Muslim Regime Denied Water to Sarajevo Civilians and Blamed the Serbs - June 3, 2010

Written by: Andy Wilcoxson

Hearing Date:
April 28, 2010


Radovan Karadzic concluded his cross-examination of Ambassador Herbert Okun on April 28, 2010.


Karadzic put his case to Okun that the policy of the Bosnian-Serb authorities was to prevent and punish criminal conduct against civilians by the army and police. Karadzic told Okun that by September 1992, there were 6,300 criminal reports filed against soldiers and another two and a half to 3,000 criminal reports filed against police, and that trials are still going on in Bosnia based on criminal reports filed during the war.


To bear out his assertion Karadzic showed Okun a number of documents (Exhibits D101 through D115) containing the orders issued to the army and police to prevent looting, ethnic cleansing, abuses against civilians, etc… and to investigate and prosecute crimes committed by members of the army and police.


Okun reacted to the documents saying, “The conclusion I come to from the multiplicity of orders, directives, instructions, letters that you sent on this subject to your military is that they were not being followed. If they were listening to you, you would not have had to send so many orders.  So apparently the orders, while praiseworthy in themselves, were not being observed by your troops in the field.”


Okun’s opinion was that the orders were issued in good faith. He said, “Dr. Karadzic, I'm surprised to hear you say that I alleged that your appeals were disingenuous.  I said the opposite.  I said they were praiseworthy, I said they were commendable, I said they had merit.  I said they were not observed in the field, but I never accused those documents of being anything but sincere.”


This is an interesting admission for the prosecution’s witness to make since the lynch-pin of the entire prosecution case is that crimes were committed as an act of government policy by Republika Srpska. That’s the entire point of Radovan Karadzic’s trial. If crimes were committed in spite of his policies, rather than because of his policies, it would seem to relieve him of responsibility.


Muslims cut off water to Sarajevo Civilians, Serbs were blamed


Among the documents that Karadzic showed to Okun was a letter written by Fred Cuny (an American disaster relief specialist) to Morton Abramowitz in January 1994 (exhibit D117). Okun knew both men and vouched for their credibility. Cuny wrote the letter when he was in Sarajevo trying to restore running water to parts of the city during the war.


The letter said, “One of the officers in the UNPROFOR claims that they have information that some members of [the Muslim] government are opposed to turning on the water because it will take away one of the most omnipresent images of suffering in the city



“We have been told by someone close to Dr. Mohammed Zlatar that the reason that some officials are trying to prevent the water from being turned on is that the officials are engaged in selling water from the brewery and Bacevo.  Tankers routinely take water from those sources and deliver it to a number of enterprises, including the Holiday Inn.  Some is also sold to households.  Water sales are brisk, especially during the winter.  Our information tells us that the city will eventually allow us to turn on the water, but only after they have limited the area served (by closing critical valves) and after the winter, when the demand and price for water deliveries will drop - thus, the three-month testing regime.



“If the government continues to stonewall us, we have several options.  I could ask General Rose to simply order us to turn on the system or turn it over to the UN.  That may be the easiest and politically the best way for the Bosnians to deal with that.



“However, we have been unable to persuade the city authorities to allow us to turn it on, even during the heavy shelling that occurred in January.  At one point, after several people were killed trying to collect water from the taps at the brewery, I ordered the water turned on on my own authority, but the authorities intervened and cut it off.”


After Okun saw the letter he said, “We've already established that there was criminal activity by all sides, Dr. Karadzic, and this item, which I see now for the first time, confirms that fact.”


Karadzic followed-up by asking, “So, not the Serb authorities, the Muslim authorities, they didn't allow the water to be turned on and flow into the city.  Is that the conclusion that one can draw from this letter?” Okun replied saying, “That would be the conclusion we could draw.”


Karadzic pointed out the fact that the Bosnian-Serbs had been accused of cutting off the water to Sarajevo, even though it was the Muslims who were blocking the water supply to their own civilians.


Karadzic also drew attention to an entry in Okun’s notebook dated September 1992. The entry related to a proposal Karadzic had made and it said, “Not only humanitarian, but also economic.  Water and electricity should be under the UNPROFOR.” In addition to the notebook entry Karadzic exhibited his official proposal (exhibit D116) for water and utilities to be under UNPROFOR control.


West Sided with the Muslims


Karadzic read out a quote from Alija Izetbegovic’s book which said, “As for Tudjman's bragging that some Europeans had entrusted to him the Europisation of the Bosnian Muslims and the prevention of the creation of a Muslim state on European soil, I think that there was some truth in these stories of Tudjman's.  Many in Europe and America, with a few honorable exceptions, viewed with suspicion what was going on in Bosnia.  What they considered to be Islamic revival in the country needed to be extinguished.  Many ugly things were done in order to achieve this. One of them was the criminalization of the Bosnian authorities in the BH that would intensify after the war and culminate in a ‘New York Times’ article in 1999.”


Karadzic then asked Okun whether the policy of the West was to Policy of the West was to use the Serbs and Croats against the Bosnian-Muslims.


Okun replied saying, “The sympathy of the West, whether correct or incorrect, was overwhelmingly on the side of the Muslims.  We've established that already.  Dr. Karadzic has made that point repeatedly, and it's correct.  That's why, for example, somebody like Fred Cuny had been sent by George Soros to Sarajevo to see what could be done with the water supply.  That's why UNPROFOR was there, that's why all of this happened.  So to say that the West intended to neutralize the Muslims in Bosnia by using the Serbs and Croats is not only beyond belief, it's laughable.”


The West Virginia Analogy


The Bosnian and Krajina Serb desire to secede from Croatia and Bosnia in order to remain, together with Serbia, in what remained of Yugoslavia has often been compared to West Virginia’s decision to remain in the Union by seceding from Virginia which had attempted to secede from the United States during the American Civil War.


According to Okun, “The situation that you mention of West Virginia, which we've discussed previously, differs in this case: You made and make the point that West Virginia seceded from Virginia while the Civil War was in progress because they were not a slave-holding area, and that is correct.  The difference between the West Virginia case and your case is that you effectively started the war in Bosnia with your self-declared declaration that you would either remain in Yugoslavia or have your own Republika Srpska.  So while the West Virginia case was the result of a war, your declaration started the war.”


Karadzic replied saying, “All your colleagues from the West, from Warren Christopher, even President Clinton, James Bissett, and so on, Henry Kissinger, all of them say quite the reverse. I say that the unconstitutional proclamation of independence for Bosnia-Herzegovina caused the war, not us.  We didn’t need a war.”


Bosnian-Serb Territorial Ambitions


Okun told Karadzic, “There has never been any dispute between us and I have never said that you insisted on holding all of the land that your army occupied.  I have stated, and it is correct, that the army -- the Bosnian Serb Army, the VRS, occupied about 70 per cent of the territory, but it was clear at all times that there would have to be some adjustment to this.”


Eventhough Okun criticized the Bosnian-Serbs for rejecting the Vance-Owen Plan, he conceded that “the Bosnian Serbs were not the only party that rejected the Vance-Owen Peace Plan.  The US government rejected it.”


Karadzic followed up by asking, “Do you agree, Mr. Ambassador, that at the Carrington-Cutileiro conference, without a war and before the war, we agreed to even less than we’ve got now, 45 per cent, and without contiguous territories, when it was assumed that Bosnia would not go into war?  That was even less than we’ve got now; do you agree?”


Okun replied saying, “Yes, that's correct.  We saw that on the Darwin draft map.  I agree it was in the draft.”


Following a brief re-examination by the prosecutor the witness was released and the hearing adjourned. A transcript of the hearing is available at:

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