and the SDA Municipal Board instructing Muslims to move out of Trebinje ‘quietly and cautiously, but bravely and in an organized manner’. Vucurevic immediately met with the representatives of the Trebinje Muslims and told them he couldn’t guarantee them safety and that they would not be attacked by Serbs. They decided to ‘comply with Cengic’s order’ and go to Montenegro. The municipal authorities provided them with buses and escorted them to the border, the witness recounted.

The prosecutor put it to the witness that the Muslim population had been expelled from Trebinje, quoting the refugees’ words to the magazine Monitor on their arrival in Montenegro: they told the newspaper that they had left because of constant threats, police abuse and because people would break into their homes. They didn’t leave because of the purported SDA instruction ‘as Vucurevic claims’. They would not have left their houses at anyone’s behest to sleep on floors and with their belongings packed in ‘garbage bags’.

The prosecutor then addressed Vucurevic’s wartime appearance in Belgrade as a part of an ‘epic poetry tour’, when Vucurevic claimed that Muslims from Trebinje were ‘religious fanatics’ who left their houses at the behest of their leaders and ‘sang’ as they went to Montenegro. The witness first said that those weren’t his words. When the prosecutor offered to play the audio recording, the witness replied that the Muslims’ departure from Trebinje indeed was ‘an occasion marked by songs and merry-making’ compared to the suffering of the Serbs in BH. Vucurevic added that at the time he had to ‘playact a bit’ for the benefit of his ethnic community. He received threats because he was protecting Muslims and had to ‘say this or that’, Vucurevic explained. On the same occasion, as he was ‘saying this’ (or maybe ‘that’), Vucurevic promised that Serb states would be established and argued that the war in BH was fought by three groups of Serbs: Catholics, Muslims and Orthodox. Today Vucurevic again said that one could argue this was a single nation with three religions.

The prosecutor also showed the witness’s interview to a newspaper, Srpsko oslobodjenje, from October 1994. In the interview, Vucurevic discussed the negotiations with the Croat side: the goal was to ‘sever all ties with the Muslims once and for all’ because ‘dealing with them was like dancing with the Devil’. As Vucurevic explained to the newspaper, their birth rate was ‘scary’: ‘they have so many children that you can’t count them’. Vucurevic therefore proposed that Herzegovina be divided between Serbs and Croats. Asked if there would be place for Muslims in Herzegovina, Vucurevic said that they would end up ‘in the Neretva River’. He wanted the river to be the border between Serbs and Croats. Today Vucurevic argued that the interview had been fabricated and that he had been framed. Srpsko oslobodjenje was the wartime mouthpiece of the SDS and Vucurevic was on the Party’s Main Board.

As the prosecutor noted, the witness gained notoriety with his public speeches about the shelling of Dubrovnik. At one point, Vucurevic said the artillery fired ‘on every available target, as often as possible’ and that the Serbs would build ‘an older and more beautiful’ town than the one they were destroying at the time. Vucurevic’s answer was that he had said that ‘half in jest, in fact, in jest’, in response to the Croat claims that they would build an ‘older and more beautiful’ Old Bridge in Mostar that they had torn down. The only problem with Vucurevic’s defense is the fact that his statement about Dubrovnik was made in late 1991, almost two years before the Old Bridge in Mostar was destroyed.

Vucurevic thus completed his evidence. As he has been granted ‘safe conduct’, he won’t have to fear arrest or extradition to Croatia as he travels home. At the end of his evidence, Karadzic thanked Vucurevic for coming to testify and for ‘protecting your Muslim neighbors’ during the war.