In his evidence in Karadzic’s defense, former municipal official from Pale Jovan Sarac claimed that his authorities guaranteed the freedom of movement to all the inhabitants. In the cross-examination Sarac explained why only Muslims exercised that right

Jovan Sarac, witness at the Radovan Karadzic trialJovan Sarac, witness at the Radovan Karadzic trial

Former local official from Pale Jovan Sarac tried hard in his statement to Radovan Karadzic’s defense team to paint a rosy picture of the wartime situation in his municipality, which is part of Sarajevo. The accused read out in court the summary of Sarac’s statement. According to Sarac, the Pale authorities treated all citizens equally irrespective of their ethnic background, making sure they could exercise their right to free movement and to property guaranteed by the Constitution.

As Sarac claimed, Muslim civilians decided to leave Pale at one point: they invoked their right to free movement. Although the local authorities tried to persuade them to stay, the Muslim civilians were adamant they wanted to leave. When persuasion failed, the municipality ordered the police to escort the convoy with Muslims to the demarcation line. The police were also tasked with protecting the property Muslims left behind, Sarac explained.

In the cross-examination, prosecutor Edgerton put it to the witness that the local Muslims were subjected to various kinds of pressure: threats, arrests, beatings, ban on travel and barred access to some shops. The Muslims led miserable and desperate lives and they had no choice but to move out, the prosecutor argued.

The witness replied that the municipal authorities knew about the problems local Muslims faced. However, in a situation when 12,500 Serb refugees arrived in Pale it was not easy to keep things under control. Sarac blamed the refugees and various paramilitary groups for the pressure exerted on the Muslims. The authorities and local Serbs didn’t have anything to do with that. The touching scenes as the Serbs said goodbye to their Muslim neighbors leaving Pale in convoys proved his point. ‘When they left, people were kissing and crying’, said Sarac.

The prosecutor recalled the evidence of Sulejman Crncalo, a resident of Pale. Nikola Koljevic, who was in Karadzic’s leadership circle, poured salt on the Muslims’ wounds when he told Muslims, ‘it is not important what you want; what matters is that Serbs don’t want to live with you anymore’. Sarac said he ‘cannot believe’ that ‘a humanist and a Shakespearean scholar’ who spoke English ‘better than an English lord’ could say something that. As his cross-examination about the evacuation continued, Sarac claimed that the exodus was caused by a bad economic situation. Muslims ‘changed their residence of their free will,’ Sarac said. In the re-examination, Sarac emphasized that Croats did not leave Pale.

In his statement to the defense team the witness denied that Karadzic had any authority over the army. In the courtroom, Sarac added that the accused, who is a psychiatrist, preferred to work on ‘peace projects’. Sarac noted that there was a constant antagonism between the civilian and military authorities. When the prosecutor pointed out that the antagonism never really culminated in a true breakup, Sarac replied that they were ‘clever people’ who managed to reach a compromise. Had there not been the compromise, Republika Srpska wouldn’t exist today, the witness concluded.

The trial of Radovan Karadzic for double genocide and other crimes in BH continues on Monday.