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Disgusted at Murders in Srebrenica

24. June 2013.00:00
A former intelligence officer with the Main Headquarters of the Republika Srpska Army, VRS, says, testifying in defence of Radovan Karadzic, that he first heard about the shooting of thousands of Bosniaks from Srebrenica, which happened in July 1995, at the end of that year or in 1996, although he was present in the enclave two days after its fall.

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Petar Salapura, former Chief of the Intelligence Directorate with the VRS Main Headquarters confirmed that, “by his profession”, he was superior to the Tenth Reconnaissance Squad with that Headquarters, whose members participated in the killing of Bosniaks on Branjevo military farm and in Pilica village, near Zvornik, on July 16, 1995.

However, he denied having mentioned the subject during his conversation with Squad Commander Milorad Pelemis in August 1995. As he said, he found out about the involvement of Drazen Erdemovic and other Squad members in the shooting from Pelemis in December 1995 or January 1996, when Erdemovic’s admission had already been leaked into the public domain.

“I told Pelemis that whoever participated in it or engaged those people should stand trial,” Salapura said.

Karadzic, former President of Republika Srpska and supreme Commander of its Army, is charged with genocide against about 7,000 Bosniak men from Srebrenica. Also, he is charged with persecuting Bosniaks and Croats, terrorising citizens in Sarajevo and taking UNPROFOR members hostage.

Salapura told the Tribunal that the crimes were committed by some members of the Squad, which was dismissed as a military unit at that moment. However, during the cross-examination the Hague Prosecution quoted a testimony by Franc Kos, who said that Commander Pelemis and VRS Main Headquarters Officer Dragimir Pecanac, Mladic’s close associate, ordered them to go to Branjevo. “I have never seen that before,” Salapura responded.

The witness said that he “had nothing to do” with the engagement of the Squad members in Srebrenica, because they participated in the attack on the enclave as per a request by Radislav Krstic, the then Commander of the VRS Drina Corps, with permission from Commander Ratko Mladic.

The Hague Tribunal sentenced Krstic, under a second instance verdict, to 35 years in prison for having assisted in and supported the commission of genocide in Srebrenica, while Mladic’s trial is still underway. The Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina sentenced Franc Kos to 35 years in prison for having participated in the murders on Branjevo.

Salapura said that, considering the scale of the operation of shooting of Bosniaks, most members of the VRS Main Headquarters must have known about it, but he said that nobody discussed it in his presence, because they were “disgusted” at it.

Salapura denied the Hague Prosecution’s allegation that he personally participated in concealing the crime by requesting the issuance of false identification cards for the members of the Tenth Reconnaissance Squad, who had participated in the crime.

However, Salapura was not able to explain why he signed a request for providing eight Squad members with false identity. “The goal was to bring those men to justice, but not just for anybody to take over that role or liquidate them, or clean the traces… That was the goal, not to let them evade justice,” he said.

Salapura said that he met Mladic in Srebrenico on July 13, 1995 in order to convey to him that he had found out that the Croatian Army would attack Kninska Krajina in August 1995 and continue its offensive in Republika Srpska.

Following Salapura’s testimony, Cedo Zelenovic testified in defence of Karadzic. He denied the responsibility of local Serb authorities for crimes against Bosniaks in the spring of 1992, attributing them to paramilitary formations, which, according to his testimony, could not be controlled by authorities.

Karadzic is due to continue presenting his defence on Tuesday, June 25.

Radoša Milutinović

This post is also available in: Bosnian