Prosecution Falls Flat in Examination of First “Insider” Witness - November 3, 2010


Written by: Andy Wilcoxson


Hearing date: July 5, 2010


The prosecutor continued his cross-examination of chamber witness Momcilo Mandic at the Radovan Karadzic trial on Monday July 5th. Mandic is the first member of the Bosnian-Serb government to take the stand, and the first Serb to testify in the Karadzic trial.


Mandic was the assistant minister of interior for Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1991 until April 1992. After the outbreak of the conflict, Mr. Mandic, for a short period, served as a deputy to Mr. Mico Stanisic for the Serbian Ministry of the Interior, before becoming the minister of justice for Republika Srpska on 12 May 1992. From December 1992 to 1994, Mr. Mandic served as the director of the Bureau of Republika Srpska in Belgrade.


Non-Serb Prisoners, Camps, and Detention Centers


The prosecutor began the day by focusing on issues related to the treatment and exchange of non-Serb prisoners held by Bosnian-Serb forces.


Mandic told the prosecutor that “Information reached us from the field about certain instances of the inhuman treatment of detained persons. Whether they were POWs or civilians, I cannot remember. In an attempt to establish the rule of law, the government took steps to co-ordinate the work of the commissions and to have some specialists from the Ministry of Justice, from the Ministry of the Police, of the Interior, and from other departments to go out in the field to report to the government about the actual situation in the field, and the government was to inform all the competent institutions, the Presidency, the Assembly, and, of course, the government about that situation so that urgent steps could be taken to overcome the situation and to prevent any further violations of the 1949 Geneva Conventions.”


The prosecutor exhibited several Bosnian-Serb documents, none of which were incriminating, that had to do with the treatment of prisoners.


The first document was an order by the President of Bosnian-Serb Central Committee for the Exchange of Prisoners providing rules and outlines dated 6 June 1992. The document said that “All women whose detention or deprivation of liberty is not related to the war or war activities, all the children and minors up to 16 years of age, old and helpless persons, shall be released immediately and ensure their return according to their own free will without setting any conditions to them or exchanging them.” And it laid out rules for the treatment of the non-Serb military aged men who were held prisoner by the Bosnian-Serbs in exchange for Serbs who were being held prisoner by Croats and Muslims.


Karadzic never would have been permitted to question a witness, let alone introduce exhibits through a witness like this. The court has been very strict in restricting Karadzic from putting documents to witnesses or asking witnesses questions about topics which they claim to have no knowledge of.


The Prosecutor, on the other hand, obviously has no such restrictions imposed on him. He was permitted to ask questions and have documents admitted into evidence even though the witness had no knowledge about the topic. Karadzic voiced concern about the double-standard saying, “The Defense was in a similar position when it dealt with documents; they were not admitted into evidence. I have to express my dissatisfaction.” After the documents were admitted anyway, Karadzic said he expected ”reciprocity” for defense documents -- although it’s doubtful he’ll get it.


The witness testified that “I did not take part in the work of that commission in any way.” He also had no idea how people came to be in custody. He said, “Whether they were taken prisoner by the army or some other armed formations, that is something I did not know, or whether these were persons who were being taken away from places where there was an armed conflict. It's not a question of taking persons prisoner, but giving them shelter while there is an armed conflict going on, so that they could be taken back or taken somewhere else later. I did not participate in this, and I did not have any knowledge as to how these persons had reached these premises. After all, those who interrogated and detained these persons knew whether they were civilians or participants in armed conflict. That's the Territorial Defence, the army, and the police.”


The prosecutor showed the witness the Minutes of 25th Government meeting of the Serb Republic of BiH held on 10 June 1992, which contained the conclusion that “the Ministry of Justice should make a report about prisoners. This report should pay special attention on treatment of civilian population, prisoners of war, accommodation, food, et cetera. The report would be considered by the government, after which it would be submitted to the Presidency of the republic.”


The witness said the impetus to address this issue came from “the disturbing news that local authorities were not treating captured non-Serbs in the spirit of the Geneva Conventions and that they were violating human rights.” He said, “The central government wanted these persons who had been taken prisoner to be treated in the spirit of the Geneva Conventions and human rights. That is why commissions were established. That is why an order was issued by the president of Republika Srpska. That is why instructions with the force of law were promulgated in the ‘Official Gazette,’ stating exactly how non-Serbs who were taken prisoner should be treated.”


The prosecutor selectively quoted from a summary of a conference organized by the Bosnian-Serb interior ministry which said, “The army, crisis staffs and war presidencies have requested that the army round up or capture as many Muslim civilians as possible, and they leave such undefined camps to internal affairs organs. The conditions in some of these camps are poor; there is no food, individuals sometimes do not observe international norms.”


The prosecutor went on to quote where the report said, “Territories are being liberated in combat activity and some Serbs are committing crimes, mainly all types of looting … looting, as the most serious crime against property, mostly occurs during mopping-up operations, on which occasions paramilitary formations, military formations and police engage in looting.”


What the prosecutor neglected to mention was the fact that the report was identifying those issues as illegal activity that the ministry was determined stop. Anyone who reads the document can see that the Interior Ministry wasn’t condoning looting or the imprisonment of civilians in inhumane conditions.


Reacting to the document the witness said, “There was concern on the part of the minister of police and the government that human rights were being violated in certain municipalities and in certain places where people acted unlawfully and against the Geneva Conventions and held prisoners. There is no reason for me to doubt this report of the Ministry of the Police. After all, it was compiled in order to overcome such situations and in order to establish rule of law.”


Biljana Plavsic & Paramilitary Groups


The prosecutor asked the witness about a statement that Biljana Plavsic made in a July 1992 television interview where she said, “Here in Prijedor, there are actually 3,000 prisoners, and the location is Omarska. And those in detention are people who were sentenced by a judge, in accordance with the law and by regular procedure, to detention for a certain period of time ... These were not concentration camps at all, but regular prisons, and it is completely normal that prisons exist in peacetime, but especially in wartime.”


The witness reacted to Plavsic’s statement saying, “Of course she wasn't right. In Omarska, I don't think there's even a municipality. In the area of Omarska, a correctional facility was never established, even after I was minister. Obviously, Mrs. Plavsic is not really very well versed in the judiciary. You know, she got a doctorate in the field of snails. She's a doctor of biology. She has no idea whatsoever about any of this.”


The witness told the court, “I really don't know anything about Omarska. As far as I know, it was a military prison. When it was established, when it was closed down, I simply do not know. I do know, though, that in July and August, the government and the Presidency took a series of measures to shut down similar local prisons and military prisons that were not in the spirit of the Geneva Conventions and respect for human rights. You see, from April/May when the war broke out, until the 8th of July, it was only three months that had elapsed. You will see that many measures were taken by the government in order to prevent unlawful behavior on the part of local staffs, paramilitaries, et cetera.”


Mandic explained to the court that he would not have been responsible for a military prison like Omarska because “There was a military judiciary and a civilian judiciary. These are two completely separate judiciaries. I was head of the civilian judiciary.” He said, “All crimes that were committed in combat operations, in relation to the war, belonged to the military judiciary. All military conscripts from age 16 to 60 fall under military courts when there is an imminent threat of war, and that was declared in mid-April” before he became the Minister of Justice on the 12th of May.


The witness told the court that “Biljana Plavsic was an advocate of having all paramilitary units from territories where Serbs lived outside Bosnia and Herzegovina coming to the assistance of their brethren in Bosnia-Herzegovina in the religious war being waged there. [Interior Minister] Mico Stanisic, the chief of the police and the legalist, was against it, and I supported him, but Mr. [Branko] Djeric [the Prime Minister] supported Biljana Plavsic.” The witness explained that Stanisic “asked Plavsic not to conduct such a policy. But professors being professors, [Plavsic and Djeric] took it personally, and the conflict, in terms of how the state should be led, was transferred to the personal plane, to a personal conflict. So they looked for a reason to remove Ministers Mandic and Stanisic because their course was on a collision course with their own.”


Mandic said that he and Stanisic suffered on account of their opposition to Plavsic. He said, “On several occasions, Biljana Plavsic and Professor Koljevic showered lies on Mr. Karadzic regarding my activities and actions and those of Mico Stanisic, and actually the late Dr. Koljevic admitted to that in the Villa Bosanka.”


He said, “Mrs. Plavsic was not a nationalist. She was an evil person who said these things out of her own personal motives. She portrayed herself as the Serbian mother, but I, myself, and some other people know that she was actually a jilted woman. She had been jilted by her lover of Muslim nationality, and this was the way she was exacting revenge on everybody else, by the stances which she adopted.”


Mandic explained that “It is a fallacious view that I had been in any way the favorite of Mr. Karadzic's. In fact, he had unjustified reservations towards me, although I did my hardest to do everything honorably, decently, complying with the law, et cetera. You will see that the Ministry of Justice, over the period of a year or perhaps 10 months, was created, and it still functions to this very day upon those very foundations in the republic. I did have the support of Dr. Karadzic at that time, especially in the selection of non-Serb personnel, both in the prosecutorial and the judicature offices in general, but Mrs. Plavsic was against this. She was always saying that I was ‘fishing in murky waters’, which was totally unfair. I was practically driven away to Belgrade.”


The witness said that Plavsic “invited paramilitary units to come to Bosnia and commit crimes, in my opinion, she should have been relieved from her office, and in that case and had that been done, there would be far fewer representatives of the former authorities of Bosnia-Herzegovina sitting right here.”


He said the paramilitary units that Plavsic invited “were criminals and did not want to subject themselves to the control of the army and the police, and it is true they did kill non-Serbs and loot their property. But once there were no more non-Serbs to kill or loot, they did the same to the Serb population. They killed Serbs, they looted their property, they raped their women. They were criminals, and those of their ilk were arrested by Mico Stanisic. But Ms. Biljana Plavsic was opposed to all that.”


He explained to the court that “General Mladic arrested these paramilitary units, and Mico Stanisic also arrested such paramilitary members, but Biljana Plavsic would intercede on their behalf and have them released, and then at Assembly sessions she should say how they did not allow our brethren across the Drina River, those from Serbia, to come and help their brethren here in their historical task. She was an authority, especially among the folk, among the plain people, but she created these problems.”


The witness said “I was not angry with President Karadzic because I had been sent to Belgrade.” He told the court, “Conditions were placed on this by Biljana Plavsic, in contravention of the International Law and the legislation of Republika Srpska, the way in which she violated these was something that angered me and was the cause of my dissatisfaction.”


The witness said, Plavsic “was a great authority there, in some segments even a greater authority than the president of Republika Srpska, and evidently now we can see what some of her positions have led to, totally without reason. The Serbs had a good army. We had a good organization; we created a judiciary, the police force. We wanted to live side by side with our Muslims. We were afraid of some new Muslims who were differently inclined, who wanted to introduce religious laws into state institutions [and] would turn and look up to Iran. You can see that now these self-same Muslims are blowing up police stations in their own federation (i.e. Bugojno), because it is a state of the kind that it is. We didn't have any problem with our own Muslims, so to speak. We wanted to live together with them side by side.”


When the prosecutor questioned the witness about the presence of Arkan’s men and Seselj’s men in Sarajevo, Mandic said he didn’t know anything about the presence of Arkan’s men, but he did say, “There weren't any men of Seselj's. Vojislav Seselj was just bragging. All of these people were from Bosnia-Herzegovina, and they fought in the units of the Territorial Defense or the army. And he was claiming that these people belonged to them.”


Munir Alibabic & Intercepts


The witness told the court that “all these intercepts that you have are by Munir Alibabic” a former UDBA agent who was a Muslim and the head of the Sarajevo State Security Center in the run-up to the war.


He said that Alibabic would “intercept everything that was Serbian in the police, in the political circles, and he would take those intercepts to the Party of Democratic Action.” And he did that because “he was seeking to ingratiate himself, to curry favor with those very same persons.”


Mandic told the prosecutor, “You know, Mr. Tieger, how well he co-operated with you. He brought you just the recordings of one side [the Serbian side], and he didn't bring you the recordings of the other side's conversations.”


In 2002 Alibabic was fired from his position as head of the Federation Intelligence Security Services (FOSS) by the Bosnian High Representative and banned from holding any future positions of authority. According to Mandic, Alibabic was sacked “at the proposal of your former boss, Mr. Tieger, Madam Carla Del Ponte.” He said “Munir Alibabic was prohibited to work in Bosnia-Herzegovina in the police organs until the end of his life.”


During Mandic's testimony the Prosecutor played several intercepts of telephone conversations and the witness identified the voices on the recordings, but he didn’t confirm the authenticity of the recordings. The prosecutor played a tape of a telephone conversation between Mico Stanisic and Veljko Zugic that had been recorded on May 15th 1992. The witness said he had no idea who Zugic was and he speculated that “Perhaps Munir Alibabic doctored this conversation somewhat.”


Another intercept was a telephone conversation between Branko Kvesic, Bruno Stojic (a Croat), and the witness himself, which had been recorded on May 5, 1992. Kvesic and Stojic were the witness’s colleagues in the Bosnian MUP while he was the assistant interior minister, and the three men are heard making outrageous statements on the intercept.


The witness explained to the prosecutor that, “As you can see, Mr. Tieger, I told Kvesic and Bruno Stojic that Mr. Munir Alibabic was having this conversation recorded, it was being intercepted, so we mocked him. We were joking about the advancing of the 182nd and the 3rd Armies. This was more like a jocular conversation of former associates, some of whom had gone to be with their people, the Croats, and others with their people, the Serbs. And I did everything on purpose. I exaggerated everything on purpose. I was ridiculing Munir Alibabic and his staff, who were listening in on our conversation and making these reports, because a couple of days before that they had aired some of our conversations on television and had spoken in very bad terms about some of my associates. It wasn't something reflecting the actual situation in the battle-field or something which was consistent with our actual mood at the time.”


A complete transcript of this hearing is available at: and



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