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“Unnecessary Deaths” in Srebrenica Surroundings

17. June 2013.00:00
Former Security Officer with the Main Headquarters of the Republika Srpska Army Dragomir Keserovic says at the trial of Ratko Mladic that “the unnecessary deaths of members of the 28th Division of the Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina and, perhaps also civilians, who had joined the breakthrough” happened in the Srebrenica surroundings in July 1995.

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Keserovic said that he it was not known to him whether thousands of Bosniaks were “summarily” executed after having been captured by the Republika Srpska Army, VRS.

“I cannot say whether the Muslims were killed summarily or otherwise,” Keserovic said, adding that he was not personally witnessed the detention and killing of Bosniaks.

Mladic, former Commander of VRS, is charged with genocide against about 7,000 Srebrenica Muslims in the days that followed the occupation of the United Nations “protected zone” by VRS on July 11, 1995. According to the charges, the mass executions were committed at several locations in the surroundings of Zvornik after captives had been brought to those locations from the outskirts of Bratunac.

The indictment further alleges that Mladic is charged with the persecution of Bosniaks and Croats, terror against civilians in Sarajevo and taking UNPROFOR members hostage.

Keserovic said that, on July 16, 1995 Mladic ordered him to take over the command over an operation aimed at “searching the terrain and chasing the 28th Division of the Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina”, whose members tried to break through the VRS ring around Srebrenica in the zone of responsibility of the Bratunac Brigade.

Keserovic said that the operation’s goal was to “enter into combat and cause destruction and losses on the enemy side, as well as capture and disarm” the enemy soldiers, who would then be treated in accordance with the rules of service.
“…Or, in accordance with General Mladic’s wishes,” Prosecutor Peter McCloskey suggested. “I cannot answer your question about General Mladic’s wishes beside his order. He did not give any indications beyond the task to continue with the blockade. At least not to me,” Keserovic said.

However, the witness said that he considered Mladic’s order “unacceptable in military terms”. When asked by presiding judge Alphons Orie to explain why, he said that he “was not a commander of any of the units, participating in the operation” and that he did not have a command structure in the field.

As he said, with the help from his superior officer Zdravko Tolimir, Keserovic managed to have Mladic change his order. Instead of taking over the command of the search operation, Keserovic was tasked with going to Bratunac and “gathering information on what was being done and how.”

As per the new order, Keserovic was supposed to meet with Radoslav Jankovic, Intelligence Officer of the Main Headquarters of VRS, in Bratunac and convey an order to him to agree with Thom Karremans, Commander of the Dutch Battalion of UNPROFOR, about the evacuation of “blue helmets” from Potocari via Serbia.

Keserovic said that he heard from General Tolimir that Ljubisa Beara, the then Chief of Security Administration with the Main Headquarters of VRS, was present in the Bratunac and Zvornik areas.

The International Tribunal at The Hague rendered a first instance verdict against Beara, pronouncing him guilty of genocide in Srebrenica and sentencing him to life imprisonment.

Keserovic is due to continue testifying on Tuesday, June 18.

Radoša Milutinović

This post is also available in: Bosnian