‘MY FATHER WAS CONVICTED, BUT HE IS NOT GUILTY’
Former member of the Foca Intervention platoon Bozidar Krnojelac is testifying in Ratko Mladic’s defense. The witness, who is the son of the war-time warden of the Foca Correctional and Penal Facility (KPD), admitted that some Muslims from Foca were detained ‘without any legal grounds’. However, the witness shifted the blame for the violence against Muslims on the paramilitary groups, insisting his father was innocent
Former member of the Foca Intervention Platoon Bozidar Krnojelac contested the allegations in the indictment against Ratko Mladic that the Foca Muslims were forcibly expelled from their homes. According to Krnojelac, the Muslims left Foca ‘on their own initiative and for the reasons known only to them’. This did not happen because the Bosnian Serb authorities and the army had pressured the Muslims into leaving, Krnojelac claimed. According to Krnojelac, most of the Muslims had already left the town by April 1992 when their forces were defeated in the clashes with local Serbs. In the period that followed, almost all the remaining non-Serbs also fled, the witness recounted.
The first wave of departures from Foca was the result of the pressure exerted by the Muslim media, the witness continued. The reports in the media about the arrival of 5,000 ‘Serbo-Chetniks’ spread fear among the Muslims. The witness estimates that less than 100 members of paramilitary groups Serbian Guard and White Eagles eventually arrived. Responding to Branko Lukic, the witness said that the members of the Serbian Guard brought prisoners to the KPD Foca where they were guarded by the White Eagles unit. Both units were aggressive, ‘shouting and opening fire’and Serbs and Muslims alike were scared of them, the witness explained.
The witness’s father, Milorad Krnojelac was the warden of the KPD Foca. The Tribunal sentenced Milorad Krnojelac to 15 years in prison for organizing and tolerating the beatings of the Muslims prisoners: some of them died. ‘He was convicted all right, but he was not guilty’, the witness said as he was cross-examined by prosecutor Traldi. However, the witness admitted that he and his father had known that ‘some’prisoners were brought to the KPD ‘without any legal grounds’.
From 20 April to 15 May 1992, the witness went to the prison where he remained every day from 7am to 3pm. In his statement to the defense team the witness said that he wanted to prevent violence against Muslims prisoners. At the same time Krnojelac claimed that he didn’t go to the sections where Muslim prisoners were detained but spent all that time sitting in his father’s office.
On 15 May 1992, the witness was called up and told to report to the intervention platoon for combat duty. On 22 June 1992, he and a group of Serb soldiers were in a vehicle that hit a landmine. The witness lost both legs. Krnojelac spent some time in Belgrade getting medical treatment and was then transferred to Rudo. He finally returned to Foca. The prosecutor noted that in Foca the witness moved into an apartment owned by a local Muslim who had fled the town. Krnojelac explained that it was a municipal apartment that was allocated to him. His brother also obtained an apartment in a similar way, Krnojelac noted. The witness admitted that his apartment was refurbished by a Muslim man who was taken out of the KPD for that purpose.
As alleged in the indictment against Ratko Mladic, at least 200 detainees were killed in the KPD Foca. The crimes in that municipality reached the scale of genocide, the indictment alleges. The defense denies the scope of the crimes, and specifically that the Bosnian Serb army had taken part in them.
In the second part of today’s hearing Miodrag Sokolovic began his evidence in Mladic’s defense. The former president of the Rogatica crisis staff continues his testimony tomorrow morning.
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