THE HAGUE | 10.07.2013.

WHAT ‘GOD-FEARING’ PRESIDENT KNEW ABOUT SREBRENICA

As the prosecution contends, even if Karadzic did not learn about the arrest and execution of the Srebrenica inhabitants before 14 July 1995, he definitely knew about it after meeting his friend from Vlasenica, Zvonko Bajagic, late that day in Pale. Bajagic claims that he just asked the ‘honest and God-fearing’ president what would happen to the Muslim refugees. According to Bajagic, Karadzic told him to ‘mind his own business’

Radovan Karadzic’s close friend Zvonko Bajagic gave evidence today, sporting a black traditional Serb cap and a stylized Orthodox prayer rope. Bajagic was in Vlasenica during the war and he worked with Karadzic closely. The accused introduced Bajagic as a pre-war entrepreneur and the president of the Vlasenica church board. In his evidence, it turned out that Bajagic had another, far more important function: he was the logistics clerk in the Drina corps.

The summary of Bajagic’s statement to the defense notes that in the late evening of 14 July 1995, three days after the fall of Srebrenica, the witness met with the president in Pale. Bajagic spoke to Karadzic briefly and noticed that he was angry. Bajagic said that they didn’t mention the executions of Muslims and he was sure that Karadzic would never order or permit anything of the sort.

At the beginning, the accused granted the witness his request to offer, in a ‘short phrase’, a prayer to God, asking for help in the effort to give true evidence and ‘turn away falsehood’ from his tongue. The witness had asked this, because, as he said, he was in the ‘center of the world of justice’. Prosecutor Christopher Mitchell had an opportunity to check, in the cross-examination, if Bajagic’s prayer was answered. At the beginning, prosecutor Mitchel claimed that if witness didn’t lie, he surely failed to mention in the statement several important details he had spoken about at the trial of the Srebrenica Seven in The Hague and before the State Court in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

First, the witness didn’t mention in his statement that as he travelled to Srebrenica on 13 July 1995 in the company of two Greek volunteers from the Vlasenica Brigade, he stopped by the football stadium in Nova Kasaba. A large number of men and boys from Srebrenica were detained in the stadium; they were later executed. Second, on his arrival in Srebrenica that same day Bajagic met with Ratko Mladic, the VRS Main Staff commander, and Petar Salapura, the intelligence officer in the VRS Main Staff. That could be seen in the video recording shown in court. Third, later that afternoon, in Bajagic’s house in Vlasenica Mladic met with the deputy police minister Tomislav Kovac. They had a drink and talked. The prosecution alleges that such contacts between high-ranking military and police officers show that Bajagic could learn from somebody that the mass executions of the prisoners from Srebrenica were either ongoing at the time, or were being prepared. Last and not least, Bajagic agreed with the prosecutor’s suggestion that he had learned about the murder of more than 1,000 Muslims in the Kravica farm hangar that took place on 13 July 1995 as early as the next day.

Bajagic, now the bearer of this important information, left for Pale in the late evening of 14 July 1995 at Karadzic’s request. Half an hour after midnight, Bajagic and Karadzic met in the latter’s presidential office. Although the secretary noted that they spoke for 50 minutes, Bajagic claimed that he saw the president just briefly. After that, Bajagic ‘drank and had fun’ with Karadzic’s security. The prosecutor put it to the witness that he had told Karadzic everything he knew: that the detainees were held in Nova Kasaba, that many Muslims were killed in Kravica, that Mladic was in Srebrenica and that in Vlasenica he met with the deputy interior minister. The question appeared to irk Bajagic: he snapped at the prosecutor, no longer using the polite form of address. ‘How do you know what we talked about there, what, were you with me in the office? That is not true,’ he said.

Asked what he discussed about with the president for almost an hour, if not that, Bajagic said he had asked Karadzic as an ‘honest and God-fearing man’ what would happen to the Muslim refugees from Srebrenica. ‘Leave me alone and mind your own business’, was Karadzic’s rather un-God-fearing answer. The prosecutor recalled that Tomislav Kovac said in his interview with the OTP investigators that there was no need to inform Karadzic about the executions in Srebrenica because his friends Zvonko Bajagic and Miroslav Deronjic had already told him about them. The witness didn’t agree with the allegation.

Radovan Karadzic continues his defense case tomorrow.