No End to Sanski Most Pain

Author: Merdijana Sadovic, The Hague
Uploaded: Friday, 17 September, 2004

IWPR reports how Krajisnik trial witness breaks down as he recalls wartime horrors in Sanski Most and the lingering effects of Bosnian Serb extremist policy.

When he entered the Hague tribunal courtroom this week, there was nothing

about witness Faik Biscevic to suggest that his testimony would take the

court by surprise and result in the trial against Bosnian Serb leader

Momcilo Krajisnik adjourning a day ahead of schedule.

Biscevic, a strongly-built 64-year-old with a pleasant face framed by

receding white hair, seemed calm and focused on September 6 as he began his

testimony on how Bosnian Muslims were murdered and driven out of the north

western Bosnian town of Sanski Most.

But his increasingly harrowing testimony culminated in a surprise rush of

emotion for the Serb people whose leaders had originally cleansed his

hometown of Sanski Most.

Citing ‘new evidence’ brought up by the testimony, Krajisnik's defence team

asked for and was granted more time to prepare before cross-examining the

witness.

Before the war broke out in Bosnia, Biscevic, a dentist by profession, was a

wealthy man and a distinguished member of Sanski Most's ethnically mixed

community. He also served as the local leader of the Democratic Action

Party, SDA, which represented mainly Bosnian Muslims.

Biscevic told how his colleague Nedeljko Rasula - leader of the local branch

of the Serbian Democratic Party, SDS and later mayor of Sanski Most - was a

close associate of the defendant Krajisnik.

In one photograph shown in the courtroom this week, Rasula stands proudly in

the company of Krajisnik and one the tribunal's most wanted fugitives,

former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, and other senior party

officials on the day the local SDS branch was established in early 1991.

Relations between the two men and their parties initially seemed good, but

Biscevic testified that Rasula would at least once a week go to Sarajevo and

Banja Luka, the cities where the SDS leadership was based. ‘We never doubted

for a second that he was consulting someone from a higher level,’ the

witness said.

Biscevic described how the situation in his town deteriorated as the year

progressed and the SDS in Sanski Most municipality, backed by the

Serb-controlled Yugoslav National Army, JNA, began distributing weapons to

local Serbs.

‘JNA helicopters were landing in Serb villages, and a bus with thin metal

plates instead of glass windows was regularly delivering weapons to Serb

citizens,’ Biscevic told the court, claiming that on one occasion, Rasula

told Serbs in a nearby village that ‘in just two hours’ he could ‘provide

them with enough weapons to keep them fighting for five years’.

The prosecution hopes that testimony such as this one will help them prove

that Krajisnik - the senior SDS figure and later speaker of the Bosnian Serb

parliament - planned and coordinated the takeover of municipalities in

Bosnia along with other SDS leaders.

Their ultimate goal, according to the indictment, was to create a Serb state

in Bosnia which would be free of other ethnic groups.

Sanski Most fell to the Serbs on May 26, 1992, after the majority Muslim

area of the town had sustained a full day of heavy shelling. Biscevic was

arrested the following day.

Displaying no visible emotion, the witness told the court how he was first

taken to the village of Magarice, where the Serb army was based, and was

beaten so severely that his ‘handcuffs fell off’. After the beating, he was

taken to the Serb-controlled radio station in Sanski Most where he was

forced to read a prepared announcement.

As evidence, the prosecution presented two audio recordings of the

statements Biscevic read out at the time.

In the recording, a radio presenter announced Biscevic as ‘the biggest

Muslim extremist, finally caught by Serb forces’.

A shaky voice, which Biscevic confirmed was his own, then said, ‘I call on

all Muslims and Croats to turn over their weapons to the legal Serb

authorities, so that the shelling, for which I am solely responsible, can

stop.

‘We are to blame for everything that happened and the Serb Army was forced

to do this [shell the town] because of our behaviour.’

While listening to the recording, Biscevic remained still and calm. On the

other side of the courtroom, the defendant was every bit as composed.

Krajisnik - smartly dressed in a dark suit, crisp blue shirt and a matching

tie - sat still, occasionally taking notes, pressing a hand against his

bushy eyebrows. He rarely looked at the witness.

After his unwilling appearance on the radio, Biscevic said he was taken to

the central prison in Sanski Most and then to the notorious Manjaca camp -

one of many in the area where Bosnian Muslims were starved, tortured and

killed, their bodies buried in mass graves which are still being discovered

in the area.

Two of Biscevic's three sons were also transported to Manjaca. They never

returned.

When prosecutor Mark Harmon asked the witness to describe how the loss of

his two sons had affected his family, the first hints of emotion showed on

Biscevic's face. He sighed, and swallowed hard.

‘We live because we have to,’ he said simply.

‘We are not dead, but it's as if we were. We don't know where our sons are

buried, and all we do

Back To News Index
home | about us | publications | news | contact | bosnia | search | bosnia report | credits
bosnia report
Bosnia Report is a bi-monthly magazine which publishes articles and other information about Bosnia-Herzegovina and related issues. Use the links below to access the current issue or archives.

current
archive

Search our archives: