A former official from Zvornik testified at the trial of the former Republika Srpska president under the pseudonym KW 317. The witness said that Radovan Karadzic was sad and disappointed when he heard the news that Muslims had left Kozluk. In one of their encounters the witness ‘felt’ it was ‘very difficult for Karadzic to handle it when people had to move out of an area’

Radovan Karadzic in the courtroomRadovan Karadzic in the courtroom

An official from the Zvornik municipality appeared as a witness at the trial of Radovan Karadzic testifying with measures to protect his identity. The witness said that the Serb crisis staff was established in that municipality in 1992 in response to the ‘circumstances’. According to him, the only culprits for the crimes against non-Serb population were ‘Arkan’s men’, the ‘Yellow Wasps’ unit, and other paramilitary formations.

In his evidence in Karadzic’s defense, the witness recounted that in April 1992 ‘Arkan’s men’ slapped the Serb representatives from the municipality who went to meet with Muslim representatives in Mali Zvornik. ‘Arkan’s men’ called them traitors and told them that ‘they were not cut out for politics’. The members of the unit then captured Zvornik; they had not been ordered to do so by anyone.

At the time, the Zvornik municipality leaders were not in touch with Pale and Karadzic didn’t know anything about the situation, the witness claimed. Later, Karadzic was ‘very disappointed’ and ‘expressed his disagreement with the events in Zvornik’. The Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) and the local authorities didn’t advocate the transfer of population as their goal and the witness ‘find[s] it simply impossible to believe that Karadzic ever wanted the people to be expelled’.

In the cross-examination, prosecutor Tieger noted that in his statements to the OTP investigators in 2002 and 2003 the witness confirmed that the Zvornik municipal authorities operated in line with the instructions of the SDS Main Board issued in December 1991. The document is also known as Variant A and B. The witness told the OTP that the authorities first formed the crisis staff and then seized power in the municipality. Now, the witness said that it was not ‘Karadzic’s will’ but a ‘response to the moves the Muslims had made’.

The prosecutor also noted that in his statement to the investigators the witness said that Muslims moved out of Zvornik because they were forced to. He also said that Kosta Eric from the Civilian Defense told him that the Serb forces were arresting Muslims, taking them to Celopek, torturing and killing them… The witness confirmed it, but dismissed the prosecutor’s suggestion that he informed Karadzic and Krajisnik about the killings of the Muslims in Zvornik. The prosecutor then put it to the witness that he told Karadzic and Krajisnik at least twice that a group of Muslims from Djulici near Kozluk were detained and then killed. ‘I may have said it, but it’s not true’, the witness replied.

In the re-examination the witness recounted that in 1992 Karadzic ordered that all prisoners were to be treated in line with the Geneva conventions. When Karadzic asked him if he, Karadzic, or any other relevant Serb leaders ‘had the intent or took measures to expel Muslims or had any intent to commit genocide’, the witness simply said ‘no’.

The witness was more eloquent when he was asked how Karadzic received the news that Muslims had left Kozluk. ‘You were sad and very disappointed’, the witness replied, adding that he ‘felt’ it was ‘very difficult for Karadzic to handle it when people had to move out of an area’. ‘You were very much involved in the effort to dispatch units that arrested paramilitary formations and in the appointment of Pandurevic as the commander, as he brought stability to the situation in the Zvornik area’, the witness said in the end.

Vinko Pandurevic, commander of the Zvornik Brigade, was sentenced to 13 years by the Tribunal for aiding and abetting the executions of the Srebrenica Muslims in July 1995.