Savic: I Helped my Bosniak Neighbours
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By examining 11 witnesses and the indictee, the Defence of Momir Savic tried to prove that he did not participate in persecution, murder, rape, torture and other inhumane acts, and that he helped Bosniaks as much as he could at the beginning of the war in Bosnia. The evidence presentation lasted for six months.
The Prosecution is due to present its closing arguments on June 9 while the Defence will do the same on June 25, 2009. By law, the verdict must be pronounced three days later.
Savic is charged under eight counts of the indictment with having committed crimes against humanity in Visegrad municipality from April to September 1992.
The alleged crimes occurred when he was member of an unnamed paramilitary formation that existed while the Uzice Corps of the Yugoslav National Army, JNA, was active, and then as commander of the Third Squad with the Visegrad Brigade of the Republika Srpska Army, VRS.
Testifying in his Defence, Savic said he did not join the army until July 1992.
He said the Uzice Corps came to Visegrad on April 14, and stayed there until May 19, 1992. During that period he was appointed acting president of the municipal assembly.
I was not with the army, he said. I performed civil tasks. My main task included getting food via the Red Cross and distributing it to people, he said.
In mid-July 1992 I was appointed commander of the Third Squad. I performed this function until January 27, 1993, when I went to Serbia, he added.
Savic maintained his unit never left the Drinsko local community, while its task was to protect villages in the area.
No Bosniaks were mistreated there. We might find somebody in the woods, feed him and send him on, but it never happened that a person was mistreated, he said.
However, the indictment alleges that on May 23, 1992, Savic and other soldiers took Bosniak civilians from their houses, examined and beat them, and took them to a nearby forest, where they deprived them of their lives, using firearms.
Savic denied this. People were saying that some people had been killed, Savic recalled.
I reported that to the Police Station Commander. They invited Dragan Savic to come there for a talk. On his return he called me a Judas. They wanted to kill me. Those people still call me a Judas, a betrayer, Savic said, adding that this was the only incident that happened in Drinsko while I was there.
The Prosecution considers that in May 1992 the indictee ordered the civilians from Drinsko village to assemble and that once about 200 Bosniaks had gathered at the location, he told them that they would be killed unless they left Drinsko that day.
However, a Defence witness said that in May 1992 Savic had addressed the assembled Bosniaks in a friendly tone, offering them help.
Respected and dear neighbours, I am afraid for your future. If you are afraid, let us move you to a safer place, said Momir Savic, who has the same name as the indictee, conveying the indictees words.
Describing this event during his testimony, the indictee said about 80 people had gathered at that location, and they sat there together, talking. He said he had only told them that it would be best for them to go away for some time.
There were no ultimatums. I would never say something like that to anybody, he said.
My intention was to help those people. As they were leaving, we said goodbye to each other. People were crying. I said goodbye to my best neighbours. None of them was injured in any way, the indictee said.
Defence witness Milenko Jevdjic concurred, recalling this event.
Savic had told his Bosniak neighbours, in a normal and sweet tone that considering the situation in the country, they should seek shelter in the village of Medjedja where the majority of the population were Bosniaks.
Witness A, who testified from a separate cabin due to protection measures, said the indictee helped her when she was in Drinsko village at the beginning of the war.
We stayed in a house f