WAS KOTOR VAROS BRIGADE ‘MULTI-CULTURAL’?
Vojin Ubiparip from Kotor Varos claimed at Ratko Mladic’s trial that the VRS Kotor Varos Brigade was multi-cultural, yet was able to recall the names of just one Muslim and one Croat. He also claimed that Muslims from the village of Siprage left because of the ‘SDA threats’
Vojin Ubiparip, former commander of the VRS Kotor Varos Brigade, gave evidence at the trial of Ratko Mladic. The witness stressed there was ‘good cooperation’ with Muslims in Kotor Varos and alleged that his brigade was ‘multi-cultural’. According to Ubiparip, the Muslims left because they were under the pressure of the Party of Democratic Action (SDA). Ubiparip was adamant that prisoners of war were treated in line with the Geneva Conventions because Mladic insisted that the VRS observe laws and customs of war.
How multi-cultural the Kotor Varos Brigade actually was became clear after first few questions by the judges. Ubiparip was able to recall only one Muslim and one Croat among the officers in his brigade.
In the cross-examination, the prosecutor noted that the Muslims in the village of Siprage near Kotor Varos voluntarily surrendered their arms and pledged their loyalty to the Serb authorities and were nevertheless expelled from the village. The local mosque was destroyed like all the other Muslim mosques in the Kotor Varos municipality. Ubiparip told the prosecutor that he had opposed the destruction of the mosques. Asked why he failed to take any steps to investigate and identify those who had destroyed the mosque, Ubiparip said it was the job of the civilian police.
The prosecutor noted that the Muslims from Siprage were asked to hand over their livestock, vehicles and household appliances before moving out. The goods were then distributed to Serbs. The witness claims he knew anything about those events, although his brigade’s headquarters was located in the village. The Muslims ‘had to move out’ because the SDA told them that otherwise they would be destroyed, the witness explained. When the judges questioned him a bit later, Ubiparip said that he in fact didn’t know if that threat had come from the Muslim military or civilian authorities.
Ubiparip was appointed commander of the Kotor Varos Brigade in June 1993. At that time, as he said, there were no expulsions, adding that he ‘can’t make any claims’ about the previous period. The prosecutor asked the witness if upon his arrival in the village of Siprage he noticed there were no Muslims left there. Ubiparip replied that he saw ‘the indigenous population’ there and that ‘everyone was there’. Apparently, he forgot that a few moments earlier he had said the Muslims had to leave.
After Vojin Ubiparip completed his evidence, the defense called Vinko Nikolic, a member of the Sanski Most Crisis Staff.
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