Andras Riedlmayer, American expert on cultural heritage in the Balkans, has said in his testimony at the trial of Ratko Mladic that religious facilities in Bosnia and Herzegovina were hubs of religious and cultural life. They were a symbol of the community’s existence in that area, Riedlmayer pointed. When they were destroyed, Bosnian Muslims and Croats were given a clear message: there was no place for them in the Serb territories

András Riedlmayer, witness at the Ratko Mladic trialAndrás Riedlmayer, witness at the Ratko Mladic trial

Andras Riedlmayer appeared for the ninth, and most likely final, time as a witness before the Tribunal. He testified about the destruction of cultural and historical heritage in the countries of the former Yugoslavia. Riedlmayer is the director of the Documentation Center for Islamic Architecture at Harvard University. In a report he wrote for Ratko Mladic’s trial, Riedlmayer investigated the destruction of Muslim and Croat monuments in 12 municipalities under the control of Bosnian Serbs.

Religious facilities were centers of religious life, but they were also the hubs of cultural and social life, and visual proof of the existence of a community in an area. Religious buildings were not destroyed randomly, but intentionally, often during or immediately after the exodus of the local non-Serb population, Riedlmayer concluded.

The statements made by those who knew what was going on in the field indicate that there was awareness of the consequences the destruction of religious monuments would have for the affected communities. Riedlmayer gave an example: Milan Tupajic, president of the war Crisis Staff and of Sokolac municipality, said at the trial of Momcilo Krajisnik, ‘Serbs believe that if there are no mosques, there are no Muslims. And by destroying the mosques, the Muslims will for all intents and purposes lose their motivation to return to their villages’. In the same context Riedlmayer quoted the words of a Banja Luka Muslim, who said that when the Ferhadija Mosque was destroyed, the Muslims were given a clear message: there was no place for them in Banja Luka. Those statements ‘accurately describe the attitude towards the reasons for the destruction’, Riedlmayer concluded.

The prosecutor showed a series of photos of destroyed mosques and parish churches. The level of destruction in photos varied from minor damage to almost complete or complete destruction. Most of the mosques were in the latter categories. By the end of the war, all the Catholic churches in the twelve municipalities covered by Riedlmayer’s report had been damaged to a lesser or greater extent.

A photo from Foca shows a pig skull in the interior of a destroyed Mosque of Mehmed Pasha Kukavica in Foca. The witness noted that the skulls of the animal the Muslims consider impure were left at several other locations. Other examples he used showed the destruction of the very foundations and turning the sites where mosques once stood into garbage dumps, a frequent practice. The witness also said that the remains of the Mosque Aladza in Foca were found outside of the town, buried seven meters deep.

At the beginning of the cross-examination, defense counsel Branko Lukic contested the witness’s expertise, impartiality and methodology. The defense counsel put it to Riedlmayer that he was biased because he had produced his report for the prosecution.According to the defense, members of Cela’s paramilitary group set the National Library in Sarajevo on fire. The witness countered this claim by saying that he had examined the statements made by the people who were actually there, at the scene: journalists and fire-fighters. Riedlmayer was adamant that the City Hall was destroyed by the shells fired from the Serb positions around Sarajevo.

Mladic’s defense will continue cross-examining the prosecution expert tomorrow.