The trial of Ratko Mladic continued with testimony by Defence witness Branko Radan, who admitted that crimes were committed against Bosniaks and Croats in the Grbavica neighbourhood of Sarajevo, but denied that Serbian authorities deported them.
Radan, who headed the Serbian municipality of Novo Sarajevo in 1992 and 1993, said a group of “nine people who came from elsewhere” and committed crimes, creating “a big problem” for the authorities in Grbavica.
He said that the group was led by Veselin Vlahovic, known as Batko.
“We did not give them support. We wanted to remove them from our territory in every possible way. In the end we managed to do it in cooperation with the military and civil police,” Radan said.
Radan was not able to answer a question about when Vlahovic’s group was forced to leave the neighbourhood.
“Batko, whose crimes are known, was removed from our territory in 1992 or 1993. He returned later on, but he was then removed permanently,” the witness said, explaining that he left the post as president of the municipal government in March 1993.
Radan said that “criminals were not part of the system at all. They wore uniforms, but they did not form units”.
He said that about 300 non-Serbian citizens left Grbavica by crossing River Miljacka and reaching part of the city under Bosniak/Muslim control in late September 1992.
However, he said that this was not a deportation and that the Bosniaks left in order to “be more secure”, as their houses in Grbavica were on the frontlines.
“Neighbours agreed to cross the bridge, because they could not stand gunfire on the frontline any more…This was a gesture of good will. Nobody deported them…The authorities did not participate in that agreement,” Radan said.
Mladic, former Commander of the Republika Srpska Army, VRS, is charged with having terrorized citizens of Sarajevo, genocide in Srebrenica and seven other municipalities, persecution of Bosniaks and Croats and taking UNPROFOR members hostage.
The Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina last year sentenced Veselin Vlahovic to 45 years in prison for crimes committed in Grbavica.
During the cross-examination Prosecutor Camille Bibles faced witness Radan with an allegation that the Republika Srpska authorities knew about Vlahovic’s crimes in Grbavica and nothing to prevent or punish them. “They may have known, but I did not know that they knew,” Radan responded.
Quoting Mladic’s own notes from July 1992, the Prosecutor suggested to the witness that the VRS Commander also “knew that Batko was terrorizing Grbavica”. “He probably knew that, because we made an initiative to remove him,” Radan responded.
The trial of Mladic is due to continue on Friday, May 23.