“Safe passage” for Momcilo Mandic, first justice minister of Republika Srpska. Although the prosecution refuses to state whether he is considered a suspect, Mandic will testify as a prosecution witness at the trial of Momcilo Krajisnik, former “No. 2 man” in the political chain of command of Bosnian Serbs

After almost two hours of procedural debate, Momcilo Mandic began testifying today at the trial of Momcilo Krajisnik. He is a former justice minister in the first Republika Srpska cabinet. Mandic came to The Hague as a prosecution witness, who has been granted a so-called safe passage, in other words, guarantees by the Tribunal that he will be able to return to Belgrade after his testimony, without being extradited to Bosnia-Herzegovina where he has been charged with financial fraud.

Part of the procedural debate before Mandic’s testimony centered on defining his status, since he could be called as a defense witness in light of his status of an insider and a former associate of the accused. Presiding Judge Alphons Orie reminded the parties that Mandic, if necessary, could be considered a hostile witness and he asked whether the prosecution intended to prosecute him. Prosecutor Alain Tieger, however, did not want to either confirm or deny that.

Before the examination of the witness, Judge Orie advised Mandic and his defense counsel – who was allowed to the courtroom – of the rights of witnesses who might find themselves in the role of the accused. Mandic can refuse to answer any question he considers to be prejudicial; the chamber may demand that he answer, with guarantees that it will not be used against him.

In his testimony, Mandic said that he became the RS justice minister on 19 May 1992, but was moved to Belgrade in December 1992, to become the head of the RS Bureau there and he remained there until 1995. He said that the four most influential persons in RS in 1992 were Radovan Karadzic, Biljana Plavsic, Nikola Koljevic and Momcilo Krajisnik.

When asked by the prosecutor who among them was the most influential, Mandic replied that “Radovan Karadzic was undoubtedly No. 1, the RS president”. “No. 2,” according to Mandic, was Momcilo Krajisnik, speaker of RS Assembly. The witness stated, however, that there had been some tension about the No.2 position right from the start between Momcilo Krajisnik on the one hand and Biljana Plavsic and Nikola Koljevic on the other.

In Mandic’s opinion, the influence of Karadzic and Krajisnik was based on the fact that the RS president controlled the military and the police, while the Assembly speaker controlled the deputies and municipal presidents. It was only later that General Ratko Mladic came close to them in terms of his influence. He was very popular among the people, Mandic said. His testimony will continue tomorrow and will probably take the whole week.