Below is the text of a presentation by Colonel Vidoje Blagojevic about his conviction by the Hague Tribunal and the 20 years of imprisonment he served for it. His harrowing account of the injustice meted out to him will not surprise those who have seen our video.
CONVICTION OF 20 YEARS FOR FICTITIOUS CRIMES IN SREBRENICA NO EVIDENCE – NO DEFENSE
Colonel Vidoje Blagojevic1
Commander of the Bratunac Brigade of the Army of Republika Srpska in Operation “Krivaja ‘95”
Abstract: This is my story. I am Colonel Vidoje Blagojevic, Commander of the Bratunac Brigade of the Army of the Republika Srpska (ARS), who participated in Operation “Krivaja ’95”. As a colonel of the ARS, I was a rare Serbian prisoner of the Hague Tribunal, who managed to physically and mentally endure a brutal arrest by SFOR.2 I also suffered mental abuse at the hands of an imposed lawyer who collaborated with the Tribunal’s prosecutor in an explicit and fabricated court process. I refused to accept false allegations along with a final verdict of 20 years imprisonment.
As an innocent person, I spent 13 years in the Norwegian prison. So, after serving 2/3 of the prison sentence, they let me go. The Hague Tribunal staff handed me over to the Serbian police at the Belgrade airport as a package, without any address, documents or money. For those who believe in human rights and a fair trial, this is one of the most incredible stories of our century that resemble events from the 17th and 18th centuries. My suffering as a colonel of the VRS continued after exiting jail and arriving to “freedom” in my country. Even though the circumstances were different in my Homeland, and there were no barbed wires, the pain was more unbearable.
Dear Conference participants, distinguished guests, ladies, and gentlemen,
Let me warmly welcome you. I’m thankful for the invitation to be here today and I’m going to tell you my short story and what happened to me after Srebrenica.
I finished all of the military schools of the former YNA (Yugoslav National Army) including the National Defense School as an exemplary officer with the highest scores. I respected people of different nationalities and faiths and lived my whole life working honestly and honorably. Thanks to my wife, our family stayed together.
The president of the Officers of the Army of Republika Srpska encouraged me to tell you my story and how I was convicted with completely fabricated evidence.
They convicted me by a secret and fabricated indictment! They brutally and savagely captured me. I was, and I remain an innocent man. My trial was without any defense! Even worse, my lawyer was collaborating with the Prosecutor and other officials in the Tribunal to convict me. As an innocent man, I spent 13 years of democratic slavery in the Norwegian prison. Unfortunately, I still cannot prove my innocence!
In the role of the commander of the Bratunac Brigade, I participated in the liberation of the Srebrenica enclave, which was not demilitarized at that time. It contained the 28th Division of the Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina (AB&H). Groups of armed soldiers of the 28th Divisions were often getting out of the “protected zone” to attack and commit mass crimes against the Serbian people in Drina Valley. Muslim political and military leadership did not respect International agreements they signed to demilitarize Srebrenica enclave.
In connection with events related to Srebrenica, especially those events that occurred after the fall of Srebrenica, many innocent people were hurt, and many suffered. I’m one of those innocent victims.
Military leaders of Republika Srpska did not have sufficient plans for the liberation of Srebrenica, because they had no intentions of entering in the enclave. The gaps in the plan began to manifest on July 11, 1995, on the day Srebrenica was liberated. Our military command did not expect such an outcome and a rapid fall. In the newly created situation with a large number of mainly Muslim civilians on one side and armed Muslim soldiers of the 28th Division on the other side, I was guided to lead my Brigade by my conscience and by the rich and honorable tradition of the Serbian military. All military operations were in line with existing military rules and regulations.
1 Commander of the Zvornik and Bratunac Brigade of the Republika Srpska Army (ARS), as well as the Chief of Engineers of the Main Staff of the Army of Republika Srpska.
2 The Stabilisation Force in Bosnia and Herzegovina (SFOR) was NATO-led multinational peacekeeping force deployed to Bosnia and Herzegovina after the war.
The circumstances for my brigade were complicated and dangerous. Some Serbian military officers avoided responsibility to not suffer any consequences. My unit and all fighters and officers whom I commanded survived the Srebrenica drama with a clear conscience. No one can connect this brigade with any criminal offenses that occurred in the area.
There was no evidence that either the Bratunac Brigade (which I commanded) or I, committed any crimes. SFOR3 brutally arrested me on August 10th 2001 based on a secret indictment, and handed me over to the Hague Tribunal Detention Unit. During the arrest, they inflicted severe bodily injuries as well as mental abuse, which were later entirely covered up. I had nowhere to turn to express my grievances. I was entirely helpless.
Based on the fabricated cases of the Hague prosecutors, this “fair court” accused and condemned me. They used lies, manipulation, humiliation and physical force to destroy me. This is my story about my experience with a “just court” in a Western, democratic Europe.
I HAD NO DEFENSE IN HAGUE
Two months before the start of the trial (which began on June 5, 2003), I finally dismissed my lawyer Michael Karnavas and informed the Tribunal’s secretariat in writing of that. The reason I fired my attorney is that I realized that he had no intention of defending me but rather to collaborate with the prosecutor in fabricating an indictment against me. He was only playing the role of my defense attorney and nothing more. So, while I was struggling to work hard on my defense for the upcoming trial, my lawyer took the initiative to transfer my case from Trial Chamber II, to which I was assigned, but which was not suitable for his ulterior criminal motives, to the Trial Chamber I, which was more appropriate for his plan of my demise. My lawyer succeeded with his goal at the end of March 2003. The judge who was then the President of the Tribunal made an unlawful decision (contrary to the Statute of the Tribunal) and handed my case over to the Trial Chamber I.
After I fired my lawyer, I was tricked into signing documents to obtain a new attorney. This was a trap which gave the rights to the Appeals Chamber of the Tribunal to forcefully impose on me the same lawyer I fired. I then realized that the attorney whom I fired and who was reassigned to me, the Tribunal’s prosecutor, and the president of the Trial Chamber I work diligently as a team against me.
As the trial process was approaching closing, knowing what their intentions were, I was becoming psychologically stronger to defend myself and „my attorney” Karnavas was increasingly losing hope of breaking me to accept their criminal charges. He was working in conjunction with the prosecutor to prove my guilt. So, my lawyer Michael Karnavas introduced 56 witnesses in the courtroom and also attached 20 statements of other witnesses, all against me. Karnavas personally selected witnesses who would work for him and the prosecutor. He prepared them as he wanted, trained them to support the court’s criminal intentions, and whenever possible, directed them to testify against me in order to incriminate me ultimately. He even deliberately ordered them to invent and falsely testify as in the clear case of witness Beatovic and many others.
In January 2004, knowing what their intentions were, I said in the courtroom that I did not have any defense. I explained that my forcefully imposed lawyer was collaborating with the prosecutor of the Tribunal against me. I was so naive that I hoped that the President of the Trial Chamber I would do something, but he did not react at all. Why would he respond since he was jointly working against me with “my attorney” and prosecutor of the Tribunal? Finally, everything was evident to me.
The prosecutor had no difficulty implementing the fabricated indictment against me. The witnesses brought by my lawyer Karnavas were more helpful to the prosecutor than the witnesses the prosecutor brought himself. The prosecution called US military expert, Richard Butler to the stand. Everything he said in his testimony related to the Bratunac Brigade was pure fabrication and manipulation.
Two Serbian officers Momir Nikolic and Dragan Obrenovic (accused in the joint indictment) signed a plea agreement with the Tribunal’s prosecutor. The Hague prosecutors manipulated them in various ways to recognize the crimes that the Tribunal’s office invented to use for other trials. Their testimonies and allegations were set up at the prosecutor’s office, and tailored to the prosecutor’s needs. The president of the Trial Chamber I knew about this and that it was contrary to Anglo-Saxon Law by which the Tribunal was founded, but it was accepted.
3 The Stabilisation Force in Bosnia and Herzegovina (SFOR) was a NATO-led multinational peacekeeping force deployed to Bosnia and Herzegovina after the war.
The President of the Trial Chamber I prohibited and prevented me from testifying under oath. This was an example of brutal force used against me, which was difficult for me to accept. The court aimed to break my will to acknowledge their fictitious crimes.
Based on these circumstances, the obvious conclusion is that in this farce of an international trial, the first instance verdict passed against me was a entirely staged process in which the President of the Trial Chamber 1 had the essential task of coordinating the very successful teamwork of the Prosecution of the Tribunal along with my “defense” attorney.
In the final verdict, only one judge, Mohammad Shahabuddin, said that I was denied the right to a fair trial and that the case should be retried. As far as I know, my situation is a unique example of the rendering of an unjust conviction at the Hague Tribunal. Perhaps the same happens in other courts where “international justice” is carried out with false facts and without the right to defense.
Judge Mohamed Shahabuddin was one of the rare and honorable judges of the Hague Tribunal, and was also against the decision to impose the defense attorney, whom I fired. At the beginning of the trial, Judge Shahabuddin did not object to the decisions of the President of the Tribunal. However, later in May 2007, this judge realized that the President of the Tribunal was carrying out injustice and opposed him. Unfortunately, he was thrown out very quickly from the Tribunal after he raised his voice against such trials.
In the appeal judgment, Judge Shahabuddin said eighteen times that he disagreed with the other members of the Appeals Chamber because he believed that I was denied the right to a fair trial and that my case should go to a retrial and the facts need to be proven.
Judge Shahabuddin wrote in his court opinions: “I believe that Mr. Blagojevic has been unlawfully prevented from telling his story. He has not had a fair trial. He should be retried based on the circumstances of his case.”
I am confident that at least once in a detention cell in The Hague and twice in jail in Norway, they tried to cause me harm. It is only due to pure luck that my life did not end in a prison cell.
This is my testimony. I unambiguously confirm and present to the public what was going on in the Tribunal during my trial.
I HAD NO HELP FROM REPUBLIKA SRPSKA AND SERBIA
It is with a heavy heart that I need to point out some individuals and particular acts and procedures, which were carried out by the political leadership of both Republika Srpska and Serbia, and which were instrumental to the Hague Tribunal in achieving such a joint criminal venture.
All those indicted Serbs, who signed the agreement with the Tribunal Prosecutor admitting guilt when innocent, assisted the Prosecutor in confirming his false criminal facts. Their testimony against other convicts and me made it easier for the Prosecution to fill the cells of the ICTY with Serbian convicts. Some of these helpers have been awarded decorations and other recognitions for “honorable service” to the army and Republika Srpska. This should be condemned.
Some individuals have cooperated with the Tribunal’s prosecution for years, supplying it with data and documents, all against their colleagues. The liaison officer with the Hague tribunal appointed by the Government of Republika Srpska at that time did not do the job for which he was selected, but against the Serbs detained in The Hague. He reliably served this institution working against the Serbian defendants. I experienced his loyalty to the Hague tribunal on my own skin.
Director of the Government Office of Republika Srpska for Cooperation with the ICTY was also doing everything to serve the Tribunal faithfully, that is the prosecutor’s office, to the detriment of the Hague prisoners. This cooperation with the Tribunal resulted in the report of the Commission for Srebrenica where this Serbian institution stood against the founders of Republika Srpska and only served in their personal interest and in preserving their acquired positions. This fabricated Srebrenica document was issued in 2004 right before the adoption of my first-instance verdict. The international community created this Document and imposed it on the government of Republika Srpska to recognize the false crimes they listed in Srebrenica. It is striking that the Prime Minister, who testified before the National Assembly of Republika Srpska, said that they did not have any direct pressure from the international community when they passed the report.
I also sought legal assistance from the President of the National Council of the Republic of Serbia and asked Serbian ambassador to Norway to help me. None of them responded to my desperate calls.
When I was released from prison, I rejoiced to experience freedom and to return to my homeland. But when I was transferred to the police at Belgrade airport, Serbia, I felt loneliness and humiliation. I
was not even welcomed back home. They delivered me like an empty cardboard box without an address, personal documents, or money in my pocket. As a former officer of the Yugoslav National Army, I addressed the military authorities in Serbia, but they did not even want to hear about my problems. What happened to my country and my people?
Unfortunately, even today I am alone, abandoned, without a place to live and without the most basic living conditions. For years I have been living with my wife in a warehouse – in one room of the former military hotel Krajina. After my judgment, my family members were expelled from work and had to seek a better life in other countries.
It is an essential fact that after 24 years, not a single soldier who was under my command was even suspected of a crime, let alone indicted of a crime. And, the Hague Tribunal has blamed the Bratunac Brigade as one of the two units of the Army of Republika Srpska responsible for everything that they say happened there. Does the Bratunac Brigade look like a criminal unit? Will the Bratunac Brigade ever get justice? Tribunal does not accept my request to revise the trial and clear the name of the Bratunac Brigade because they achieved their goal.
And, finally, dear friends, I was not a mercenary who fought in a secret war. I was an officer of a well-organized, well trained, and responsible military system that functioned in the war. As a soldier and an officer of the Army of Republika Srpska, I honorably and responsibly performed the assigned tasks. Frankly, I never received an order from my superiors, throughout the war, in writing or verbally, which I would not do today. All issued orders by my superiors were under the applicable rules and regulations of warfare.
When they brought me in the Tribunal, I believed that my country I fought for would completely stand by me, as did Croatia, the Federation of B&H, and Kosovo for their defendants. My country’s failure to defend me in the name of justice really hurts more than anything else. So, it is no wonder then that the indictments against the Serbs in The Hague are so numerous and severe.
Throughout my stay in the Tribunal and while serving my sentence in Norway, I did not receive any help from my country, neither legal nor monetary. My wife visited me twice in ten years in a Norwegian prison, and my family paid for the expenses. After leaving the prison, the only help I received was 300 KM, (about $170.00) which was given to me by the Veteran’s Organization of Republika Srpska.
Finally, I wish to point out that after leaving the prison, I knocked on many doors of countless institutions of the Republika Srpska, but the only place where I was greeted with respect was this Organization of the Army Officers of Republika Srpska. I hope that this conference will at least enlighten and mitigate the lies that affected me, as an individual, as well as the Republika Srpska that was labeled a genocidal creation.
1. Documentation of the Department of the Military Security Service of the 2nd Corps of the Army of B&H 2. Documentation of SDB Sector Tuzla
3. Documentation of the Federal Ministry of Defense of B&H
4. Documentation of the Hague investigators on the events in Srebrenica
5. United Nations Genocide Convention
6. MIKT Trial Judgment in the Blagojević/Jokić Case, (IT-02-60-T), 01-17-2005
7. International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY); https://sh.wikipedia.org/wiki/Me%C4%91unarodni_krivi%C4%8Dni_sud_za_biv%C5%A1u_Jugoslavia
8. MIKT second instance of persecution in the Blagojević case
9. Ivanisevic Milivoje: Srebrenica July, 1995: In Search of Truth, Belgrade, Christian Thought, Second Edition, 2010. 10. The Internet portal of the Tribunal in The Hague, at http://www.icty.org/x/cases/krstic/trans/en/010406ed.htm