bosnia report
New Series No: 37-38 January - March 2004
 
Fragments from Memoirs
by Alija Izetbegovic

 

About his trial.

Witness Hilmija Ćerimović stated that he was questioned with short breaks for forty hours, which resulted in one typed page of testimony. Witness Vahid Kozarić was questioned for three days, without being allowed to go home. On the third day he suffered a heart attack and was taken to hospital, where he stayed for twenty days. He was then returned to the police station, where he signed the transcript on which the investigator had been insisting. Witnesses Mehmed Arapčić and Hamzalija Hujdur did not appear in court: both had suffered nervous breakdowns and were hospitalized. Witness Rešid Hafizović stated that the investigator kept pointing a gun at him. After he refused to sign the transcript, the investigator told him he would not be allowed to leave the building without signing, regardless of how much time this took. Hafizović replied that he was not a prisoner but a free man, and moved towards the door. The investigator then pulled out his gun and ordered him to halt: he wouldn’t make three steps. Witness Rašid Brčić stated that he was questioned nine hours a day for five days, and that he was verbally abused. The accused (and sentenced) Mustafa Spahić told the supreme court on 14 March 1984 that the investigators had offered him two options: to sign an accusation against one of the three leading defendants (he could choose which one) and go home, or to be charged. He named the two investigators and the day when this happened. After he had refused, he was charged and sentenced to five years in prison.

On censorship

During a public debate a citizen asked me about censorship: ‘Mr President, do you know what is being published, though we’re at war? Why do you allow it? Why don’t you introduce censorship?’ I replied that after all that happened to me I would never in my life impose a ban of this kind. I think one can achieve little with bans and by force, where people's beliefs are involved. I reminded him of the sentence from the Quran:'No force in matters of faith.' And if we interpret this more widely, we find that in matters of belief, in what people think, there should be no enforcement. If ideas could be stopped with threats, beatings, police and prisons, then Communism would have succeeded, since this was their preferred method of rule. The experience of the Communist system and its defeat - this was a kind of historical experiment - have shown that this is not possible.

On Yugoslav politicians:

Ante Marković: He was a dear and clever man who tried to reform Yugoslavia and differed in this respect from most of his Croatian countrymen.

Veljko Kadijević: A highly educated officer, Yugoslav by conviction - in contrast to his deputy Adzić, who was undoubtedly a Serb chauvinist. Kadijević tried to save Yugoslavia. I had a favourable impression of him. He defended the Yugoslav cause, on which we agreed, but I argued that the state must be reformed, and on that we disagreed.

Franjo Tuđman. I didn’t like Tuđman. There was something of the arriviste in his behaviour, and his protocol owed a lot to kitsch. He always wanted to take a piece of Bosnia, be it small or large. I haven’t read his doctoral dissertation, but I know that it dealt with the establishment of Banovina Croatia in 1939, following the agreement between Maček and Cvetković. He was keen on the Banovina because it included a large part of Bosnia.

Slobodan Milošević. I’m not sure I knew Slobodan Milošević, but it often seemed to me that he and his policy were two different things. It is difficult to harmonize what he did with what he appeared to be. He was not a wholly unsympathetic personality. It is true that he was always a bit drunk, or appeared so, and that he liked to talk. He was certainly brave. I don't think he was a hypocrite. Maybe a schizophrenic, but that’s another thing. It seems to me, however, that this other side, the evil side of his personality, was dominant, so that Milošević inevitably generated evil.

On the fall of Bosanski Brod

At the start of October 1992 I was in Zagreb, where I learned that Bosanski Brod was about to fall. The rumour was that the Croatian army was withdrawing from the city without offering resistance. This was accompanied by stories about a secret deal between Tuđman and Milošević on the surrender of Posavina. I decided to check this. I left Zagreb on 5 October and followed side roads to Bosanski Brod. The motorway, which would have taken two or three hours, was closed due to the conflict. I arrived in Slavonski Brod at sunset. The political leaders of Slavonski Brod and Bosanski Brod were waiting for me. Everything looked depressed: the weather, the people, the atmosphere. It was decided that I should promptly return to Zagreb and ask President Tuđman to send reinforcements. I fixed to meet him by telephone at eight o'clock in the morning. I travelled the whole night and arrived in Zagreb before dawn. I remember Tuđman’s reaction when he saw me looking puffed, crumpled and tieless. He told me that Bosanski Brod would not fall, and agreed to send one thousand soldiers. I left feeling encouraged and went to Split, where I was due to meet with the Bosnian Croat leader Mate Boban. As soon as I arrived - it was late afternoon - Boban told me that Bosanski Brod had fallen that morning. When he saw that I was astonished, he said: ‘Don't worry, they were no good; we’ll regain Bosanski Brod one day.’

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