Jezik / Language:
7 November 2006

Mandic defence may call Paddy Ashdown

The indictee has given an opening statement at the start of the war crimes proceedings against him.
The prosecution has announced that it plans to call more than 50 witnesses and present 147 pieces of material evidence against Momcilo Mandic, who is charged with war crimes against civilians and crimes against humanity.

The defence plans to invite fewer witnesses – but one may be the former High Representative of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Lord Paddy Ashdown.

The indictee's head defence attorney Milan Vujin said that he would call Ashdown to testify about conditions in the correctional facility Butmir in 1992, which he visited as a representative of the British parliament. Vujin claims that Ashdown visited this detention centre and said that the conditions were"good", which was also published in his memoirs and media coverage of this visit.

Mandic is charged that he, as assistant minister of internal affairs of former Srpska Republika Bosnia and Herzegovina and later as minister of justice, "ordered, encouraged, committed, assisted, planned and initiated" crimes against civilians on the territory of Sarajevo and Foca.

According to the indictment, Mandic managed the April 6 1992 attack on the Bosnian internal affairs ministry school located in Vrace, Sarajevo. It is also alleged that he was in charge of the relevant ministry at the time that detention camps were formed in Butmir and Vogosca near Sarajevo and in Foca.

In its opening statement, the prosecution announced that its evidence would prove that a "clear and unambiguous" conclusion could be drawn on Mandic's criminal responsibility for these acts.

Prosecutor Behaija Krnjic claims that before the war Mandic, beside holding a position of responsibility in the government of former Srpska Republika Bosnia and Herzegovina, was also member of the main board of the Serb democratic party (SDS) and that he was involved in decisions related to the secession of part of BiH and independence of another part.

Vujin repeated that it is not the job of the defence to prove that their defendant is innocent, but that it is the job of the prosecution to prove that he is guilty. The defence believes that the statements in the indictment are not true and that some of the physical evidence proposed by the prosecution was not collected legally.

The prosecution announced that the 147 pieces of physical evidence that will be presented would include audio and video records that show or present Mandic in discussions with other high officials of Srpska Republika Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The defence believes that the audio records were obtained without the approval of authorised institutions and that they do not know how some of the evidence was collected and they believe that the court cannot accept them as final evidence.

The defence also claims that Mandic did not have real control over what was going on in the detention camps, as the former army of Srpska Republika of Bosnia and Herzegovina was in charge of these.

Vujin also noted that the prosecution of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) had conducted an investigation against Mandic, but did not find enough evidence to press charges.

Mandic himself exercised the right to present an opening statement. He told the court that while it is stated in the indictment that he managed the attack on the Vrace school on April 6, 1992, "it is common knowledge that the attack took place on Apri l5, day before international recognition of BiH and beginning of the war".

He also said that it is stated in the indictment that at the time he was assistant minister of internal affairs of Srpska Republika Bosnia and Herzegovina"and everyone knows that, at the time, I was assistant internal affairs minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina".

He confirmed that one day before the Vrace attack a "Serb brigade" seceded from the formations of the former special police unit to which he belonged, but that that was approved by the former Bosnian internal affairs minister.

"I am the only minister of civilian justice who was in an official position from 1992 to 1995 on the territory of this country who is charged with a war crime. My other colleagues who were in official positions are either in the Supreme Court today or ministers or in other important official positions and live as prominent citizens," Mandic said.

The prosecution will present its first witnesses on November 13.
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