Vukovic and Tomic: Crimes Committed by Unknown Soldiers

21. January 2010.00:00
During six months of evidence presentation the Defence of Radomir Vukovic and Zoran Tomic sought to prove that the indictees did not participate in the genocide. The Defence also questioned the number of Srebrenica residents who were killed in Kravica.

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The Defence completed its evidence presentation at the end of last year. The Trial Chamber decided that the parties would present their closing arguments on January 22.

Svetlana Radovanovic, a demographic expert, said she had determined, on the basis of death certificates, that 27 people were killed in Kravica village on July 13, 1995. This contradicted the allegation made by the State Prosecution that more than 1,000 were killed there.

“Out of 856 people whose remains were exhumed from graves in the Srebrenica area, death certificates confirm that only 27 were killed in Kravica village on July 13, 1995. Data available to the Ministry of Defence of Bosnia and Herzegovina suggests that more than half of the exhumed people were former members of the Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina, who had been killed prior to 1995,” Radovanovic said.

Radovanovic presented the report on the number of victims at the request of Tomic’s Defence. Tomic and Vukovic are charged with having participated, together with other members of the Second Special Police Squad from Sekovici with the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Republika Srpska, in the murder of men in Kravica Agricultural Cooperative on July 13, 1995.

Tomic’s Defence examined Aleksandar Radovanovic, a former member of the Second Squad, who was sentenced, by a second instance verdict pronounced by the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, to 32 years in prison for helping to commit genocide in Srebrenica. He said that unknown soldiers had escorted about one hundred detainees moving from Sandici to Kravica.

“I heard that Muslim soldiers had surrendered in that area. I heard calls being announced by megaphone. I did not personally see this. I saw the detainees for the first time when the column of people left Sandici and headed towards Kravica. The column consisted of about one hundred people. Some soldiers whom I did not know escorted them,” Radovanovic said.

Radovanovic told the Court that he stood in front of the Agricultural Cooperative in Kravica in the early evening on July 13, 1995. He said he saw several members of the Second Squad, but he denied having seen indictees Vukovic and Tomic.

“I found out that an incident had taken place in Kravica and a policeman had been killed. Many soldiers were there. More than 50 people, dressed in various uniforms. (…) Bodies could be seen in front of the warehouse. I tried not to look in that direction, because the scene was unpleasant,” the witness recalled, adding that they then went to the Dispensary in Bratunac, where the bodies of the killed soldiers had been transported.

The Defence teams examined about 20 other witnesses. Most were former members of the Second Squad or other units, who were deployed by the road leading from Bratunac to Konjevic polje, as were the indictees, on July 13, 1995.

The Prosecution contends that on July 12, 1995 Vukovic and Tomic participated in the search of Bosniak villages in the vicinity of Potocari with the aim of forcibly resettling the civilian residents.

It further alleges that they were deployed in Sandici village, Bratunac municipality that day and the following day, to secure the road leading from Bratunac to Konjevic polje “in accordance with the plan of forcible resettlement” of women, children and the elderly from Srebrenica to the territories controlled by the Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Cvijan Ristic and Radoslav Stuparevic, who testified for Tomic’s Defence, were former members of the Special Police Unit, SPU, from Zvornik. They told the Court they did not see the indictee “block or unblock” the road, adding that nobody else had done this either.

“As far as I know, Zoran Tomic did not invite Muslims to surrender. We would have known that. He would have spoken about it or bragged. I did not see him taking away those people’s jewelry or money. I am a hundred percent sure I did not see him mistreat the detainees,” Ristic said.

The indictment alleges that on July 13, 1995 Vukovic and Tomic forced men to surrender, giving them false promises and saying that they would be exchanged. It further alleges that the two men participated in capturing, robbing and escorting those people to Kravica, where they were shot.

Milutin Kandic, a former member of the SPU who testified for the Defence of Vukovic, said he did not see any members of the Second Squad in Sandici, adding that the men who had been hiding in the woods surrendered to soldiers and not to policemen.

“They were between 15 and 60 years old. They did not have guns. Most of them were dressed in civilian clothes. We did not have any information. Our task was to ensure that the road was open. Groups of people surrendered to the Army. They just passed by the members of my unit,” Kandic recalled.

Nedeljko Sekula, another former member of the Second Squad, said he did not see the columns of detainees on the road in Sandici on July 13, 1995. He said that nobody had told him at the time that something had happened in Kravica.

“I did not hear any shooting or detonations. Upon arrival to Sandici, I saw four members of the Mortar Squad and Tomic, who came to them to light a cigarette.(…) Later on, I saw Tomic leaving Sandici by bus, together with other policemen, and leaving for Konjevic polje,” Sekula said.

The Defence invited a large number of witnesses to testify about the indictees’ personalities. For instance, Tahir Ibrisimovic said Vukovic, who had been his friend “for a number of years”, never “showed any signs of nationalism or animosity”.

“I remember the day when I came from Serbia, in late August 1995, to visit my relatives in Sekovici. Vukovic visited me, as my neighbour. He said he was available if I needed anything,” Ibrisimovic said.

Muhamed Busevac told the Court that Tomic had saved his life at the beginning of the war. He said he appeared before the Court to thank him.

“I was wounded on a battlefield in the vicinity of Zivinice in 1992. I was lying by a brook. I was bleeding. Two guys, dressed in camouflage uniforms, came. I recognized him. He took a bandage from his pocket and dressed my wound. He said we were old friends and I should not tell anybody about what had happened. They transported me to the territory controlled by the Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Busevac recalled.

Witness Slavisa Vlacic described Tomic as “a diligent and obedient guy”, adding that he was “an extremely peace-loving and sociable person”.

The trial of Vukovic and Tomic, before the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, began in December 2008. The Prosecution of Bosnia and Herzegovina completed its presentation of evidence six months later.

Merima Husejnovic is BIRN – Justice Report journalist. [email protected] Justice Report is BIRN online weekly publication.

Merima Hrnjica

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