OUTCRY AT PLAVSIC'S BELGRADE WELCOME  Former Bosnian Serb president released 
early from her sentence for war crimes.   By Iva Martinovic in Belgrade and 
Merdijana Sadovic in Sarajevo

COURT HEARS KARADZIC PRE-WAR RHETORIC  Prosecutor sets out case before tribunal 
packed with survivors, despite absence of accused.  By Rachel Irwin in The Hague


team appeal over cases of KLA leaders.  By Julia Hawes in The Hague

doctrine means commanders are ultimately responsible for army’s behaviour.  By 
Velma Saric in Sarajevo

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Former Bosnian Serb president released early from her sentence for war crimes. 

By Iva Martinovic in Belgrade and Merdijana Sadovic in Sarajevo

There was criticism this week over the warm welcome extended to convicted war 
criminal Biljana Plavsic on her return to Belgrade following her early release 
from a Swedish prison.

The former president of Republika Srpska, RS, turned herself into the Hague in 
2001, charged with complicity in genocide, war crimes and crimes against 
humanity. She subsequently pleaded guilty to one count of persecution and in 
return all other charges against her, including genocide, were dropped.

The 79-year-old served two-thirds of her 11-year sentence before being granted 
an early release under Swedish law.

This week, she flew into Belgrade on a private RS government plane, and was 
greeted at the airport by the Bosnian Serb prime minister Milorad Dodik himself.

Local reporters flocked around her to ask her how it felt to be home after so 
many years.

Plavsic, wearing red lipstick and a long fur coat, said tearfully that she was 
eager to go to Banja Luka “to see all my friends there”. 

Dodik said he had personally decided to send a private plane for Plavsic and 
welcome her at the Belgrade airport, as this was his “moral and human 

"According to all laws, Mrs Biljana Plavsic is now a free woman. Her sentence 
was unjust, and is not important anymore. She needs to forget about all that as 
soon as possible," Dodik told the press.

But the treatment Plavsic received from Dodik upon her release sparked angry 
reactions among some observers. 

“The fact that the prime minister of Republika Srpska decided to greet Biljana 
Plavsic in Belgrade is the worst possible message Bosnian citizens could get,” 
said Mirsad Tokaca, director of the Sarajevo-based Research and Documentation 

He added that it was “disastrous” that politicians in Bosnia used trials and 
judgements handed down by the Hague tribunal for political purposes, and 
treated former war crimes suspects as heroes - whether they were acquitted or 

“Such acts can only slow down the process of reconciliation in this country,” 
Tokaca said.

The Humanitarian Law Fund in Belgrade issued a statement on October 30 
criticising the Serbian media “for treating Plavsic as a pop star and not a 
convicted war criminal” in their coverage.

“The reporters wrote about Plavsic’s meeting with her relatives, what she ate, 
what she drank and which song an accordion player chose for her when he 
welcomed her in front of her apartment…In their reports, the journalists mostly 
quoted Plavsic’s friends and supporters, who openly denied her responsibility 
for war crimes,” the statement reads.

"All this is a result of the fact that Serbia is still in denial,” said Sonja 
Biserko, president of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia.

"What is important is the fact that Plavsic was convicted of war crimes. People 
in Serbia have to accept that and act accordingly.”

When Plavsic made her plea agreement, she appeared to be truly remorseful for 
her acts as a member of the Bosnian Serb leadership during Bosnia’s 1992-95 
war, which left 100,000 people dead and 2 million displaced.

However, she later seemed to have changed her mind. In a book, I Testify, which 
was published while she was in jail, she shifted the blame for the Bosnian war 
to the ex-Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, who is currently on trial for 
war crimes at The Hague. 

She was also one of the key witnesses in the trial of former Bosnian Serb 
parliamentary speaker, Momcilo Krajišnik, who was sentenced on appeal to 20 
years in prison for his role in the war.

Plavsic has decided to live in Belgrade, where she has her own apartment and 
close relatives. Many people in Serbia see her as a moderate nationalist, 
putting aside her role in the Bosnian war and her guilty plea before the Hague 

Apart from Dodik, no other Belgrade officials welcomed or even commented on 
Plavsic’s release this week. Serbian officials have every reason to be careful 
in their contacts with the former RS president, said Rasim Ljajic, president of 
Serbia’s National Council for Cooperation with The Hague. 

Belgrade has already been repeatedly criticised for failing to arrest two 
remaining war crimes fugitives, Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic. This remains the 
main obstacle for Serbia on its road to EU membership. 

"I think there are people from the international community who are monitoring 
the situation to see how we will accept Biljana Plavsic. If we make the wrong 
move, this could be seen as evidence that Serbia is supporting persons 
convicted for war crimes,” said Ljajic.

Iva Martinovic is an RFE reporter in Belgrade and Merdijana Sadovic is IWPR’s 
International Justice/ICTY programme manager in Sarajevo. RFE reporter in 
Sarajevo Dzenana Karabegovic contributed to this report.


Prosecutor sets out case before tribunal packed with survivors, despite absence 
of accused.

By Rachel Irwin in The Hague

Prosecutors read out pre-war statements made by Radovan Karadzic and showed 
disturbing videos of the conflict as part of their opening statement in his 
trial this week, even as the accused continued to boycott the proceedings.

Speaking to a mostly empty courtroom and a public gallery packed with 
journalists and survivors of the war, prosecutor Alan Tieger spent nearly five 
hours on October 27, describing Karadzic’s alleged plan to purge Bosnia of 
Muslims (known as Bosniaks) and Croats in order to create a “single Serbian 

“The accused was both the architect of these policies and the leader of the 
forces that implemented them,” Tieger said.

Throughout the proceedings, Tieger relied heavily on Karadzic’s own words from 
intercepted phone calls and public statements. 

“‘Sarajevo will be a black cauldron where 300,000 Muslims will die’,” Tieger 
quoted Karadzic as saying in an October 1991 phone conversation. “‘They will 
disappear from the face of the earth…there will be a real bloodbath.’ ”

Karadzic’s description of what would befall Sarajevo foreshadowed the nearly 
four-year sniping and shelling of the city that would leave thousands dead, 
Tieger said.

“For 44 months, the civilian population lived under a pervasive sense of terror 
– exactly what was intended,” Tieger said. 

Not only had Karadzic and his forces failed to make a distinction between 
civilian and military targets – as international law requires – but they also 
“deliberately inflicted terror” on civilians, explained Tieger.

“There was an ever present fear of being the next one killed,” he said.

Tieger emphasised that Karadzic had direct authority over the shelling and 
“controlled the level of terror when it suited him” politically. Sarajevo was a 
pawn that allowed Karadzic more leverage when negotiating with the 
international community and Bosnian government, Tieger continued.

The amount of power Karadzic enjoyed was reflected in his own statements, 
Tieger said.

“‘I am in charge, in particular of the army. Commanders report to me,’” Tieger 
quoted Karadzic as stating shortly after he became president of Bosnia’s 
Republika Srpska in 1992. “‘I am the one who decides and I am responsible for 
every decision.’”

Karadzic, the president of Republika Srpska from 1992 to 1996, is charged with 
some of the worst atrocities of the Bosnian war. After evading arrest for 13 
years, he was finally apprehended in July 2008, while he was living in Belgrade 
under an assumed name and posing as an alternative healer.

He is accused of planning and overseeing the siege of Sarajevo that left nearly 
12,000 people dead, as well as the massacre of almost 8,000 men and boys at 
Srebrenica in July 1995.

The indictment – which lists 11 counts in total – also alleges that he is 
responsible for crimes of persecution, extermination, murder and forcible 
transfer which “contributed to achieving the objective of the permanent removal 
of Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats from Bosnian Serb-claimed territory”. 

Tieger also made use of statements from Karadzic’s colleagues, including Ratko 
Mladic, the former commander of the Bosnian Serb army who is still wanted by 
the Hague tribunal.

“The moment has come for us to finally take revenge on the Turks,” Mladic 
reportedly said on television shortly before the Srebrenica massacre in July 

Karadzic and members of his government often used inflammatory language to 
describe Bosniaks, Tieger said.

Biljana Plavsic, a member of the wartime government of Republika Srpska, 
referred to Muslims as “genetically tainted material,” Tieger said. 

Plavsic was brought before the tribunal in 2001 and charged with having been 
complicit in genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. She subsequently 
pleaded guilty to one count of persecution and was released this week from a 
Swedish prison, where she served eight years of an 11-year sentence.

Karadzic, Tieger said, compared Serbs and Muslims to “dogs and cats” who lose 
their “natural characteristics” if they remain together.

“‘Muslims cannot live with others, we must be clear on that,’” said Karadzic, 
according to Tieger.

Throughout his presentation, Tieger also utilised archive video footage.

To illustrate the effects of the relentless sniping and shelling in Sarajevo, 
Tieger showed a video of a 7-year-old boy lying limp and bloodied in the 
street. The boy was shot and killed, Tieger said, while walking with his mother.

When he discussed the “wholesale roundup” of Bosniaks and Croats in several 
Bosnian municipalities, he showed a clip from a CNN news report on detention 
camps run by Bosnian Serbs.

The detainees in the video appeared so emaciated that their ribs jutted out 
from their chests. CNN correspondent Christiane Amanpour described them as 
being “crammed into cattle sheds”.

“In the best of circumstances, the detainees existed in dehumanising 
circumstances,” said Tieger, describing the now infamous camps of Omarska, 
Keraterm and Trnopolje in northwestern Bosnia.

“In the worst, they were subject to beatings, rape, torture and death,” he 

The camps were part of a system called the “exchange commission”, which 
coordinated the detention and expulsion of non Serbs, Tieger said. 

“The evidence will show that Karadzic had an ongoing awareness that [the 
exchange commission] was functioning,” he added.

Tieger showed another video clip of detained men covered in scars and bruises, 
one of whom had a cross crudely carved into his arm.

These clips provoked an audible reaction from the audience, many of whom were 
either victims themselves or had family members that were killed in the war.

Just a day earlier, it was uncertain if the trial would commence at all.

While opening statements were scheduled to begin on October 26, the judges 
adjourned after just 15 minutes when Karadzic, who is representing himself, 
failed to appear. The judges indicated that if the accused did not show up the 
following afternoon, the opening statements were likely to proceed without him.

As IWPR reported last week, Karadzic sent a letter to judges on October 21 
stating that he needed more time to prepare his case and would thus not appear 
when the trial began. Both trial and appeals judges had previously rejected his 
request to postpone the trial for 10 months.

The October 26 decision to adjourn the proceedings early provoked cries of 
anger from the public gallery.

The following day, Judge O-Gon Kwon noted Karadzic’s absence “in spite of oral 
and written requests”. He said the right of the accused to be present was “not 
absolute” and that the opening statements should proceed in his absence.

The prosecution is expected to complete opening statements on November 2. If 
Karadzic once again fails to attend, there will be hearing the following day, 
where the accused and the prosecution can present their views on how the trial 
should move forward given the current circumstances. 

Judge Kwon has made it clear that one option is to assign Karadzic a lawyer, 
whether he likes it or not.

“Consequences inevitably flow from his choice [not to be present],” said Judge 
Kwon on October 27. “Should Dr Karadzic not appear next Monday (November 2), 
the chamber may decide to proceed without him and counsel may be assigned.”

Rachel Irwin is an IWPR reporter in The Hague.



Both defence and prosecution team appeal over cases of KLA leaders.

By Julia Hawes in The Hague

Hague prosecutors this week called for a re-trial in the case of former Kosovan 
prime minister Ramush Haradinaj, acquitted of war crimes charges in April 2008.

Haradinaj and fellow Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, leader Idriz Balaj were found 
not guilty of involvement in a joint criminal enterprise aimed at the removal 
and mistreatment of Serb civilians, as well as suspected Kosovar Albanian 
collaborators, in 1998.

Their co-defendant Lahi Brahimaj was found guilty on the basis of individual 
criminal responsibility for cruel treatment and torture, and was sentenced to 
six years in jail.

But this week, the Office of the Prosecution, OTP, appealed the chamber’s 
decision to acquit Haradinaj and Balaj following their three-year trial. 

In response, defence lawyers representing all three men argued that there had 
been inconsistencies in testimonies by the OTP witnesses. 

Brahimaj’s defence counsel told judges that they sought to reverse his 
conviction on counts of torture and cruel treatment, and seek a reduction of 
the six-year sentence on 19 grounds of appeal.

According to the indictment, KLA forces under the control of commander 
Haradinaj harassed, beat and drove Serb and Roma civilians out of villages, and 
killed those who remained behind or refused to leave. 

Brahimaj’s appeal cited the failure by the OTP to prove that he had served as a 
deputy commander for the KLA, or that he had committed acts of torture in the 
presence of low-ranking soldiers. 

Defence attorney Richard Harvey argued that any convictions based on the 
testimonies made by Witnesses 3 and 6 during the trial were unsafe, due to 
inconsistencies and lack of credibility. 

Witness 6 was a “mere farmer” who denied having ever been in the police 
reserve, Harvey said. Witness 6 told the court that the KLA had targeted him 
for being a spy for the Serbian police. 

When the witness was stopped by the KLA, he was carrying a Serbian-issued 
pistol, Harvey told the judges, which he alleged was highly suspect. He was 
also driving a Mercedes, a fact that seemed peculiar for a self-proclaimed 
“mere farmer”, Harvey said. 

Harvey added that there were “irreconcilable contradictions” between Witnesses 
6 and 3, who described their detainment and cruel treatment under the KLA in 

“Why did the trial chamber prefer one account over the other, when they 
contradicted the other?” Harvey asked the judges. “This verdict is not 
justified by the evidence. These convictions must be regarded as unsafe.”

In response, the OTP described Brahimaj’s “vicious and sadistic behaviour” 
towards the witnesses while they were detailed by the KLA. 

“Brahimaj tortured Witness 6 for his alleged involvement with Serb authorities 
and [his] political affiliation,” prosecutor Peter Kremer told the judges. 

In his testimony on June 4, 2007, Witness 6 named Brahimaj as his attacker, 
Kremer added.

Harvey argued that the “alleged injuries” of witness 6 were uncorroborated, and 
never supported by medical records or evidence of medication. 

Brahimaj has already served two-thirds of his sentence. Having been granted 
provisional release by the chamber, Harvey said, Brahimaj was studying 
sociology and English language at Pristina University, where he also hoped to 
earn a law degree in order to battle corruption. 

“[Brahimaj] is proud of the part he played in fighting for his country’s 
independence and in resisting torture, cruelty and oppression his people had 
suffered,” Harvey told the judges. “He has always upheld highest standards of 
military professionalism, respected right of all humans, to be without 
discrimination on grounds of political belief, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic 
standing, or age.”

In their appeal, the OTP called for a right to a fair trial, in which all steps 
would be made to secure testimonies of two crucial witnesses. 

Kremer said that the trial chamber had breached the OTP’s right to a fair and 
expeditious trial, citing evidence of witness intimidation that he said had 
“infected the trial”. 

“Witnesses with relevant and probative evidence refused to testify because of a 
fear of consequences,” Kremer said. 

Kremer asked the chamber to consider alternative ways to receive the witness’ 
evidence, which he claimed would have affected the outcome of the trial. The 
testimonies, Kremer said, showed that Haradinaj was present at the beating of 
KLA detainees, and that Balaj was directly responsible for physically attacking 
the prisoners. 

Kremer argued that the chamber had been intent on achieving an expeditious 
trial rather than a fair one. 

Judge Patrick Robinson said that it was “astonishing” that the OTP had not made 
a special submission for the acceptance of the witness’ written testimonies, 
despite their refusal to testify in front of the court. 

“The chamber was so hostile towards the prosecution’s attempts to have these 
witness testimonies heard because they wanted to be finished with the trial,” 
Kremer responded, adding that he had tried and failed to submit the witness’ 
original statements provided by investigators as corroborative evidence. 
“Further attempts would have been futile,” Kremer added.

“The prosecution never made the motion,” Judge Theodor Meron said in response. 

Ben Emmerson, Haradinaj’s defence attorney, said that the prosecution’s 
submissions were “fundamentally misconceived” and “factually selective”. He 
added that the chamber had given the OTP opportunities to produce testimonies. 

“[This is] a pointless retrial,” Emmerson told the judges. 

The OTP also called for a retrial in Balaj’s alleged rape of Witness 61 and 
cruel treatment of Witness 1, a married couple held in the KLA headquarters. 
The wife, Witness 61, was raped and interrogated, the prosecution said, while 
her husband was held in a well outside.

The prosecution said that Witness 61 had identified her rapist as “Toger”, or 
lieutenant, Balaj’s nickname. 

Defence attorney Colleen Rohan responded that Witness’ 61 rape was not in 
dispute, simply the identification of her assailant. She argued that the 
chamber had found “reasonable doubt” in Witness 61’s identification of Toger as 
her attacker. 

Rohan also argued that while Witness 1’s ordeal had been unpleasant, it did not 
constitute as “cruel treatment”, a title she assigned to such cruelties as 
forced labour and shelling of civilian villages.

In response, the OTP said that by forcefully removing Witness 1 from his home, 
separating him from his wife, and placing him in water to his waist without any 
inkling of his own fate or that of his wife constituted as cruel treatment.

The witness did not know whether the well would become his grave, the 
prosecution said, even as his wife was being interrogated and raped in the KLA 

Julia Hawes is an IWPR contributor in The Hague.


Expert witness says military doctrine means commanders are ultimately 
responsible for army’s behaviour.

By Velma Saric in Sarajevo

An expert witness told the trial of former Yugoslav Army, VJ, chief Momcilo 
Perisic this week that a military commander would retain responsibility for his 
troops even if they were operating in another country.

British army major general Mungo Melvin was giving evidence at the Perisic war 
crimes after it resumed following a break of several weeks.

Perisic, the most senior VJ officer to be charged with war crimes in Bosnia and 
Croatia, has pleaded not guilty to 13 charges of war crimes and crimes against 

These include aiding and abetting the 43-month siege of Sarajevo, the shelling 
of the Croatian capital Zagreb and the July 1995 massacre of some 8,000 Bosnian 
Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica.

Perisic’s indictment alleges that he provided financial, logistical and 
personnel support to Serb forces in both Croatia and Bosnia between 1991 and 
1995, by personally establishing two personnel centres within the Yugoslav army 
to covertly deploy officers to those two break-away republics and pay their 

Melvin had compiled a military expert report on the doctrine of troop command 
and management, based on the materials and sources from NATO and the British 

“I used generally accepted principles and doctrines on the functioning of 
military troops in different countries, and adopted a principle which basically 
analyses the general, and not the concrete, concept of command,” the witness 

During his testimony, the expert witness said, “Every country which deploys its 
troops to another has the responsibility to undertake certain steps after it 
gains knowledge of violations of international law or of crimes committed by 
its members. 

“This responsibility exists even then when the troops dispatched to another 
country are serving under the command of the receiving state.” 

Explaining that the sending state retained responsibility for the conduct of 
its troops, he continued, “Discipline is an absolutely vital part of military 
work, as without it, armed forces cannot properly function. Therefore, 
individuals within the armed forces have the obligation to act in a disciplined 
manner, and their commanders have the responsibility to ensure that discipline 
is enforced and upheld.”

Melvin said this command model was “almost identical in all armies”, and added 
that “the commander is always the one in charge of taking command decisions.

“As I defined in my report, it is the commander’s duty to intervene as soon as 
he finds out that there had been breaches of discipline. It is his obligation 
to ensure order and discipline. 

“The commander must use all available means to follow the discipline of the 
troops. It is important to send regular reports in the vertical chain of 
command, meaning that information must flow upward from below. 

“The commander is also responsible for undertaking regular, active steps with 
his subordinates to ensure that they effectively try to ensure discipline.”

Cross-examined by defence counsel Gregor Guy-Smith, the witness confirmed that 
his report was a “largely generalised” account.

“I didn't dwell much on concrete issues related to this cases and the 
indictment against General Perisic,” Melvin said. “I did not want in any way to 
define the command principles and system of the former Yugoslav army as I 
didn’t have the time to write a longer detailed expert report on that issue. 
Had I had the time, I would be able to claim that my report speaks relevantly 
of this army, too.”

The defence counsel thus put forward an objection against including Melvin’s 
report into evidence, arguing that Melvin had been asked by the chamber to 
create an expert report regarding the relations between the armies of 
Yugoslavia, Republika Srpska and Krajina, as well the competences of Perisic in 
relation to these forces. 

“We consider this document not to be worthy of introduction onto the record of 
evidence, and of no assistance to the clarification of the status of the 
individual armies mentioned,” the defence continued.

The objection was, however, overruled.

Asked by presiding judge Bankone Moloto as to how far the report was applicable 
in the Perisic trial, Melvin answered that he thought “certain aspects of his 
expertise to be certainly applicable” to the case. He went on to clarify that 
this particularly related to issues of the concept of command and control in 
multinational forces.

The trial continues on November 2. 

Velma Saric is an IWPR-trained journalist in Sarajevo.

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