WHY BOSNIAKS LEFT PALE?
The Bosniak population was intimidated and faced with the choice of either leaving or possibly being killed, a prosecution witness testified at the trial of Momcilo Krajisnik. The defence is trying to prove that the Bosniaks sought to leave themselves because of increased tensions.
Almost all Bosniaks residing in the municipality of Pale were forced to leave their homes by the summer of 1992, although they "had not been provoking anyone", testified witness Sulejman Crncalo. He left Pale in the last of the three convoys in July 1992.
In the spring of that year, the seat of the Bosnian Serb Government was established at Pale, the local Serb population was being armed, Bosniaks were being arrested and the Serb Red Berets unit arrived in that area, the witness said adding that before coming there, the Red berets "had done all kinds of things" in the Knin and Gospic areas in Croatia. The local police chief, a Serb, warned the Bosniaks that he would not be able to control the Red Berets.
This warning was made in the presence of a high-ranking SDS official, Nikola Koljevic, who then added, as the witness recalled, that "it did not matter that Bosniaks wanted to stay, because Serbs did not want to live with them." The accused Momcilo Krajisnik was in the SDS leadership at the time together with Koljevic. Krajisnik is charged by the prosecutor with genocide and other crimes against the non-Serb population in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Convoys of buses in which Bosniaks were moved out and the opportunity to exchange their property for the property of Serbs from Sarajevo were organised by the Serb authorities at Pale, Crncalo says. He assumes that it was the Crisis Staff. The prosecutor is trying to prove that, in the municipalities where the SDS intended to take over power, the crisis staffs were set up by the party leadership to implement through them the plans for the expulsion of Bosniaks and Croats.
Krajisnik's defence counsel Nicholas Stewart considers that there is another explanation why Bosniaks left Pale. He stated that in April 1992, the Bosniak Green Berets launched an attack at a Serb wedding party and that in June the same year Bosniaks attacked a Serb convoy in Zepa – many Serbs from Pale were killed in the attack. Stewart also suggested that about 30,000 Serb refugees from Sarajevo arrived in Pale in that period. "Because of mounting tensions, Bosniak representatives sought that their people leave Pale," the defence lawyer concluded.
Crncalo replied that it could not be said that any of the Bosniaks had left their homes voluntarily. They were faced with the choice: either to leave or to stay and live in danger of being killed, he explained.
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