Prosecution Changes Strategy in Karadzic Trial - October 13, 2010

Written by: Andy Wilcoxson

Hearing date:
June 29, 2010


A French UNPROFOR officer stationed in Sarajevo in 1993 continued his testimony as protected witness KDZ185 in the Radovan Karadzic trial on June 29th.


Prosecution Changes Strategy & Trial Chamber Changes Rules … Again


When Radovan Karadzic showed a document (exhibit D339) issued on March 31, 1993 by the ABiH First Corps to KDZ185 showing that the Muslims had 122 millimeter Howitzers and self-propelled 152 millimeter Howitzers in the city of Sarajevo, it did not look like the document was going to be admitted into evidence because the witness did not confirm anything about it. In fact the witness testified to the contrary. He said the Muslims didn’t have those kinds of weapons in the city.


On May 6, 2010 during the testimony of Prosecution witness Fatima Zaimovic, and all the way through the testimony of prosecution witnesses: David Harland, Aernout van Lynden, Colm Doyle, Robert Donia, Richard Philipps, and John Wilson the court refused to admit any document into evidence unless the witness confirmed something about the document in their testimony.


When the trial chamber changed the standard for admitting documents on May 6th it rescinded the admission of defense exhibits D121, D122, D124, D126, D127, D128, and D129.


The exhibits were official, contemporaneous documents from UN, Bosnian-Serb, and Bosnian-Muslim sources that directly contradicted the testimony of prosecution witness Fatima Zaimovic. The whole point of the documents was that they contradicted the witness and impeached her credibility.


When the Trial Chamber changed rules on May 6th the presiding judge said, “Concerning questioning of witnesses about documents which they have no knowledge of or cannot speak to. The Chamber is of the view that, in these circumstances, such documents should not be admitted into evidence, even where there is no dispute about authenticity or even relevance.” He said, “The Chamber advises both parties to only tender for admission into evidence a document put to a witness either on direct or on cross-examination which the witness has been able to speak to. This does not prevent you, Mr. Karadzic, from putting any document you wish to a witness. But if the witness is clearly unable to say anything about the document, it will not be admitted.”


On May 6th, the judges explained that “the Chamber will not admit [documents] into evidence on the basis that the witness was unable to confirm them or comment on their content.”


At the time the ruling was handed down the defense objected strenuously. On May 7th, Radovan Karadzic’s legal advisor Peter Robinson told the court, “The Chamber seems to have adopted a position that only those things that are consistent with the witness's testimony can be probative, and we think that that creates an unfairness that will allow only documents that bolster the credibility of a witness to be admitted, and those that impeach the credibility of a witness will not be admitted.” He said, “I would ask that you apply a rule that favors admission of documents on a more liberal basis than you did yesterday.”


Now here it is the 29th of June, and a document is being put to the witness that contradicts the witness’s testimony about the kinds of weapons the ABiH had at its disposal in Sarajevo. From the 6th of May until the 29th of June the Trial Chamber would not have admitted this document because the witness didn’t confirm anything about it.


But on this occasion, prosecutor Caroline Edgerton told the court, “I've done some thinking and transcript reading.”  She said, “After reading the transcript, I think Dr. Karadzic is seeking to tender the documents as evidence that he alleges directly contradicts the testimony of the witness. And while I don't think it's direct evidence to the effect that the ABiH had weapons of the caliber that they've been discussing in Sarajevo, it looks like a valid attempt to impeach the witness.”


Judge Kown asked her, “Does it mean that you do not oppose to the admission of this document?” She replied, “In short, I don't.” and the document was admitted as exhibit D339 without further discussion.


Surprised, Karadzic told the court, “Thank you. I don't know where I went wrong and how I deserved such attention from the opposite side. I don't know if I will be able to repay it.”


Let’s think about this for a minute, it probably isn’t a coincidence that the next witness on the docket is Momcilo Mandic. Mandic will be the first Serb to testify in the trial, and the prosecution is likely afraid that he will give testimony favorable to Radovan Karadzic. The prosecution obviously wants to be in a position where it can put documents into evidence that challenge Mandic’s testimony. That’s why they want the ruling handed down on May 6th to be relaxed. It will be interesting to see, if after Mandic’s testimony is over, if the Prosecution asks for the May 6th rules to be re-imposed.


This is clear evidence that the judges are biased towards the prosecution. When the defense argued that documents that impeach the credibility of a witness deserved to be admitted into evidence they were denied. When the prosecutor made exactly the same argument two months later it was accepted without any discussion.


Dobrinja Football Pitch Attack


During his testimony for the Prosecution KDZ185 claimed that the Bosnian-Serb military was responsible for a deadly mortar attack on a soccer game in the Sarajevo neighborhood of Dobrinja on May 31, 1993 at 10:20 in the morning. The witness said the fatal shells "could only come from Bosnian-Serb-held territory" based on the UN investigation.


Karadzic began by showing the witness the combat report (exhibit D340) that the SRK sent to the VRS main staff on June 1st. The report said, “In the course of the day [May 31st], the enemy [Muslims] violated the cease-fire more than once, firing on our defense positions. The corps forces respected the order on cease-fire in full. There was no response to enemy provocations. It is to be expected that intense sniper fire on civilian targets by the enemy will continue.” And then the report went on to enumerate the Serbian casualties of the Muslim attacks.


Karadzic then went through a Bosnian-Serb intelligence document (e-court 1D1933) that said the men killed on the football pitch were not civilians; rather they were members of the ABiH.


He asked the witness, “Do you know that in Dobrinja, there were regular [army] units, and that's the place [the football pitch] where the units leaving the city assembled to go to Mount Igman?”


The witness responded, “Of course, we mentioned it earlier on. It was within my area -- well, actually, perhaps we should move to private session, Your Honour.”


When the trial came back out of closed session, Karadzic was putting the UN report on the incident (exhibit P1053) to the witness.


The report said, “the site cannot be seen from the confrontation line“ and "due to the fact that both rounds impacted into a macadam surface, the angle of descent and range cannot be determined."


This means that the Bosnian-Serbs couldn’t see the soccer game and that the UN couldn’t determine a firing position.


The report also said, “The soccer game was held in a location surrounded on three sides by buildings (west, east and south). In addition, it was explained that there are Bosnian mortars located outside the hospital approximately 500 meters from the soccer location."


The witness said, “The mortar units, especially with the Bosnians, had this characteristic, that they would move them very often. They had no fixed position, which accounts for the fact that unlike the Serb artillery positions, we had not ascertained what the permanent locations were of the Bosnian mortar units because such did not exist."


The report also relies on the statement of a Muslim witness named Dinko Bakal who assisted the wounded in the aftermath of the attack. According to the UN report he, “heard the detonations and believed that they were caused by 82-millimetre mortars, but later discovered that they were, in fact, 60-millimetre mortars."


The fact that it’s a 60 mm mortar is important because this is an extremely mobile type of weapon. A soldier can easily carry this kind of weapon around with him. In this YouTube video we see an American soldier firing a 60 mm mortar hand held – although that’s not usually how it’s done:


The fact is that anybody could have had this kind of weapon and fired it at the football pitch. The UN never completed the investigation either. The report said, "Other investigative steps related to this case may include interviews with Serbian officials, as well as other witnesses. A further report will be submitted. Therefore, this report is pending." And apparently, no further reports were ever submitted.


Another important fact arising from the report is that the UN didn’t start the investigation until the 28th of June, and they didn’t obtain any of the investigative materials from the Muslim police until the 2nd of July – over a month after the fact.


Karadzic asked the witness, “Witness, do you allow for the possibility that the Muslims from time to time bombed their own territory and their own people and their own units?”


The witness agreed, he said, “Indeed, on a few occasions we noticed that there were snipers firing within the city, and perhaps there were also mortar fire, namely, other weapons, that were rather suspect when we looked at them more closely.”


Sarajevo: March 21, 1993


The witness testified for the Prosecutor that on March 21, 1993 approximately 2,400 shells were fired at Sarajevo, including 400 on the old town.


Karadzic showed the witness a directive he issued on March 11, 1993 (exhibit D104) directing the Bosnian-Serb military to adhere to a cease fire.


He then showed the witness an order (exhibit D343) that Sefer Halilovic issued to the Bosnian Army on March 16, 1993 that said, “Order strictly confidential number 02/398-1, dated 15 March 1993, is null and void and was issued for propaganda purposes. Referencing the received order dated 15 March 1993, regarding the cessation of hostilities, I hereby order offensive operations to commence.”


Karadzic also showed the witness a report (exhibit D334) issued by the Bosnian-Serb Army on March 19, 1993 about the losses they were suffering from the Muslim attacks.


Then Karadzic showed the witness an report (exhibit D346) written by Sabro Haskovic, Chief of Staff of the operative group of the First Corps, and sent to the command of First Corps of the ABiH on March 20, 1993. The report said, “Pursuant to an order from the commander of the Operative Group Igman, our artillerymen opened fire from a 130-millimetre cannon with two projectiles, 105-millimetre Howitzers with four projectiles, and a cannon Howitzer, 152 millimeters, with 25 shells, against targets asked for by the commander of the 1st Corps. The Chetniks returned fire in the area of infantry weapons with four projectiles, MB-82. We shot at Chetnik positions in the area of Orlovac, where the Chetniks were setting up new firing positions. Our artillerymen used 82- and 120-millimetre mortars, firing five shells at the village of Vojkovici and the Sumanska School.”


The witness noted, “I see that in spite of the cease-fire that had been violated by the Bosnian forces, the Serbian forces fired back.”


Karadzic came back saying, “But do you see that Vojkovici [a Sarajevo neighborhood] was targeted, that it was between Butmir and Hrasnica, that that's where the location was?” The witness confirmed, “Yes.”


Karadzic then showed the witness two documents. The first document (exhibit D347) was a report issued by the SRK about the situation on March 21, 1993, and the second document (exhibit D348) was a report issued by the First Corps of the ABiH for March 21, 1993.


After putting the documents to the witness Karadzic said, “My main thrust is to see what, in Serbian and Muslim regular combat reports for the 21st of March and around that date, what is contained about fire against civilian targets. There's nothing of the sort.” He said, “There's no trace, either in Serbian or Muslim regular combat reports, about an event of this magnitude. Now, Witness, is it the case that in order to put an end to a peace conference they didn't like, is it possible that Muslims staged an attack on their own people and their own installations, as they have done more than once? “


The witness replied, “I do not want to speculate on maneuver plans of the Bosnian side. What is certain is that the target of their initial attacks, namely, in the area of the 10th Mountain Brigade, when they were firing at the supply route to Pale, they could be assured that there would be a strong response from the Serbian forces, because all military men that were in the area knew full well that the Serbian forces were very good at applying artillery fire, but they didn't have sufficient infantry to respond through that means. And we actually realized on several occasions that when the BH Army was launching offensive attacks, the Serbs would mainly respond by launching artillery fire and by pounding, through the artillery, in order to make sure that the BH Army attack would stop. This is my comment.”


Because the negotiations were happening on March 21st, Karadzic put it to the witness that “Mr. Izetbegovic was against any negotiations, that the incidents took place either just before some conference or during the conference, itself, and that served his purpose to interrupt the conference. Do you have any ideas about that?”


The witness replied, “I noticed this, I observed, and I said so in previous reports, that indeed during negotiations there was often disproportionate use of artillery on either side, no matter who had started the artillery fire.”


A complete transcript of this hearing is available at: and



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