Donia Blames Bosnian War on “Serbian Separatists” - August 16, 2010

Written by: Andy Wilcoxson


Hearing date: June 7, 2010


The Prosecution’s expert historian Robert Donia continued to testify in the Radovan Karadzic trial on June 7, 2010.


Common Ground


Donia agreed with Karadzic’s claim that “Up until the 30th of January, 1991, both the SDA and the SDS were in favor of preserving Yugoslavia.” And he agreed with Karadzic’s assertion that “On the 31st of March [1991] the Patriotic League was formed as the military wing of the SDA.”


The witness also testified that “what is normally referred to as [Bosnia’s] declaration of sovereignty, along with a platform of the Presidency, were both adopted without the participation and over the objections of the SDS on October 15 [1991], in the very early morning hours.”


The Cause of Tensions in Bosnia


The witness however, rejected Karadzic’s thesis that the “foremost reason for tensions [was] the change in position by Mr. Izetbegovic and the SDA. Instead of being in favor of preserving Yugoslavia, they opted for leaving Yugoslavia on the 30th of January, 1991.”


According to the witness, tensions arose in Bosnia because of “the growing concern among many Bosnians about the behavior of the Yugoslav People’s Army both in prosecuting the campaign on behalf of Serb separatists in Croatia and in its various undertakings in Bosnia starting in the late spring and summer of 1991.”


Although he blamed JNA activity in Croatia for increased tensions in Bosnia, the witness did not believe that incidents like the Spegelj film, where Croatian defense minister Martain Spegelj was videotaped in late 1990 (i.e. before the war) telling the Croatian interior minister how he intended to murder JNA soldiers and Serbs, contributed to increased tensions. He said, “I don't see that at this time the concern of regarding Mr. Spegelj's -- the videotape and his statements had much echo in Bosnia at that time.”




Donia would have people believe the problem wasn’t Croatian and Muslim separatists wanting to secede from Yugoslavia, rather it was Serbian separatists wanting to secede from Bosnia and Croatia. He told the court, “Serbs wanted to separate themselves from Bosnia-Herzegovina.” Gesturing towards Karadzic he said, “You established the SAOs only in September and October [1991].  You established the communities of municipalities in this period of late April, May, and June.  You established the Bosnian Krajina one, as I indicated, on the 25th of April, in Banja Luka.” (i.e. after the Patriotic League was set-up, and after Izetbegovic began advocating Bosnian secession from Yugoslavia)


According to Donia, the Bosnian-Serbs “were seeking to separate from Bosnia-Herzegovina and undertook all kinds of initiatives and activities to so separate.” So Karadzic asked him, “Do you mean to say that the Serbs would have separated from Bosnia even if Bosnia had remained in Yugoslavia?”


Donia couldn’t answer. He confessed, “I don't have that much insight into what Serb intentions would have been in that case.” Ironically, his “expert opinion” about the intentions of the Serbs is the central focus of his testimony.


The witness agreed with Karadzic’s suggestion that “the Serbs' first and utmost priority was preserving Yugoslavia.” He said, “I think that the vast majority of Serbs did, in fact, feel that Yugoslavia was their home, yes.”


Karadzic asked him, “Do you agree that after that first and uppermost objective the second objective in terms of this hierarchy was, among the Serbs, that is, that if the Croats and Slovenes were leaving Yugoslavia the Serbs should remain within Yugoslavia in those territories that were predominantly Serb and that Bosnia should remain in Yugoslavia if at all possible.”


Donia replied, “Greater Serbia essentially is what you are suggesting” He said, “The programme that you embraced and that Mr. Milosevic embraced also included holding on to those parts of Croatia which Serbs claimed as their land, and thus it wasn't completely congruent with the remaining republics as they were then bounded by the boundaries of Yugoslavia.”


Karadzic asked him, “Did those Serbs want to remain in Yugoslavia?  Not Milosevic, the Serbs living in Krajina or Bosnia.  Did they wish to stay in Yugoslavia?”


Donia agreed, “I think most of them did, yes.” So Karadzic asked, “And was Yugoslavia a sovereign and the sole recognized state amongst all those entities?”


Again Donia agreed, “Up until January 15th, yes.  January 15th, 1992, that was the status, yes.”


So Karadzic asked rhetorically, “How then could the Serbs have been separatists if they were calling to remain in the country that they saw as their home, a home which was internationally recognized?”


SDA Sent Muslim Police for Training in Croatia


Karadzic showed the witness two documents (exhibits D260 and D261) issued by the SDA calling on Muslim members of the Bosnian MUP to report to Croatia for training before the Bosnian war, but after the war in Croatia had started.


The witness said, “I find it unsurprising that that Bosnia was sending people to Croatia for training, but I did not know that that was something that was being done with either the endorsement or participation of the SDA.”


The 1991 Serb-Muslim Agreement


Karadzic also questioned Donia extensively about the 1991 Serb-Muslim agreement he reached with Adil Zulfikarpasic & Mohammed Filipovic of the Muslim-Bosniak Organization (MBO), and how it was sabotaged by Alija Izetbegovic.


Karadzic read several quotes from a book entitled "Articles and Interviews,” written by Zulfikarpasic where he said:


“I have to say that on behalf of the MBO, Mohamed Filipovic and I took part in the negotiation on behalf of the SDS, Mr. Karadzic, Koljevic and Krajisnik.  It's a highly authoritative meeting and I wish to stress something else.  From the very beginning in talks, the SDA was informed as well as Alija Izetbegovic in person.  The initiative did stem from us, but on several occasions we discussed it with Alija Izetbegovic, Muhamed Filipovic and I.”


“At that meeting, we established once again that we agreed.  Even Alija Izetbegovic said that there was no alternative to this agreement and that he accepts it fully.”


Zulfikarpasic was asked by the interviewer, “Mr. Zulfikarpasic, how do you perceive the congratulatory notes, the one [Slobodan] Milosevic sent you and Radovan Karadzic in response to the signing of this agreement?”


He answered, “That note strengthened our agreement and showed us that the Serb nation as a whole stands behind this idea, which, in any case, contributed to easing tensions and creating a very good atmosphere.”


Zulfikarpasic explained in the interview however, “Mr. Izetbegovic, after welcoming our initiative and after taking part in a three-hour meeting with us and the SDS probably under pressure from the militant wing changed their position within one hour.


After Karadzic readout excerpts from Zulfikarpasic’s interviews Donia confirmed that, “the account that you've just read corresponds very closely to my own understanding of how the talks proceeded, how they were initiated and proceeding.” And Karadzic stated, “The agreement between the Serbs and the Muslims that shows our true intentions.”


A complete transcript of this hearing is available at:


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