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Execution of Prisoners of War Kept Secret

18. June 2013.00:00
Prosecution witness Dragomir Keserovic says at the trial of Ratko Mladic at The Hague that, in 1995 he did not get any pieces of information about the execution of Muslim captives from Srebrenica, although he was in Bratunac and its surroundings in mid-July in his capacity as Security Officer with the Main Headquarters of the Republika Srpska Army, VRS.

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“Nobody spoke about it in my presence. I did not know about it until February 1996, when the trial of Drazen Erdemovic began,” retired general Keserovic said.

As he said, “there was no discussion” among VRS members “about the circumstances under which prisoners of war were executed until the end of the war. Indeed, I cannot even explain to myself what happened and how it was kept a secret”.

General Mladic, the then Commander of VRS, is charged with genocide against about 7,000 Srebrenica Muslims in the days that followed the occupation of the United Nations, UN protected zone by VRS on July 11, 1995. According to the charges and previous verdicts, captives were transferred from the Bratunac surroundings to several locations in the Zvornik area and shot in an organised manner.

Keserovic told the Tribunal that, acting on an order issued by General Mladic, he went to the Bratunac area, most probably on June 17, 1995, in order to collect information about the terrain search and search for members of the 28th Division of the Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina, who were trying to break through the ring around Srebrenica and reach Tuzla through the woods.

The witness said that he met Major Zoran Malinic, Commander of the Military Police Battalion with the Main Headquarters of VRS, in the vicinity of Nova Kasaba village. As he said, Malinic informed him that “between 2,000 and 3,000 – it seems to me that he said 2,500 – Muslim soldiers and civilians from Srebrenica” were present at a local football stadium on July 13, 1995.

Lieutenant Colonel Ljubisa Beara, Chief of the Security Administration of the Main Headquarters of VRS, gave the order to keep the captives at the stadium. In 2010 The Hague Tribunal pronounced a first instance verdict against Beara, sentencing him to life imprisonment for genocide in Srebrenica.

According to Keserovic’s testimony, Malinic informed him that he had organized the listing of all captives, but the process was interrupted, when General Mladic came by on that same day and said that it was not necessary, because the captives would go to Tuzla in order to be exchanged. The VRS Commander said the same thing to the Muslim captives.

Soon after Mladic’s departure buses and trucks appeared. Calling on Malinic’s words, Keserovic said that they transferred the captives to Bratunac. He confirmed that General Mladic gave the order to transfer the Srebrenica Muslims.

When asked by the judges why, in his capacity as Security Officer, he failed to inquire about the fate of the captives later on, Keserovic said that he heard that a detention camp in Batkovic, near Bijeljina, was being prepared to receive the captives and that he was convinced that they were transported to that location.

Testifying last week, Malinic said that about 1,200 captives were present at the stadium in Nova Kasaba when Mladic arrived.

While being cross-examined by Mladic’s Defence attorney Branko Lukic, the witness said that it was difficult to differentiate civilians and members of the 28th Division of the Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina among the captives, because most of the soldiers were dressed in civil suits.

Defence attorney Lukic asked General Keserovic, former member of the RS Commission for Srebrenica, whether an investigation determined that Mladic ordered the execution of the Muslim captives.

“No, I have not come across any such document, order or report,” the witness said, adding that he had never heard such an allegation before.

Mladic is also charged with persecuting Muslims and Croats throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina, terrorising civilians in Sarajevo through a long-lasting shelling and sniping campaign and taking UNPROFOR members hostage.

Mladic’s Defence attorney is due to continue cross-examining Keserovic on June 19.

Radoša Milutinović

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