Jevic et al: Genocide or Police Operation

24. May 2012.12:51
During the two years of the trial, the Prosecution of Bosnia and Herzegovina has sought to prove that Dusko Jevic, Mendeljev Djuric, Goran Markovic and Nedjo Ikonic committed genocide by participating in the forcible resettlement of Bosniaks and the killing of more than 1,000 men in Kravica, while the Defence believes that they were conducting legitimate police operations.

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The Trial Chamber will pronounce its verdict on May 25.

During the presentation of evidence at the trial of four former members of the Jahorina Training Centre with the Special Police Brigade of Republika Srpska (RS), more than 90 witnesses were interrogated, including some who survived the shooting.

“The bursts of fire cut through. There was shooting and there were cries and screams: ‘Do not shoot!’ There was darkness because of the bullets and the dust. (…) When there was light, they asked whether there are injured ones so they can be taken to the hospital. Some, I do not know how many, came out. Then they asked: ‘Are there any healthy ones who could join our army? These individuals were taken by the truck, while the wounded ones were shot,” said protected witness S-111, who survived the shooting in Kravica.

According to the indictment, in the evening hours of July 13, 1995, members of the Jahorina Training Centre replaced a company which participated in the mass execution of detainees in Kravica, and they killed between 100 and 150 survivors during the night and the following day.

Witness S-119, whom the Prosecution has given immunity from criminal prosecution, said that Jevic and Djuric were near the warehouse in Kravica, but that he could not remember whether someone from the commanding staff was present when the detainees were shot.

According to protected witness S-102, Jevic lined up the squad, which later executed the men from Srebrenica in front of the Farming Co-operative. He specified that he saw the second indictee Djuric in Potocari, close to the buses, as well as in Kravica, when he deployed them along the road.

The indictment alleges that Jevic was Commander of the Jahorina Training Centre with the Special Brigade of Republika Srpska, RS police, Djuric and Ikonic were company commanders and Markovic was a squad commander.

According to the Defence, Jevic was head of the teaching centre, and not the police unit, and that Djuric had no command function whatsoever.

During the trial, the witnesses said that among the members of the Centre, volunteers were also requested for the so-called “death squad”.

“I remember that it was night and someone asked, ‘Would someone like to kill?’ I saw that four to five people went, but I do not know where,” said witness Milorad Saric.

In his testimony from 2009, Saric said that the indictee Markovic personally addressed him with an invitation for killing. However, during the trial, the witness said that was night and that he did not know who was looking for volunteers.

Markovic’s Defence tried to prove that during their stay on the field, the indictee was taking care of food and accommodation, and tried to challenge the statement of witness who stated that during the search of the terrain, the indictee ordered the killing of one wounded man.

The number of killed persons in Kravica was also contested. Expert Vedo Tuco, who prepared an expert opinion in favor of the Prosecution of Bosnia and Herzegovina, said that the deaths of 1,076 individuals have been linked to the “Kravica” case, while according to the opinion of Ljubisa Simic, the expert of the Defence, the number is half this figure.

Bosniaks behind the Ribbon

After Serb forces took over Srebrenica in July 1995, a few thousand women, children and men fled to Potocari, the base of the UN. At the same time, approximately 15,000 men went in the direction of Tuzla, which was under the control of the Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina (ABiH).

Before leaving Potocari, a meeting was held between the representatives of the Bosniak population, and the then leadership of the Army of Republika Srpska (VRS) and the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR).

Witness Srbislav Davidovic said that at that meeting, the representatives of the Bosniak population explicitly declared that they want to leave the area.

“Mladic asked them what they decided, and I think that Camila said that they want to leave Srebrenica. He told them several times that that they can stay and that they will be safe, providing that they surrender their weapons”, said Davidovic speaking about Ratko Mladic, the then commander of the VRS, who is on trial at The Hague Tribunal for genocide in Srebrenica and other crimes in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Since they expressed desire to go, buses in which the civilians would be transported to the ABiH-controlled area of Kladanj, were provided.

Men were separated from women and children before the boarding of buses.

Witnesses said that members of the Jahorina Training Centre participated in the separation, which, according to the indictment, was managed by indictee Djuric.

Witness Mile Janjic said that he “saw Djuric near the ribbon behind which Bosniaks stood”.

Janjic said that members of the company from Jahorina were placed in the lane through which men were separated from women and children, and one part went as an escort for the buses.

At the request of the Defence of Mendeljev Djuric, called Mane, a video recording of events in Potocari on July 13, was broadcast, in which Djuric says to a Dutch officer from the UNPROFOR to send people “down, to see whether someone else would also go”.

“When I spoke to Miki and Mane, they indicated to me that they are responsible for the situation and that we must clear the road for the transport of refugees,” said Dutch Colonel Eelco Koster.

Several witnesses, including members of the UNPROFOR, confirmed that separated men threw away their documents and other personal belongings, and that several killings took place in Potocari, including one group of 15 to 20 men.

Witness Velomir Gajic said that Jevic directed the buses in Potocari, which were driving civilians to Kladanj, and that while they were traveling to Konjevic Polje, he saw prisoners and several corpses.

“At one part of the road, we met commander Nedjo Milidragovic. The prisoners were on the plain, and Dusko said that these people are to be sent by buses when they pass,” said Gajic, who was then Jevic’s driver.

Sporadic Killings

Witnesses have said that members of the Training Centre had been located on the Konjevic Polje-Bratunac road, where men from the forest were surrendering to them. Witnesses of the Prosecution of Bosnia and Herzegovina stated that the sporadic killings of men occurred along the road, while witnesses of the Defence claimed that the fire opened from the forest.

According to testimonies, sporadic killings occurred at the roadside. Protected witness S-123 said that one member of the Jahorina company was wounded when men from the forest threw a bomb, and then surrendered themselves, leaving the hunting and automatic rifle on the ground.

“One man passed and asked: ‘Why do not you kill them? Whose rifle is this?’ One of them answered, and he took that rifle and shot him in the chest. The man flew back, but his legs stayed. He fired the whole round at another prisoner”, the witness recalled, adding that during the killings he did not see any of the commanders, but he considered it likely that they must have been familiar with the situation.

Expert Radovan Radinovic compiled the findings and the opinion at the request of the Defence, explaining that according to military rules, the separation of able-bodied men in Potocari and the capture of individuals who participated in the breakthrough towards Tuzla were legitimate activities.

“I do not accept that there was any forcible transfer of civilians by the VRS. There is a statement given by one UN officer that it was their decision to displace civilians from Srebrenica,” said Radinovic.

Military observer Joseph Kingori said that originally, the UN forces made an offer for the displacement of the Bosniak population from Srebrenica, adding that General Ratko Mladic said that he would do it.

Kingori said that members of the UNPROFOR’s Dutch battalion did not actively participate in the evacuation of the population, but that they were in charge of security.

During the presentation of evidence, the Defence attempted to prove that the indictees were engaged in legitimate police work and that they could not have known the plan for the execution of men, although according to the Prosecution, the indictees were aware that able-bodied men would be executed.

The Defence has filed evidence regarding the supplying of weapons to Srebrenica, despite it being a UN Protected Zone, and attempted to prove that the column of men who were moving through the forest were a legitimate military target, since the members of the 28th Division of the ABiH were part of it.

Expert Richard Butler, who was proposed by the Prosecution of Bosnia and Herzegovina, said that the protected zone of Srebrenica was not demilitarised, and that the 28th Division of the ABiH was a legitimate target, and that estimations suggest that “there were between 2,000 and 4,000 individuals killed in connection with the column.”

The evidence proceedings of the Prosecution were marked by the abandonment of their statements which they signed during the investigation by a number of witnesses. By presenting the evidence, the prosecutor sought to “refresh their memory,” and during the closing argument he commented that the witnesses were afraid of criminal prosecution, and that the trial was taking place in a climate of “heightened attacks on the Prosecution of Bosnia and Herzegovina.”

Explaining why they denied the statements that they gave during the investigation, several witnesses stated that the members of the State Investigation and Protection Agency (SIPA) instigated and forced them to say something.

“He shouted: “How come you did not see, you had to see.’ (…) I was making it up because I no longer knew what to say. I just prayed to God that it all ends,” said Nebojsa Aleksic.

The trial for four former members of the Jahorina Training Centre began in April 2010. According to the presented evidence, members of the Centre were individuals from Bosnia and Herzegovina who were arrested in Serbia in summer 1995, and after training at Jahorina, they were sent to the terrain in the Srebrenica area.

Marija Taušan

This post is also available in: Bosnian