In his evidence at the Karadzic trial, former member of the Serb Crisis Staff in the Zvornik municipality Cedomir Zelenovic said that the local authorities supported Zeljko Raznatovic Arkan as a ‘force that would impose a peaceful solution from above’. As Zelenovic noted, soon after the town was taken by the paramilitary groups, they imposed their ‘reign of terror’ which apparently no one could oppose

Cedomir Zelenovic, defence witness of Radovan KaradzicCedomir Zelenovic, defence witness of Radovan Karadzic

Former member of the Zvornik Crisis Staff Cedomir Zelenovic testified in Radovan Karadzic’s defense. Zelenovic tried to shift the blame for the crimes in the municipality on the Muslim and Croat ‘separatists and chauvinists’ and the irregulars from Serbia. In the spring of 1992, the first crimes were committed against Serbs and then the Serb paramilitary formations headed by ‘Arkan’s men’ captured the town and imposed their ‘reign of terror’, Zelenovic recounted. The witness tried to deny that the local authorities and the police – including their superior Karadzic – were responsible for numerous crimes against the Zvornik Muslims.

In the cross-examination, prosecutor McKenna put it to the witness that the local authorities supported Zeljko Raznatovic Arkan and that the police and the Territorial Defense attacked Zvornik side by side with Arkan’s men. Zelenovic replied that he as a Crisis Staff member was willing to support ‘the devil himself’ in order to calm the situation in the town. As Zelenovic said, when Zvornik was in the hands of Muslims, the local Serb authorities supported Arkan as a ‘force that would impose a peaceful solution from above’. When that ‘force’ captured Zvornik, things ‘took their usual course because this is the Balkans’, Zelenovic said. In other words, the local authorities purportedly could no longer control the paramilitary units that ‘had taken a deep hold’ and committed numerous crimes.

Pointing to the collusion of the local authorities and the illegal groups, including the most notorious ones, the prosecutor showed a decision of the Zvornik provisional government of 27 April 1992. The decision grants financial and logistical help to the ‘Yellow Wasps’ unit. The government’s ‘hand was forced’, the witness claimed, and remained adamant even when he was confronted with the evidence that the municipal authorities paid salaries to ‘Arkan’s men’, ‘Yellow Wasps’ and other units. The prosecutor went on to show photographs from a celebration of the police patron’s day in Zvornik in November 1995. The photos show Karadzic and Arkan addressing those in attendance; this indicates that the Bosnian Serb leadership didn’t stop supporting the paramilitary groups until the very end of the war.

Zelenovic said that the Bosnian Serb special police launched an operation to expel the irregulars in late June 1992. It took ‘two or three hours’ to achieve the objective; all the irregulars were later detained and convicted. It was as if ‘some force that had held us under occupation, in stranglehold, killing us’ left suddenly, Zelenovic concluded. The prosecutor nevertheless put it to him that there was no investigations and that the gravest crimes – in Gerina Klanica, the schools in Karakaj and Drinjaca, in the Culture Hall in Celopek- were not investigated or prosecuted. Although he had been quite adamant that the perpetrators had been convicted, now he replied that he was ‘not competent’ to answer that question.

In the second part of the hearing, the former chief of the Crisis Staff in Zvornik Branko Grujic started his evidence. Grujic has been convicted for crimes committed in Zvornik.