THE HAGUE | 16.02.2004.

VOLUNTEERS WITHOUT BORDERS

Miroslav Deronjic testifies at the trial of Momcilo Krajisnik that in the Drina Valley municipalities, the SDS took over power according to an "identifiable pattern," in which Arkan's men and other volunteers from Serbia played an important role.

When judges in the trial of Momcilo Krajisnik asked him what had led him to believe that the "activities of the JNA and volunteers were carried out on the basis of an agreement reached by the highest authorities of the Republika Srpska and Serbia,” Miroslav Deronjic replied that he, as the then-President of he Bratunac Crisis Staff, was quite familiar with the attitude that authorities in Serbia had toward the arming of the Serbs and the arrival of volunteers to eastern Bosnia. As for the attitude of the Bosnian Serbs, Deronjic got "a first-hand insight" into that when, at a meeting on 11 May 1992 in Pale--attended by Karadzic, Mladic and Ostojic--he submitted a report about his actions in Glogova. "I was not arrested, I was not criticized. I was rewarded by applause."

What Deronjic did in the village of Glogova near Bratunac was to forcibly move out the entire Bosniak population. Sixty-five Bosniak civilians were killed in an attack ordered by Deronjic, in which volunteers from Serbia and an armoured JNA unit--in addition to the local Territorial Defense and police—took part. Deronjic pled guilty and is awaiting sentence for the crime.

Although Arkan's men and other paramilitary units played a crucial role in the "takeover of power" in the neighbouring municipalities of Bijeljina, Zvornik and Visegrad, Deronjic said today that he saw the volunteers for the first time in Bajina Basta on the Serbian bank of the Drina river. The Serbian police regulated traffic to let their column of vehicles pass and the border police let them enter Bosnia without delay.

This event and the events that followed showed the existence of a pattern and an order to the activities of the paramilitaries and the JNA, explained Deronjic, claiming that both arrived with a pre-set goal. First, volunteers would arrive in the municipalities where there had not been any conflicts. A campaign of murder, violence, looting, intimidation and panic would follow, creating an atmosphere of extreme tension. The JNA forces would then arrive, ostensibly to establish law and order, but in actual fact, to cause even more fear. The end result would be the voluntary or forced departure of the Muslims.

"The fact that the Army arrived in Bratunac two or three days after the arrival of the volunteers shows that the same pattern was applied here,” said Deronjic. “The idea behind all those events was for the Serbs to take over power, both in the areas where they had the majority and where they were a minority."

The paramilitaries, lead by a man called Peki, took over the Fontana hotel and issued an ultimatum to Muslims to resign from all the functions they held in Bratunac by noon. Deronjic could testify that this was indeed what had happened: all the officials of Muslim ethnic background left not only their posts, but the town.

Power was in their hands, but ethnic cleansing had barely begun. The witness himself participated in it by ordering the attack on the village of Glogova, the burning of houses and the eviction of its inhabitants, after which pressure was exerted on the residents of the suburbs of Suha and Voljevica and Bratunac itself to do the same.

Deronjic has pledged to fully cooperate with the Office of the Prosecutor. His testimony in the trial of Momcilo Krajisnik, former political leader of Bosnian Serbs, is his sixth appearance as a prosecution witness. His testimony is set to continue.