As he was cross-examined by the prosecutor, Nikola Erceg claimed that the non-Serbs left Krajina of their own free will. Erceg later admitted that there had been some cases of forcible eviction, but this had never been ‘officially stated’. Apart from Kozarac he didn’t see other Muslim villages that had been razed to the ground, Erceg said. As he told the judges, he was a pacifist, and was not interested in such things. Another member of the ARK Crisis Staff, Milorad Sajic, testified after Erceg completed his evidence

Nikola Erceg, witness at the Radovan Karadzic trialNikola Erceg, witness at the Radovan Karadzic trial

Continuing the cross-examination of Nikola Erceg, prosecutor Alan Tieger insisted on the real goals of the Autonomous Region of Krajina, according to the prosecution. Tieger quoted the words of the former president of the ARK Assembly, Vojislav Kupresanin, who said, that the ‘task of the Krajina Region was to destroy Alija’s state’. As the prosecutor noted, at the 36th Assembly session, Momcilo Krajisnik confirmed that ‘the regions were established in response to the centralization of power in the hands of the Muslim-Croat coalition’. As soon as their role was over, the regions would be disbanded, Krajisnik said.

‘Sure enough, some people did think like that’, Erceg replied, adding that he personally didn’t hear Kupresanin say that. Erceg was there when Krajisnik explained why the autonomous regions had been set up. The prosecutor asked the witness if he was aware of the fact that the non-Serbs had left the Serb autonomous regions in droves. Erceg replied that he was, but ‘that wasn’t a must’, but their ‘own desire’. Banja Luka was a transit town and ‘one could get the impression that all the people had been expelled from there’. There had been some cases of forcible eviction, Erceg admitted, but he explained that ‘it was never officially announced that we had to exert force to make people leave’.

Erceg told the prosecutor that he didn’t know – or at least didn’t see with his own eyes – that the Serb forces ‘had razed some Muslim villages to the ground’. He never went close to the front line and didn’t know what was going on there. ‘As a pacifist’ Erceg ‘wasn’t interested’ in things like that. He did see the destruction of Kozarac and heard ‘stories’ that other villages had been destroyed in a similar manner.

In his re-examination, Karadzic tried to convince the judges that the destruction of ‘Alija’s state’ was a legitimate goal. In response to his questions, Erceg said it was based on Izetbegovic’s Islamic Declaration and that it presupposed that Muslims would ‘be superior to all the others’.

Karadzic then called another former member of the ARK Crisis Staff, Milorad Sajic. In his statement to the defense Sajic also claimed that the expulsion of Muslims and Croats was never a goal of the Serb leadership. Prosecutor Katrina Gustafson reminded Sajic about the 16th Assembly session in Banja Luka, when Karadzic presented the strategic goals of the Bosnian Serbs. Deputy Dusan Vjestica expressed his ‘delight’ with the fact that one of the goals called for the border of the Serb state to be established on the Una and Drina rivers, and said that all the Muslims who used to live on the right bank of the Una river had been evacuated. The prosecutor noted that none of the Serb leaders thought Vjestica’s words were wrong, as evidenced by the fact that nobody reacted to them.

In his statement, Sajic described the visit of the ARK delegation to the Omarska prison camp. Sajic said that the Banja Luka mayor, Predrag Radic, recounted that the prisoners had greeted the guests with a three finger salute, singing Serbian nationalist songs. Radic said he was ‘embarrassed’. ‘I didn’t say that they had been forced to do it’, the witness said, adding that they ‘did it voluntarily’. Asked by the judges if he really believed that the prisoners spontaneously raised three fingers and sang songs about Greater Serbia, Sajic replied that Radic had never said anything about them being ‘forced’. When the prosecutor noted that a logical reply would be that they were forced to do so, the witness said ‘I don’t know what is logical’.

Karadzic called his next witness, Milenko Todorovic. The former security chief in the VRS East Bosnian Corps had testified a few days ago at the trial of Ratko Mladic as a prosecution witness. Todorovic will continue his evidence tomorrow.

Nikola Erceg, witness at the Radovan Karadzic trial
Milorad Sajic, witness at the Radovan Karadzic trial