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Plan for Detention of Srebrenica Residents

27. November 2013.00:00
Testifying in defence of Radovan Karadzic, former Republika Srpska Army, VRS, officer Milenko Todorovic says that there was a plan to transfer more than a thousand Bosniak captives from Srebrenica to Bijeljina in July 1995.

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Todorovic, former Security Officer of the Eastern Bosnia Corps of VRS, who was responsible for “the collection centre” for prisoners of war in Batkovic, near Bijeljina, said that, one day after the fall of Srebrenica Zdravko Tolimir of the VRS Main Headquarters announced to him, in writing, that “between 1,000 and 1,200” Bosniak captives from Srebrenica would be transferred to Batkovic.

The Hague Tribunal sentenced Tolimir, under a first instance verdict, to life imprisonment for having participated in genocide in Srebrenica and Zepa.

However, the captives did not arrive in the next “two or three days”. Todorovic said that, when he asked him over the phone when the Srebrenica Bosniaks would be transferred to Batkovic, Tolimir responded by saying that “the plan has been given up”.

Karadzic, former President of Republika Srpska, is charged with genocide against about 7,000 Bosniaks from Srebrenica in the days that followed the occupation of the enclave by VRS on July 11, 1995. He is also on trial for the persecution of Bosniaks and Croats throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina, which reached the scale of genocide in seven municipalities, sniping and shelling of Sarajevo and taking UNPROFOR members hostage.

According to the charges, instead of being transferred to Batkovic detention camp, the male captives from Srebrenica were transferred to the Zvornik surroundings, where VRS members shot them.

Milorad Sajic, former Commander of the Territorial Defence in Banja Luka and member of the Crisis Committee of the Krajina Autonomous Region, testified in defence of Karadzic at this hearing. He said that the Crisis Committee could not issue orders to Momir Talic, Commander of the First Krajina Corps of VRS, or Stojan Zupljanin, Chief of regional police.

Talic was on trial at The Hague for genocide charges, but he died before the end of his trial. Zupljanin was sentenced, under a first instance verdict, to 22 years in prison for having committed persecutions and other crimes against non-Serbs.

According to the witness’ testimony, during Crisis Committee sessions officials from Prijedor spoke about Omarska, Keraterm and Trnopolje detention camps, but they only discussed the lack of food and clothes.

During the cross-examination Prosecutor Catrina Gustaffson presented Sajic with the fact that, as per his order, “a disarming” operation was conducted in Bosniak and Croat villages and that a large number of civilians were captured in the operation. Sajic responded by saying that he ordered the confiscation of “illegal” weapons from all civilians, irrespective of their ethnic affiliation.

Opting out by saying that he did not know “how it was done” in individual municipalities, he said that “most pieces of arms were certainly confiscated from Muslims and Croats”.
However, he denied that “cleaning of territories from non-Serb population” was the Serb leadership’s strategic goal.
Sajic said that the then Mayor of Banja Luka Predrag Radic told him that, during his visit to Omarska detainees greeted him by the three-finger salute and songs about Greater Serbia. The witness suggested that they did this voluntarily and that nobody could force them to do it.

The trial of Karadzic is due to continue on Thursday, November 28.

Radoša Milutinović

This post is also available in: Bosnian