Former member of a police unit nicknamed Pearls claims that Radovan Karadzic was a victim of conspiracy orchestrated by Alija Izetbegovic and his associates. They provoked the Serbs to attack civilians and thus got the international community involved in the war. During the war, the Pearls provided security to the members of the BH Presidency. The prosecutor showed a number of exhibits indicating that the allegation was ‘pure fiction’

Radovan Karadzic in the courtroomRadovan Karadzic in the courtroom

According to Radovan Karadzic’s first defense witness this week, the entire war in Bosnia and Herzegovina was a big conspiracy whose goal was to provoke Serbs to attack and to pin the blame on them in the eyes of the world for the crimes. A former member of the BH Ministry of the Interior testified under the pseudonym KW 586, with image and voice distortion. In his statement to Karadzic’s defense team the witness named President Alija Izetbegovic, his son and son-in-law, the Grand Mufti Mustafa Ceric, leader of the Islamic community, General Sefer Halilovic and the BH Army commander in Srebrenica, Naser Oric, as the key players in the conspiracy.

From May 1992 to May 1994, the witness was a member of the Pearls, a police unit that provided security to the BH Presidency members and their families. The witness claimed that he attended numerous meetings between President Izetbegovic and the other ‘conspirators’ in the air raid shelter under the National Bank building. Karadzic read out the summary of the witness’s statement. As the witness stated, at those meetings he heard Izetbegovic plan with his associates how to cause incidents and provoke the Serbs into retaliating to get the international community involved in the conflict. The idea was to provoke the Serb troops around Sarajevo and in the enclaves such as Gorazde and Srebrenica.

In the statement the witness said the goal was to make incursions into the Serb territory and open artillery fire from the vicinity of hospitals and other sensitive facilities, to provoke the other side into responding. TV crews were always near at hand to record the aftermath of the counter-attacks on the city. A similar scenario was in store for Gorazde but Izetbegovic ‘didn’t have any people there he could trust’ and then the plan was moved to Srebrenica and implemented with the assistance of Naser Oric.

At the beginning of the cross-examination prosecutor Edgerton tried to find out why the witness had waited 20 years to speak up about a conspiracy at such a large scale that resulted in the suffering of so many of his compatriots. The prosecutor noted that the witness could have spoken out during the war after he left the police and went to live with his relatives in Germany. After a couple of months, he moved to Belgium and spent five years in a place that was some 200 kilometers from The Hague. Yet it never occurred to the witness to take a train and share his truth with the OTP investigators at the Tribunal, the prosecutor noted. The witness could have assisted her colleagues when they indicted Sefer Halilovic and Naser Oric, and yet he remained silent. When he returned to Sarajevo in 1999, the witness again didn’t speak up about the conspiracy. The former member of the Pearls explained why he had kept his silence for 20 years. When he went to Germany, the witness recounted, all he wanted was to ‘get away from the war’ and find some ‘peace of mind’. In Belgium, the witness ‘looked after my interests’, and in Sarajevo he feared for his safety and didn’t talk. This fear dissipated suddenly when the witness established contacts with Karadzic’s lawyer Goran Petronijevic.

The second strange aspect of the witness’s conspiracy theory, the prosecutor stressed, was the fact that Izetbegovic and his associates talked about such important matters without beating around the bush, in front of a witness who was not in on the conspiracy. If such important plans leaked, the entire world public could turn against the conspirators, the prosecutor said. The witness didn’t consider it strange that top officials never even thought to move away to another room when they made their plans to sacrifice civilians.

The third anomaly the prosecutor pointed out was the fact that a conspiracy theory at such a scale would require a larger number of accomplices, yet none of them has ever come forward, apart from the witness who finally decided to speak, 20 years later. For example, the operations in which shells were fired from positions close to the Sarajevo hospitals to provoke the Serb counterattacks called for the involvement of a large number of persons: soldiers, police officers, truck drivers, gunners and finally journalists. The witness explained that they had been told what to do, they did it, and were not aware of what they were doing.

It was interesting to hear what the witness had to say about the attack on Markale in February 1994. According to the witness’s statement to the defense, Izetbegovic issued the order to Halilovic. Halilovic then turned to General Mustafa Hajrulahovic Talijan and said: ‘Here, he will do it’. A shell was fired from the position at Sedrenik on the Markale town market, killing 66 and injuring more than 140 persons. And yet, to this day, the artillery crewmen, the civilians who lived near the positions, even UNPROFOR members, kept mum about it, the prosecutor noted. The witness replied that the civilians didn’t pay attention to the shooting. The shells would be fired at times when ‘less watchful’ UNPROFOR teams were on duty.

‘Each and every conspiracy you have spoken about is a pure fiction, and proof of that is the fact that at the time of the first Markale attack Sefer Halilovic was not in the army anymore’, the prosecutor put it to the witness in the final part of the cross-examination. The witness managed to weasel his way out this predicament noting that Halilovic had ‘been removed from his post but not sacked’. Even after his demotion, Halilovic remained on good terms with Izetbegovic. In the re-examination by the accused the witness amended his previous answer, stating that Halilovic was a ‘minion’ and ‘nothing but trash’.

At the end of his evidence the witness wanted to add something but Judge Kwon didn’t allow him to do it.