Momcilo Krajisnik failed to use the evidence of the former Crisis Staff president in Bosanski Novi, Radomir Pasic, to convince the judges that the Muslims had left Bosanski Novi voluntarily. His failure did not deter Radovan Karadzic from calling the same witness and trying to prove the same case

Radomir Pasic, defence witness of Radovan KaradzicRadomir Pasic, defence witness of Radovan Karadzic

In his statement to Karadzic’s defense, former president of the municipality and the Crisis Staff in Bosanski Novi Radomir Pasic said that local Muslims wanted to leave the municipality for political and security reasons. They were also motivated by a bad economic situation and the need to ‘join their families’. The Serb municipal authorities granted them leave to depart in June 1992, the witness claimed, when they organized a convoy to take them over the border to Croatia. Pasic said that their Crisis Staff did everything to protect the citizens, regardless of their ethnicity, but it was hard to deal with extremists on both sides.

In the cross-examination, the prosecutor put it to the witness an entirely different scenario: Pasic and his Crisis Staff put the local Muslims under such pressure that they had no choice but to leave. In May 1992, the Muslims from the River Japra valley were gathered in the village Blagaj. The village was shelled for 10 days which was one of the reasons for the ‘voluntary’ exodus. The witness dismissed the suggestion that he had personally ordered the shelling. This prompted the prosecutor to show an intercepted conversation of 11 May 1992. In the intercept, Major Zeljaja, commander of the JNA 343rd Brigade, says that the municipal president Pasic gave the order to shell Blagaj although it is ‘not necessary’ as the Muslim population has already been disarmed. Zeljaja described the municipality leadership as ‘crazy extremists headed by the president’. The witness nevertheless continued to deny that he had any role in the military chain of command.

The prosecutor claimed that a document from 7 June 1992 contained proof of the intent to expel the Muslims. The document was drafted after the meeting of seven presidents of the municipalities in the Sana-Una region. Bosanski Brod was one of those municipalities. At the meeting, it was decided unanimously that the non-Serb population should be removed until ‘effective Serb government’ was established. The witness refused to say whether the issue really was discussed at the meeting, and finally said that someone might have written this down ‘because they were ignorant’. When he was shown a document indicating that he had in fact signed the conclusions at the subsequent meeting, he said that the signature was his but that it had been forged. Pasic claimed that the signature was scanned and appended to the document later.

According to the judgment in the Momcilo Krajisnik case, about 13,000 to 14,000 local Muslims were expelled out of Bosanski Novi in July 1992 in two convoys. The judgment found that when they left, the Muslims had to sign a document stating that they ‘act of their own free will’, that they ‘leave permanently’ and that they leave their property to the ‘Serb state’.Pasic admitted today that such documents were signed but that it was not obligatory. Pasic contends that the word ‘permanently’ was just a legal category, releasing the people who moved out from their obligations in the municipality such as paying taxes or doing their military service. When they ceded their property, primarily real estate, Pasic said that the local authorities seized the houses temporarily in order to prevent the attacks by Serb extremists.

In his evidence at Momcilo Krajisnik’s trial, Pasic said more or less the same things. The Trial Chamber however gave credence to documentary evidence, the testimony of expelled Muslims and UNPROFOR staff who escorted the convoys to Croatia, and found that the Serb municipal leadership ‘intended and managed to force a large part of the Muslim population to flee’ through murder, detention, destruction of houses and mosques and other forms of pressure.