The Karadzic Trial’s First Testimony About the Acts and Conduct of the Accused is a Bust for the Prosecution - May 3, 2010


Written by: Andy Wilcoxson

Hearing Date: April 15, 2010

Prosecution witness Sulejman Crncalo, a Bosnian-Muslim from Pale who lived in Sarajevo during the Bosnian War, described himself as an SDA “sympathizer” while under cross-examination from former Bosnian-Serb president Radovan Karadzic.


Crncalo’s testimony was the first that had anything directly to do with the acts and conduct of Radovan Karadzic. The witness testified that in June 1992 he personally saw Karadzic giving a speech to the families killed Serbian soldiers in front of the Dom Kultur building in Pale where he said he heard Karadzic tell the crowd, “Every Muslim house has to be attacked because that’s the way to defend Serb houses.”


Although Karadzic was giving a public speech where anybody who passed-by could hear him or record what he was saying, no media outlet ever reported that he said anything like that.


Karadzic asked the witness, “How is it possible for me to say something as drastic as you say I said here without ever anybody having recorded it?”


Crncalo responded, “I don't know how that was possible, but that’s what you said.”


The first statement that Crncalo gave to ICTY investigators on August 23, 1995 contains no mention of him having heard Karadzic telling people to attack Muslim houses.


When Crncalo testified for the prosecution in the Krajisnik trial he again failed to mention that he heard Karadzic saying these things. When Karadzic asked him why he didn’t mention it during the Krajisnik trial he said, “Well, I didn't testify against you.  This is the first time that I'm testifying against you here.”


Karadzic read out an excerpt from a speech he gave to a closed-session of the Bosnian-Serb parliament in July 1992 (exhibit D00027) where he said, “in Pale there are 20 per cent [Muslims] because nobody is touching them there, nor does anyone consider them to be second-rate citizens.  But, on the contrary, our state officials are communicating with them trying to persuade them that they have no reason for fear and anxiety.  So in Serbian Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Serbian people have gained their freedom and their state and they're willing to allow others to live alongside them.”


The obvious question is why Karadzic would publicly call on people to attack Muslims, while privately telling the parliament that nobody should touch them. Crncalo’s testimony is kind of far fetched.


Although he described himself as an SDA sympathizer, Crncalo tried to present himself as somebody with no knowledge or interest in politics. When Karadzic tried to ask him about the political maneuvering of the SDA he would inevitably get a response like “politics didn't interest me and politicians didn't interest me” or “I did not look into these political positions.  I wasn't interested.”


When Karadzic asked him about certain negotiations between Serbian and Muslim officials Crncalo said, “I did not follow your political wrangling and meetings”


Although Crncalo pleaded ignorance of anything political, especially to anything that might benefit Karadzic, he none the less felt qualified to tell Karadzic, “Well, I'll be quite frank.  If the people could do anything, then they wouldn’t have allowed you anywhere near the media in Bosnia or near the press or near any kind of electronic media. Whatever you did, you did something that was bad for the people.  What worse thing in the world is there than war, as far as the population is concerned?  And that’s what you were engaged in.”


Crncalo testified that on May 22, 1992 “Serb units attacked the local commune of Renovica” He insisted that “The Serbs attacked the Muslims in Renovica. The Muslims didn’t intend to attack anybody.”


In connection with the Renovica events Karadzic asked the witness: “Mr. Crncalo, they [the MUP officers] went there to collect up the weapons.  How many Muslims and how many Serbs were killed in that action?”


Crncalo’s response was, “As far as I know, two Serbs were killed and I don't know how many wounded, but […] it was the Serb soldiers that caused the conflict by going there in the first place.”


Karadzic showed Crncalo a press-dispatch which said: “Malko Koroman, head of the MUP of Pale, posed an ultimatum to the armed Muslims in Pale municipality demanding that by the next day, the 23rd of May, by 3.00 p.m., they hand in their weapons. The ultimatum followed an attack by the Muslim paramilitaries in Renovica on a MUP patrol and members of the MUP, Goran Kablar and Rade Tosic, were killed and five other persons were wounded.”


In addition Karadzic showed the witness a letter dated June 25, 1992 from Serbian villagers from Renovica (exhibits D00019 and D00020). The letter contained a list of the Serbs who were expelled from their homes and an itemized list of the homes and property that were looted and burned by Muslim paramilitaries.


Crncalo’s response to the documents was, “I don't know about any of that.  I'm telling you what I did.  I said that I wasn't able to move around the urban part of Pale, and I'm a heavy smoker, let me tell you.  But most of the time while I was in Pale, I didn’t have any cigarettes.”


So yet again, Crncalo feels competent to testify very categorically that “The Serbs attacked the Muslims in Renovica,” but when shown evidence to the contrary he pleads ignorance and says his movements were so restricted that he couldn’t even go out and buy a pack of cigarettes … but somehow, according to his testimony, he could go out for a walk and stroll right up to 50 meters away from where Radovan Karadzic – the Bosnian-Serb President -- was giving a speech.

Crncalo told Karadzic a story to illustrate what the restrictions on his movement looked like, he said: “One night, one of my [Serbian] work colleagues was on a patrol.  The person who was his partner moved towards me, probably to arrest me, and this work colleague of mine told him, ‘Don't touch him’.  This is one of our locals, a quiet man.  And I had just been on an errand to buy cigarettes and when I came home I told my wife, I almost got arrested and taken away.”


Karadzic then asked an obvious question, he said “Mr. Crncalo, are we of different races?  Could we -- could anyone looking at us tell that one of us is a Serb, the other is a Muslim?”


Obviously, if the second Serbian patrolman didn’t know who Mr. Crncalo was or that he was a Muslim, how would he know to single him out for persecution?


Crncalo didn’t answer the question. He told Karadzic, “You are from Montenegro; I am from Bosnia.  My parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents lived and died in Bosnia. ... And now this difference in appearance, you couldn't tell who is who.  But what is hidden inside, nobody can tell either.”


Crncalo testified that Muslims were forced to leave Pale. He said, “Every time we (Muslims) had contacts with the officials of the Pale municipality, nobody was able to give us any guarantees of safety.  That's the answer we received.”


In response to that testimony Karadzic showed the witness an official letter from the Municipality of Pale to the group of Muslim citizens of Pale (of which witness was a member) dated April 11, 1992. The letter said: “There is no reason for the Muslim population to panic or move out, the Serbian municipality of Pale shall offer full protection to all citizens of Pale, whatever their ethnicity or creed.”


The witness shot back, “This document was never shown to a single Muslim in Pale.” And Karadzic replied, “We have a witness statement from another Muslim, and we'll show it in due time.”


During his prosecution testimony Crncalo said that he was obliged to fill in a contract agreeing to transfer ownership of his house to a Serbian woman. From his testimony in chief it sounded like he was forced to give his house to some Serbian lady and he got nothing.


As it turns out, the Serbian woman who got his house was a refugee from Sarajevo named Dragica Subotic, and she didn’t get Crncalo’s house for nothing. The two of them traded houses. She got his house and he got hers. The two of them signed a contract spelling the whole thing out (Exhibit D00033).


When Karadzic showed him the contract with his own signature on it Crncalo said, “Anyone who refused to sign such a contract had to hand in their keys to their house to the police station.”


Karadzic challenged the witness to “Tell me one example.”


Crncalo responded, “Well, that's the information that circulated among the people.”


Karadzic’s investigators managed to track down Dragica Subotic’s son, Miro Subotic. He gave them a statement which said:


“After being expelled from our own home, we fled to Pale.




“My mother met Taib Crncalo (Sulejman's brother) in front of his house in the part of Pale that was predominantly inhabited by Muslims with the help of some acquaints from Sarajevo who had already exchanged their homes.  There she reached a verbal agreement with Taib regarding the exchange of property.  This house was owned by Taib and Sulejman.




“The brothers Taib and Sulejman, together with a large number of their countrymen, left Pale in an organized fashion in a bus convoy, probably on the same day.  They all left voluntarily at their own request and without suffering any mistreatment.


“I personally helped Taib and Sulejman carry their things to the bus.  We parted on friendly terms and Sulejman's allegations which you have confronted me with that someone threatened them and forced them out of their house are not true.”


After he read out the statement Karadzic asked the witness: “Mr. Crncalo, there was no police present.  You were alone all the time.  There were no official authorities when you were negotiating the deal [to swap houses]?”


The witness answered, “There was police present on the road when we were moving towards the buses.” Notice that he didn’t say whether the police were present when he was with his brother negotiating the deal to swap houses with the Subotic family.


After Karadzic concluded Mr. Crncalo’s cross-examination he was briefly re-examined by the prosecutor before being released.


The next witness on the docket is a protected witness testifying under the pseudonym “KDZ064.” Their testimony is scheduled to commence on April 21, 2009.


A court transcript of this hearing summarized here is available at:


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