Sefer Halilovic failed to react in the correct manner upon learning about the massacre in Grabovica, according to Ramiz Delalic aka Celo, who is testifying at the Halilovic trial. , Delalic also spoke about a conspiracy prepared by Sefer Halilovic against Genaral Rasim Delic.

Sefer Halilovic in the courtroomSefer Halilovic in the courtroom

“We discussed disposing of Rasim Delic”, said Ramiz Delalic Celo, witness for the prosecution at the trial of Sefer Halilovic. After he had met Sefer Halilovic in the early day of the war in Sarajevo, Celo said he remained closely attached to Halilovic who supported his appointment to the post of deputy commander of the BH Army 9th Motorized Brigade in 1993. “I was a people’s commander”, Delalic said today.

When the war broke out, Ramiz Delalic had already had a fairly thick police record that linked him to a number of crimes. He was rearrested in 1993 for the crimes committed during the war, but was soon amnestied. Since the war ended, he has been jailed twice on various accounts, and is currently being investigated before a court in Sarajevo for his alleged role in a murder that took place at a wedding in 1992.

Delalic now believes that the support he provided to Sefer Halilovic early on in the war may be the reason behind a lot of the aggravation he has suffered: “After Rasim Delic was appointed the BH Army Commander, Sefer got very angry. He raved about it...We talked at a meeting called by Sefer, when he personally suggested that we dispose of Delic. Delta unit was supposed to do it. I also spoke up a few times” – Delalic said and went on: “First, we had to do something to restore Halilovic’s reputation and in turn undermine Delic’s. Operation Neretva was supposed to provide for that”.

According to Delalic, Halilovic mustered the support of independent media, and provided frontline access to the Oslobodjenje journalist Sefko Hodzic. The witness also claimed that the texts written by Hodzic had contained the facts that were untrue – in order “to demonstrate that the reshuffle (at the army top) was not right”.

Explaining his connection to Halilovic, Delalic said that “there was a great deal of hostility” between people’s commanders and former JNA officers. ”I was a people’s commander and did not get on with the commanders who were former JNA members”. However, Halilovic had enjoyed support because he had left JNA a few months before the war began, the witness explained.

With Halilovic’s help the 9th Motorized Brigade became one of the best equipped army units at the outset of the war in Sarajevo. Delalic claims that at the time he was given money by Halilovic himself to purchase weapons. “We had special supply channels through which we bought weapons. Mostly from Croats and Serbs”, Delalic said in his testimony, claiming that on several occasions he had received between 50 and 100 thousand German marks from Halilovic to buy weapons, and that “voluntary donations” from individuals who owned cafes and shops in the city were tolerated at the time. “JNA officers were career men and there was constant bickering for positions among them. What they cared least about was fighting and defense. Those who rallied most people’s commanders around them could get positions. Sefer was no different”.

Delalich also said that his brigade included the members of all nations who lived in Sarajevo, and that most had been recruited at the army draft centers. “The best would be recruited to the police, and the trash who were not needed anywhere else wound up in the army”, he said, explaining that the “trash” were the soldiers with an inclination to crime.

Delalic did not deny the prosecutors’ claim that the 9th Motorized Brigade had had a very poor reputation in Sarajevo. He described police reports on the criminal activities of his unit as “nonsense”. “It cared more about who took an apartment, who stole a car or a jar of pickled peppers than who killed ten people”, Delalic said today, adding that the reports existed as “part of the conspiracy against Halilovic.”

Delalic also spoke about the taking of civilians on ditch-digging stints in beleaguered Sarajevo, saying that the commanders, including Sefer Halilovic, would often personally issue orders for it. Among those who had been rounded up was the son of Rasim Delic, who got beaten up at the 10th Mountain Brigade headquarters: “Caco told me that Sefer had ordered it”. Characterizing Musan Topalovic Caco as one of the “people’s commanders” who supported Halilovic, Delalic said that Caco had been killed in 1993 because of that support.

According to Delalic, the relations between Alija Izetbegovic and Sefer Halilovic were highly “strained” at the time all this happened.

Speaking about the events pertaining to the Operation Neretva 93 that the members of his unit had taken part in, Ramiz Delalic said that Sefer Halilovic “failed to react as he should have... I did not hear an order to punish, locate, reprimand...”. Celo said that on the day of the massacre he had gone to Grabovica, where he found two boys “Goran and Zoran, or Vedran, Zadro, I believe they were called”. They told him about the murder of their parents, grandmother and grandfather, and of a younger sister. “I asked them if they could recognize the person who did it. One of the two boys told me ‘Mister, I will never forget that face’... Sefer said he did not want to know about the kids, to dispose of them, that dirty laundry must not be aired, the offensive must not be exposed... The children told me they wanted to go to Jablanica to stay with their uncle and aunt. I told Sefer that but he refused, asking that they be disposed of or kept at the base until the end of the operation”.

The testimony of Ramiz Delalic Celo continues tomorrow, when he will provide more details about what had happened after the massacre of civilians in Grabovica. Sefer Halilovic has been charged with the command responsibility over his failure to prevent the crimes in the villages of Uzdol and Grabovica in Herzegovina, or to punish their perpetrators.