Mladic’s defense witness has insisted that local authorities were independent from the Bosnian Serb leadership. The acronym ‘SAO’ stood for ’independent [samostalna]’ rather than for 'Serb' autonomous regions, the witness argued. Even when the judges noted that it was rather unusual for an entity to be both independent and autonomous, the witness stuck to his claim. Eventually, the defense gave up on that part of the witness’s testimony

Trifko Komad, defence witness at Rako Mladic trialTrifko Komad, defence witness at Rako Mladic trial

In his statement to the defense and in his evidence at the trial of Ratko Mladic, his witness Trifko Komad strove to convince the Trial Chamber that during the war the links between the Bosnian Serb leadership and local authorities were ‘disrupted’. Komad was a member of the Serbian Democratic Party Main Board. In other words, Komad claimed that the leadership headed by Karadzic and Mladic was not responsible for the occasional crimes perpetrated by groups acting at local level.

As the witness strove to convince the judges that the authorities at lower levels were independent, the witness went as far as to claim that before and during the war the acronym SAO stood for ‘independent autonomous regions’. This didn’t meet with much approval from the judges, as they have heard numerous testimonies about ‘Serb autonomous regions’ in BH and Croatia; no one has spoken about 'independent autonomous regions'.

That prompted the judges to tell the witness to get a grip and say what the acronym stood for. The witness remained firm. Judge Moloto asked how an entity could be both independent and autonomous. Komad replied that the regions were completely independent yet at the same time autonomous, i.e., linked with the central authorities.

The witness went on to note that all citizens of the Serb entity in BH were treated equally. Today Komad made another allegation completely unknown to the judges. The witness said that ballot papers in the Serb plebiscite to remain in Yugoslavia organized in November 1991 were of different colors for Serb and non-Serb voters. That had happened for ‘purely technical reasons’ because they couldn’t have all been printed in the same color.

Komad was so convincing in his evidence that after consultations with the prosecution, the defense decided not to rely on that part of his testimony. The parties agreed that the acronym SAO stood for 'Serb autonomous regions' and that ballot papers used in the plebiscite were different colored, and in fact containeddifferent questions, depending on the voters’ ethnicity.

After Nomad completed his evidence, the defense called Cedo Sipovac, former employee of the Secretariat for National Defense, a body in charge of mobilization. Sipovac claimed that in 1991 and 1992 Serbs overwhelmingly responded to the call up. Some Muslims and Croats did join the JNA but then they were transferred to the Bosnian Serb army together with the others. In his statement, admittedinto evidence, the witness denied that there were prison camps in Prijedor. According to the witness, Keraterm and Omarska were ‘investigation centers’ and Trnopolje was a ‘collection center’.

In the cross-examination, the prosecutor confronted Sipovac with the allegation that one of Sipovac's colleagues, Becir Medunjanin, was tortured and killed in Omarska. Medunjanin’s wife Sadeta was also killed after she was taken out from that ‘collection center’, the prosecutor put it to the witness. In January 2014, when Sipovac testified at the trial of Radovan Karadzic he made a great show of his surprise at finally learning about the news. Today, Sipovac only confirmed that he hadn't known about the Medunjanin's fate until Karadzic's trial. Also, Sipovac claimed that he heard about the Koricanske Stijene crime after the war. More than 200 unarmed Muslims taken out of the Trnopolje prison camp were executed at Koricanske Stijene. ‘It is in my nature not to go round asking questions, and that is why I heard about it at a later date’, the witness justified himself today. Cedo Sipovac will complete his testimony tomorrow.

Trifko Komad, defence witness at Rako Mladic trial
Cedo Sipovac, defence witness at Rako Mladic trial