At the trial of Momcilo Krajisnik, witness Ramiz Alajbegovic describes how the SDS in Rogatica near Sarajevo insisted that the police and the territory should be divided, but that “all power should be given to Serbs”

In May 1992, the Serb forces attacked Rogatica, a small town with a Muslim majority population near Sarajevo. Many of the residents were killed, deported or detained, and almost all the mosques were destroyed or damaged. Ramiz Alajbegovic, former commander of the Rogatica police station, testified about the attack and the events that preceded it, at the trial of Momcilo Krajisnik today.

Alajbegovic said the preparations for the attack began as early as in 1991, when the Serbian Democratic party organized the arming of the Serb population, and issued at the same time an “ultimatum” to the Muslims to “hand over all their weapons” or else, their safety could not be guaranteed in Rogatica.

At rallies in May and April 1991, the local SDS leadership called the population to create “a great and monoethnic Serbia”, and stressed at the same time that they would not allow “BH to secede from Yugoslavia and the genocide committed against Serbs in 1941 to be repeated” , Alajbegovic said.

Serbs were armed with weapons from JNA depots in Han Pijesak, the witness continued, describing how the weapons were delivered in JNA trucks, in the presence of Serb police officers he knew. The witness claims that in parallel the SDS continued to campaign among the Serbs who “tried to avoid taking weapons and adopt their policy.”

Alajbegovic recounted that a unit had been established in Rogatica whose commander was a man by the name of Rajko Kusic. It consisted of some forty soldiers in camouflage uniform, wearing berets with the Serb tricolor, armed with “automatic weapons, hand-held grenade launchers and hand grenades,” the witness said.

On two occasions, in December 1991 and March 1992, Radovan Karadzic visited Rogatica. Alajbegovic provided security at those meetings as that was his job and reported about it to the republican MUP in Sarajevo. After Karadzic’s second visit, the witness said, “the situation in the municipality grew more tense.”

In the negotiations conducted between March and early May 1992, the Serb side first insisted that the police be divided up, then that the territory be divided up and then that “all power be handed over to the Serbs.” In an attempt to avoid the conflict for which they “were not ready”, as the witness said, Muslims accepted the first two demands, but not the third one.

The local Serb leadership insisted on the third demand, explaining that they were under pressure from the SDS Main Board and the military command in Han Pijesak. Prosecutor Mark Harmon showed the witness a report by TANJUG news agency from a meeting held in Sokolac on 12 may 1992, where Momcilo Krajisnik said that “the time has come to set borders against Muslims and Croats, because that is what they want and that is why they forced us into war.”

A week later, the JNA Uzice Corps entered Rogatica, Alajbegovic testified. On 22 May 1992, the town was shelled. There followed a campaign of murders, expulsion and detention. The witness confirmed the authenticity of the list with the names of the civilians who were killed and the list with the names of “24 prominent residents of Rogatica” whose bodies were exhumed from a mass grave in 1998.

Ramiz Alajbegovic will be cross-examined tomorrow by Momcilo Krajisnik’s defense.