In his testimony in Ratko Mladic’s defense, former president of the Autonomous Region Krajina has said that the entity was established for economic reasons, to stop the cash from flowing to Sarajevo. The prosecutor put it to him that the creation of Serb regions and their consequent unification into a republic – from which Muslims and Croats were expelled – was a political process

Vojo Kupresanin, defence witness at Rako Mladic trialVojo Kupresanin, defence witness at Rako Mladic trial

In his statement to Ratko Mladics defense, former president of the Autonomous Region Krajina (ARK) Vojo Kupresanin described how that region in BH was established before the war. The region comprised 17 municipalities and their unification had in no way been ethnically motivated, the witness argued. The reasons were economic, Kupresanin explained. According to the Krajina Constitution of 1991, all ethnic communities in the autonomous region were equal.

In a brief examination-in-chief Kupresanin clarified that the Autonomous Region of Krajina was established to provide a better lifefor the local citizens by preventing cash from flowing out to Sarajevo. Until then Krajina had been neglected and impoverished in a centralized system that, in the witnesss view, economically favored Sarajevo. The intention was to put an end to that.

The prosecutors view of the events is completely different. He put it to the witness that the autonomous region was established in coordination with the Bosnian Serb leadership in Pale as part of a wider process of establishing the Serb autonomous regions. There were minor misunderstanding along the way, as the prosecutor noted; the Krajina leadership was impatient to secede from BH, bucking against the plan designed by the Serbian Democratic Party leadership.

Prosecutor Traldi noted that Radovan Karadzic disclosed the tactic behind the secession of the Serb parts of BH in an interview to the Srpsko Oslobodjenje, when he said that his leadership had prepared an action list in advance. As he stressed in the interview, they then waited for the Muslims to make a wrong moveand then to respond. The Serb municipal communities and autonomous regions later unified into a Serb republic were formed in that way.

Kupresanin replied that he didnt know anything about the influence Karadzic and his associates had had on the establishment of the ARK. Moreover, Kupresanin remained adamant that everything was done on the initiative of the Krajina politicians. The witness did not budge even when the prosecutor confronted him with documentsthat show the ARK and the SAO Herzegovina were established in line with a decision passed in September 1991 at a council that brought together the SDS bodies at municipal, regional and republican levels in Pale. The witness said there was genuine disagreement between the Krajina and Pale authorities. Karadzic was against a daring economicinitiative to annex the Bosnian Krajina to the so-called Republic of Serbian Krajina, Kupresanin claimed. The president fought for the BH as it had been defined by AVNOJ, in World War II, he always insisted on that, Kupresanin said.

The establishment of the Serb part of BH and the bid to secede from the state are not among the charges in the indictment against Ratko Mladic. However, the prosecutor highlighted those actions as an indicator of the intent to commit the crimes that are at the very core of the indictment the ethnic cleansing of the parts of BH that were claimed by Serbs. For the prosecutor, Kupresanins speech in the Bosnian Serb assembly was important in this respect. On 25 February 1992, Kupresanin said that Muslims and Croats are our natural enemiesand that we can never ever live together with them.

Kupresanin replied that he didnt recall that speech. What are natural enemies? We all know that a dog and cat are guided by instinct, and we humans are guided by reason, the witness added. On Monday, the prosecution will have the opportunity to confront the witness with additional evidence that the Bosnian Serb leadership was guided by reason when it carved up and ethnically cleansed parts of BH that the Serbs claimed as their own during the war in BH.