A witness that participated in the incident in the village of Hambarine testified at Radovan Karadzic’s trial and spoke about the incident. Karadzic’s defense alleges the incident triggered the conflict in Prijedor. The prosecution alleges that the Hambarine incident was used as a pretext to launch a planned campaign of violence aimed at the ethnic cleansing of non-Serbs from that area

Ratko Milojica, witness at the Radovan Karadzic trialRatko Milojica, witness at the Radovan Karadzic trial

The last witness of Radovan Karadzic’s defense for this week was Ratko Milojica, former soldier of the Bosnian Serb Army. Milojica was involved in the incident which was, according to the accused, the cause for the horrors of war that followed in Prijedor. On 22 May 1992, the Serb Army troops were attacked at a check -point near the village of Hambarine. Radovan Milojica and Rade Lukic were killed and three Serb soldiers were wounded. The witness was one of those injured soldiers.

The prosecution alleges that the Serb authorities in Prijedor used the incident as a pretext for the attack on the villages of Hambarine and Kozarac in late May 1992. The villages were then razed to the ground while many civilians were killed and expelled. Other villages were attacked in the days that followed, and civilians were arrested en masse and detained in three prison camps in Prijedor: Keraterm, Omarska and Trnopolje. The prosecution alleged that the campaign of murders, abuse, rapes and expulsions in that region reached the scale of genocide. Karadzic linked all those events with the attack on the Serb soldiers in Hambarine.

On 22 May 1992, Ratko Milojica and four other Serb soldiers were stopped at a check point in Hambarine. Their car was searched and they were ordered to hand over their arms. When they refused to do it, fire was opened and two soldiers were killed. The witness was wounded and lost consciousness. The group of about 30 men who stopped the Serb soldiers was led by Aziz Aliskovic from Hambarine.

The prosecutor contested the allegation that the killing of the Serb soldiers was event that triggered the crimes in Prijedor. According to the prosecution, the ethnic cleansing of that municipality had been planned in advance and was well organized. It started when the SDS took control of the local authorities on 30 April 1992. In the cross-examination, the prosecutor didn’t contest the gist of the witness’s statement to the defense team and only supplemented it in part. The prosecutor noted that Aziz Aliskovic was killed after the incident in Hambarine. A video recording Zec played in court shows Serb soldiers drinking with Aliskovic’s body on the ground by their side. The witness confirmed that Aliskovic had been killed but could recognize his body in the footage.

In a bid to discredit the witness, prosecutor Amir Zec recalled that when the witness testified in 2006 in a court in Banja Luka, he contradicted all the other evidence called at that trial in order to protect his relative, who was charged with the murder of a Bosniak. Zec also said that in 1992, Milojica was personally involved in a murder. Together with a group of soldiers, Milojica led away Ivan Grgic, a Catholic priest. Grgic was killed and his body was left unburied near the Ljubija mine. In his statement to the Serb military police in 1993, Milojica said that Grgic had been maltreated and robbed. They then took Grgic to Ljubija. A man by the name of Ivica Pavlovic took a gun from Milojica and fired a burst at the priest. Although the statement bore his signature, Milojica claimed that ‘somebody else wrote it’. Today Milojica said that Ivica Pavlovic took out the priest from the car on his own and killed him. The other soldiers didn’t participate. Ivica Pavlovic confessed to the crime and then committed suicide.

Karadzic’s first witness for next week is former Bosnian Serb interior minister Mico Stanisic, who has been sentenced to 22 years in prison for the crimes against non-Serbs in 1992.