Van Lynden Gives a New Meaning to Being “Arrested” - July 1, 2010


Hearing date: May 21, 2010


Radovan Karadzic continued to cross-examine British advocacy journalist Aernout van Lynden on Friday, May 21, 2010.


JNA Military Hospital in Sarajevo


Van Lynden stayed in the former JNA Military Hospital in Sarajevo while he was covering the Bosnian war for Sky News. Karadzic asked him, “Bakir Nakas was the director of the hospital from the 10th of May [1992] onwards when the Yugoslav People’s Army had left the hospital.  Up until then, it was the property of the Yugoslav People’s Army, and it was guarded by a small JNA unit.  That unit got killed.  All of its members got killed on the 2nd of May.  Did you know about that?”


Van Lynden replied saying, “I was not there at the beginning of May, so I cannot comment on something that I did not bear witness to.”  Although he did testify for the prosecution that the “hospital had been targeted for fire before” he got there.


Van Lynden also said, “I’m not aware of the hospital being taken over by the Muslim side.  Throughout my time in -- in Sarajevo, within the hospital, Muslims, Catholics, and Orthodox worked in that hospital.”


As it turns out, the JNA military hospital was the site of fighting between the JNA and Muslim paramilitaries. The Muslims did take the hospital over, and the UN had to evacuate the staff from Sarajevo.


The London Guardian reported on the fighting at the hospital in their May 8, 1992 edition. Reporter Maggie O’Kane described it as the “besieged Yugoslav army military hospital, which is surrounded by the Bosnian territorial army”. Her report said, “In an evacuated ward on the ninth floor [the Hospital director] can point to a building in the centre of town where the Bosnian territorials have set up their mortar positions. In the corner, pillows and blankets have been stuffed into the hole made by a rocket on Wednesday night.”


In its May 11, 1992 edition the London Times reported on the expulsion of the hospital staff. Reporter Tim Judah wrote: “Among those beginning their journey out of Bosnia yesterday were staff from Sarajevo’s military hospital. ‘I have worked here for 32 years and now I must go back to Serbia, where I have no home,’ a doctor said.”


It was the Muslims, not the Serbs, who targeted the hospital with mortar fire before van Lynden’s arrival, and when the Muslims took the hospital over they expelled the staff. That’s what happened, and it’s remarkable that van Lynden didn’t know about that. It was common knowledge in Sarajevo, and it was even reported in the London Times and the London Guardian – arguably the two most prominent newspapers in Britain – and van Lynden is a British reporter.


What is on van Lynden’s Film? Van Lynden Doesn’t Know.


The prosecution exhibited several of van Lynden’s TV reports, so Karadzic played back one of Van Lynden’s reports and asked him about the footage. He said, “Right.  Where those explosions are.  Half to the right, south-west of where you were.  Is that where the Serb settlement of Vraca was or is?”


Van Lynden couldn’t answer the question. He said, “Your Honors, this is edited pictures, edited without my presence.  Without me seeing the entire film, I can not precisely say what that one shot was.  I can’t answer that question. You may be right, but I don’t know.”


“Arrested” by the Bosnian Serbs


Van Lynden testified that he reported mostly from the Muslim side of the war because the Bosnian-Serbs arrested him. He angrily told Karadzic, “When we went to Pale and tried to film there from your side, we were arrested again and again.  We could never work.  Now, that’s not my fault.  That’s your fault.” He said, “Every single time we left the Pension Olympic [hotel in Pale] we were arrested.  How were we meant to be able to report on Serb losses?”


When Karadzic asked him to explain his so-called “arrests” van Lynden said, “I meant ‘arrested’ in the sense that we were not allowed to go to [the] front lines to film. There were military units that we were not allowed to film at. We were not allowed to drive on, and we were told to go back to Pale. In the strict sense of the word, you’re right.  We were stopped and sent back. We weren’t put in jail, for instance, no.”


He wasn’t arrested at all. This isn’t an innocent difference in semantics; it was a bald-faced lie. When an English-speaking person says they’ve been arrested they mean that they were captured and imprisoned by the authorities, not that they were stopped and told to go back where they came from. Secondly, general Mladic personally took van Lynden to the Serbian frontline to film and the videotape is exhibit P933 in the trial.


Karadzic on the Enclaves


In his testimony for the prosecution van Lynden said that Karadzic told him “that the enclaves were unacceptable, that they had to become part of Serb territory.”


Karadzic asked him, “Do you agree that on all maps the territory that you call enclaves was accepted by the Serbs to be in Muslim-held territory, the Cutileiro map, the Vance-Owen map, then Owen-Stoltenberg, that map was accepted.  In all these maps, and primarily in Cutileiro’s map, we accepted that that would be Muslim territory?”


Van Lynden’s response was, “I was asked what you had said to me when we met, and I -- as I, to the best of my knowledge recall, you said that they were not acceptable.  What you did elsewhere I was not asked about.”


Of course this intrepid TV reporter didn’t have the camera running when Karadzic said that so Karadzic said that maybe his notes from the discussion would help his memory and the witness said, “I do not know if I wrote notes about those meetings, Mr. Karadzic.  I do not remember.”


Testifying Makes van Lynden "Uncomfortable"


Even though Karadzic wasn’t done with the cross-examination van Lynden figured that he had testified long enough so he made it clear that he didn’t want to come back for more. He told the judges, “I think the accused has had a great deal of time to question me.” He said, “I don’t know if Your Honors have been a witness at a Tribunal ever in your own lives.  It is not a comfortable experience.”


Before he left van Lynden took one departing jab at Karadzic. He said, “In my experience of this court, I have never encountered such muddled questioning and heard so many comments made by the accused or by the representative of the accused, and that, as Your Honours yourselves have pointed out to the accused, has wasted a great time of time.  That’s his decision.  That’s not my fault.”


Colm Doyle Testifies for the Prosecution


After van Lynden left the court-room prosecutor Hildegard Uertz-Retzlaff began her examination of Colm Doyle.


Mr. Doyle is a retired colonel in the Irish Army. From October 1991 until March 1992, he was a member of the European Community Monitoring Mission (ECMM) in Bosnia and Herzegovina. He served as head of the ECMM mission in Sarajevo from November 24, 1991 until May 12, 1992.


Due to shelling and sniping in Sarajevo the ECMM monitors and other internationals had to leave on May 11, 1992, and Colonel Doyle left on the 12th of May.


Doyle met with leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina both on the local level as well as on the republican level. He said Serb leaders very often referred back to historical events and atrocities of the Second World War and expressed fears of their repetition. Whereas Muslim representatives informed the witness that they were intimidated and afraid to go out at night because Bosnian Serb reservists would return from service and retain their weapons and cause incidents which increased the tension between Serbs and non-Serbs.


Doyle observed the transformation of the JNA into what the prosecutor called a “Serbian Army”. He said, “The Bosnian Serbs had access to weapons that Muslim and Croats didn’t have.” He told prosecutors, “When the JNA called up for mobilization, the president of Bosnia, Alija Izetbegovic, already indicated that they were declaring a neutrality, and therefore there was no need for people to obey the call-up.  But this was done mainly by Bosnian Serbs.” He said, “Those members of the JNA who were natives of Bosnia were allowed to stay in Bosnia.  And while most of those were actually Bosnian Serbs, they then, practically overnight, became the Bosnian Serb Army.”


According to Doyle, Radovan Karadzic “was the undisputed leader of the Bosnian Serbs.” He said that Karadzic, immediately before the referendum on Bosnia and Herzegovina’s independence, “Predicted that there would be a conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Would the state internationally be recognized without first reaching an agreement with the Bosnian Serbs.”


Doyle told the prosecutor, “Of course we weren’t naive enough to think that the Croats and the Muslims didn’t have weapons.  They would have had some weapons, but certainly there was no comparison between the amount that Muslims and Croats would have had and those of the Serbs.”


On 2nd March 1992, the day after the results of the referendum were announced, Doyle testified that shooting commenced in Sarajevo and barricades were erected by Serbs.


Doyle testified that on 18 April 1992, Sarajevo Television received a call from somebody in Pale warning them to get off the air, otherwise they would be destroyed. The witness said he sought and received Karadzic’s assurances that this would not happen.  About 20 minutes later, Sarajevo Television was shelled by Serb forces, resulting in the death of two civilians.


Doyle said, “Mr. Karadzic and Mr. Koljevic came to see me, and they were quite agitated. Mr. Karadzic acknowledged that the attack had taken place, but he intimated to me that he hadn’t ordered it, that he had condemned it, and that I would have to realize that he didn’t control the entire military all of the time.”


On 16 August 1992, whilst in Brussels for negotiations, Colonel Doyle confronted the Karadzic with a London Times newspaper article carrying a photograph on its front cover of Muslim detainees at a camp in Prijedor, and he raised with him the issue of Muslims and Croats being forced to sign over their property to Bosnian Serbs before leaving.  Karadzic conceded that this was unlawful and stated that he would publicly condemn it.


Doyle said, “I brought this question of signing away their property, and he admitted to me that it was wrong and that it was illegal.  And I suggested that maybe as a gesture he might send a letter to the Times sending a message out there that he agreed that it was illegal and this should not be done.  So he intimated to me that he certainly would do something about it.  I don’t know whether that was done or not.  I have no evidence one way or the other as to whether that was done by him.”


The prosecutor then exhibited a report from the London Conference (exhibit P941) which said, “Dr. Karadzic had said that he had issued instructions to stop these forces from harassing those Muslims and Croats who were willing to leave Serbian areas from signing papers to that effect.  He confirmed that such papers would have not have validity in the light of a final settlement.”


Doyle testified that elements in the Bosnian government was hostile to the JNA. He said, “towards the end of November [1991] I was requested to meet with the prime minister, who was a Croat, Mr. Pelivan.  And I asked him specifically why there seemed not to be any dealings with the federal army, the JNA.  And he replied that as far as he was concerned, and I assume the government was concerned, they looked upon the JNA as an ‘army of occupation’ is the phrase he actually used to me.”


Ms. Uertz-Retzlaff asked the witness if the food shortage in Sarajevo was “owing to the blockade imposed on the city by the Serb forces?”


He replied, “There was a certain amount of conflict going on in the city, there were shortages of food, and that even extended to the location that I was in, which was the Serb area Ilidza. We even had shortages there.  So it was something that the population on all sides of the city of Sarajevo, those that were there at the time were beginning to suffer.”


The view expressed by Doyle and by the ECMM was that there was a “concerted effort by the Serbs of Bosnia-Herzegovina, with the acquiesce of, and at least some support from the JNA to create ethnically-pure regions in the context of negotiations on the cantonisation of the republic in the EC Conference on Bosnia-Herzegovina chaired by Ambassador Cutileiro. And the techniques used are the seizure of territory by military force and intimidation of the non-Serb population.”


Ms. Uertz-Retzlaff read out a quote where Karadzic said, “Muslims cannot live with others.  We must be clear on that. They couldn’t live with the Hindu who are as peaceful as sheep.  That’s the Indian religion.  They are a peaceful people, and yet they couldn’t live with them.  They could not live with the Greek on Cyprus.  They couldn’t live in the Lebanon with Arabs of the same blood, same language, but of a different faith ... they will overwhelm you with their birth rate and their tricks. We cannot allow that to happen.”


Doyle said, “I think most of the reference that was made by the Bosnian Serbs was the fact that they simply couldn’t live with the Muslims.” He said, “We were struck by the fact that the Serbs always seemed to refer mainly to the Muslims, even though there were Croats, but it was always the Muslims that they were worried about.”


Doyle recalled a conversation he had with Biljana Plavsic saying, “She intimated to me that Bosnian Serbs were used to living in wide spaces, and therefore they needed room to move round.  She mentioned to me that Muslims were practically people who were business, and therefore would be normally domiciled in a city, and therefore did not need as much territory as the Serbs would need it.  And then she said something to me which I will always remember, she said, ‘You know, Mr. Doyle, if it takes the lives of 3 million people to solve this crisis, let’s get it done and move on’.”


In many of Doyle’s ECMM reports he mentions ‘paramilitaries’. When asked what me meant by paramilitary he said, “somebody who bore weapons, who was not in the federal army, in other words, all of those outside the JNA, because there were so many different groups, there were the Muslim Eagles or the Green Berets, and therefore it was -- it was common for us to refer to all non-military JNA who were armed or wore some uniforms and some didn’t.  So we referred to them collectively, simply as paramilitaries.”


When asked if Karadzic controlled the Serbian paramilitaries he said, “I always assumed that he did” adding “I suppose it was my interpretation or my view that, as the leader of the Bosnian Serbs that he controlled or should have had control over all aspects of the Bosnian Serbs, and that would include armed forces.”


Karadzic Cross-Examines Doyle


Karadzic asked Doyle, “I think that we agreed that the Muslims had rejected calls for mobilization.  It’s not that they were excluded from the JNA in some other way.  Namely, they did not respond to mobilisation, and thereby the Serbs became the only mobilization base for the JNA at that time; right?”


Doyle responded saying, “Yes, I agree with that.”


Karadzic also showed Doyle a letter (exhibit D213) written by Harun Imamovic the chairman of the SDA City Board in Sarajevo. The letter said:


“Dear sir:  At the 75th session of the Sarajevo SDA City Board held on the 17th of March, 1992, a conclusion was made to address you with a suggestion that you take timely steps to resolve the personnel-related problems at Sarajevo RTV.


“The relevance and importance of this institution for all segments of social and political life goes without saying.


“The Sarajevo SDA City Board believes that every division of Sarajevo TV into ethnic channels is out of the question, as it would not suit the interests of the Muslim people.


“In addition, we would like to say that in order to protect our ethnic interests, it is imperative that the general manager of the RTV be a Muslim, as well as the editor-in-chief of the RTV.


We deem this to be the minimum beneath which no talks should be held.”


After reading-out the text of the letter Karadzic asked the witness, “Do you agree that the interest of the Muslim people is singled out here and placed above the interests of the Serb and Croat peoples?   Do you agree that in Bosnia-Herzegovina, in addition to the Muslim people, there were Serbs and Croats who accounted for the Christian majority of that country?”


Doyle answered, “Yes, I do. I would agree that the content of the letter would indicate that the Muslim population was looking for an unreasonable demand.”


Karadzic said, “You do agree that it is hard for the Christian majority, even if it were a minority, to imagine this kind of TV Sarajevo, namely that this Christian majority cannot be represented properly because that does not suit the interests of the Muslim people; right?”


Again Doyle agreed saying, “Yes.  I’ve already indicated that, I think.”


With that the hearing was adjourned until Wednesday May 26th at which time the cross-examination was scheduled to continue. A complete transcript of this hearing is available at:

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