Momcilo Mandic told the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, ICTY, that paramilitary formations were not controlled by the Serbian army or politicians in 1992, adding that the central government of Republika Srpska was not in charge of municipal crisis committees.
On the ninth day of his testimony at the trial of Radovan Karadzic, Mandic said the Republika Srpska (RS) government tried to establish central authorities, not because it wanted to “legalise crimes”, but because it wanted to stop them.
“The government invested efforts in centralising the power, because a wide range of unlawful actions, particularly those related to the non-Serb population, were undertaken in the field. A proposal was made for abolishing crisis committees and autonomous regions in order to prevent those little dukes from forming their little armies, police forces and administrations,” Mandic explained.
Karadzic is on trial for genocide committed in seven Bosnian municipalities in 1992 and in Srebrenica in 1995, as well as crimes against humanity and violation of the laws and customs of war.
The indictment alleges that Karadzic, as president of Republika Srpska and supreme commander of its armed forces, participated in a joint criminal enterprise, in collaboration with members of Bosnian Serb state bodies at the regional, municipal and local level, with the aim of forcing Bosniaks and Croats to leave those territories.
Mandic, who is a former RS justice minister, said the RS government appointed a republic inspector in 1992 and tasked the person with “visiting the local authorities and checking the lawfulness of the work of local administrations in RS”.
After having been presented with a number of documents related to the work of “temporary collection centres” in Trnopolje, Keraterm and Omarska, near Prijedor, Mandic said he knew that Karadzic sent an official note to the RS government requesting it to “improve the living conditions in prisons controlled by civil authorities on the Serbian territories”.
Karadzic asked Mandic to confirm his allegations that the reception centre in Trnopolje was “of an open type”, but the witness was not able to answer the question.
“I do not know if it was an open or closed centre. This is the first time I have seen the document. Mr. President, these are military and police documents prepared back in 1993, so I do not know anything about them. However, if you have got any documents involving me as a participant or witness, I would like you to ask me about them. I have never seen these documents before. I feel useless,” Mandic said.
The Hague tribunal previously determined that Omarska, Keraterm and Trnopolje were detentions camps in which thousands of non-Serb civilians were detained, brutally mistreated, beaten, raped and tortured in 1992.
Judges approved an additional two hours for Karadzic to question Mandic, who will continue his testimony on July 16.