Bosnian Serb Military Police Chiefs Never Charged with Srebrenica Killings

Grbavci school in Orahovac, where Srebrenica captives were held before they were executed. Photo: ICTY archive.

Bosnian Serb Military Police Chiefs Never Charged with Srebrenica Killings

8. July 2020.15:02
8. July 2020.15:02
Despite survivors’ testimonies, official documents and Hague Tribunal verdicts stating that three Bosnian Serb military police units were involved in capturing Bosniaks from Srebrenica and escorting them to mass execution sites, their commanders have never been charged.

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Click to enlargeHague Tribunal witness testimony by Mevludin Oric. Source: ICTY.

His cousin Hariz Habibovic, who was known as Aid, was with him, along with hundreds of other Bosniak captives.

“Aid was saying: ‘They’ll kill us’. I said: ‘No, they won’t.’ As soon as I said ‘they won’t’, the gunfire began,” Oric recalled.

“I felt him grabbing my arm and I felt that he had been shot. I pulled loose from his hand. I threw myself on the ground face-down, he fell across my back, he shivered for a couple of seconds and died,” he continued.

“I was naked from my waist up and so was Hariz. His blood was pouring over me, so they believed I was dead too.”

After night fell, Oric managed to escape, leaving hundreds of corpses behind him.

According to judgments in trials at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague, around 1,000 Bosniaks were killed in Orahovac on July 14, 1995.

Orahovac was one of several mass execution sites during the Srebrenica genocide, in which court verdicts have established that more than 7,000 Bosniak men and boys were killed, and some 40,000 women, children and elderly people expelled.

Click to enlargeMap of Orahovac that was used at the Hague Tribunal.

Oric, who is now 50, remembers seeing members of the Bosnian Serb Amy’s military police force throughout his ordeal. He said that military policemen were involved in capturing and escorting him and other prisoners, guarding them when they were held at the school building, and in taking them to the execution site.

He told BIRN that the Bosnian Serb military policemen had pistols and white belts “like in [Yugoslav leader Josip Broz] Tito’s time”. He added that because he served in the Yugoslav People’s Army, “I know what the military police are”.

So far, 15 former members of the Bosnian Serb Army and police force have been sentenced by the Hague Tribunal to four life sentences and a total of 189 years in prison for genocide and other crimes in Srebrenica.

BIRN’s analysis of all the completed Hague Tribunal cases and evidence, including testimony from survivors and former military policemen, shows that members of the Bosnian Serb Army Zvornik Brigade’s military police force participated in operations in Srebrenica.

The analysis suggests that three Bosnian Serb military police commanders, Miomir Jasikovac, Mirko Jankovic and Zoran Malinic – as well as 40 other individuals – were directly involved with the process of capturing Bosniaks from Srebrenica, guarding them and transporting them to execution sites, and then hiding the crimes. But no charges have ever been filed against any of them.

The analysis suggests that three Bosnian Serb military police commanders, Miomir Jasikovac, Mirko Jankovic and Zoran Malinic, took part in the operations, and that another 40 individuals were directly involved with the process of capturing Bosniaks from Srebrenica, guarding them and transporting them to execution sites, and then hiding the crimes. But no charges have ever been filed against any of them.

‘Attempt to hide’ military police’s role

Grbavci school in Orahovac. Photo: ICTY archive.

One of the most extensive Hague judgments, convicting the former commander of the Zvornik Brigade, Vinko Pandurevic, and six other high-ranking Bosnian Serb Army and police officers, established that “members of the military police of the Zvornik Brigade guarded the captives in the school building in Grbavci and school building in Rocevic and transported the captives to the execution site in Orahovac”.

Orahovac was where Mevludin Oric escaped death but some 1,000 others were killed.

According to findings that American military expert Richard Butler presented to the Hague court, Miomir Jasikovac was the commander of the Zvornik Brigade’s military police in July 1995. This was confirmed by former military policemen who testified.

Butler found that before dawn on July 14, 1995 buses and trucks loaded with Bosniak captives began arriving in the area controlled by the Zvornik Brigade, and that the Zvornik Brigade’s Military Police Squad was already the detention facility in the school building in Grbavci along with commander Jasikovac.

Click to downloadRichard Butler’s expert report. Source: ICTY.

“According to the personnel roster for the Military Police Company of the Zvornik Brigade for 14 July 1995, there was a detachment of military police present in Orahovac. Also apparent is that some effort was made to conceal this after the fact,” Butler said.

Entries indicating that the military police were in Orahovac had been erased but remained visible in the roster, Butler explained.

The presence in Orahovac of military police under Jasikovac’s command was also confirmed by former members of his unit who testified at the Hague Tribunal.

Click to downloadZvornik Brigade Military Police Company unit attendence roster for July 1995. Source: ICTY.

Jasikovac, a Bosnian Serb Army colonel, has never been indicted for his role in what happened at Orahovac. A source from the Bosnian state prosecution who is familiar with war crimes investigations unofficially told BIRN that an investigation is being conducted into Jasikovac, who is now in Serbia.

BIRN obtained contact details for a Miomir Jasikovac in the Indjija area of Serbia and called several times to ask for a comment. The person who answered the phone said that Jasikovac was a colonel but he was not there at the moment.

‘They did nothing to protect us’

Military policemen from the Bosnian Serb Army’s Bratunac Brigade were also involved in the Srebrenica operation, BIRN’s analysis of the evidence shows.

Mevludin Oric was captured near Konjevic Polje on July 13, 1995, two days after leaving Srebrenica in his bid to escape through the woods. Right after he was seized and before he was escorted to Orahovac, where he survived the mass shooting, he saw military policemen who told him and the other captives to wait for buses to take them away.

“We got on the first bus. They put us on the back seats. Three policemen, military policemen from Republika Srpska, got on the bus,” Oric testified at the Hague Tribunal in 2003.

The bus drove to Bratunac and stopped in front of the Vuk Karadzic school, where Oric said soldiers and officers called people out by name and took them away. Three buses had come from Konjevic Polje, and two more were also parked in front of the school building, he added.

“The military police was there. They approved everything, those whose names they called out or those they took out or those who someone recognised, because some Serbs knew some of those people [Bosniak captives],” Oric told the Hague court.

Click to enlargeMap of Nova Kasaba used at the Hague Tribunal.

Click to enlargeMap of Nova Kasaba used at the Hague Tribunal.

“They took a lot of people out of the first two buses. As the lights in the bus were on, you could see that. I heard cries for help in the Vuk Karadzic school building. The military policemen saw and listened to all that. They did nothing to protect us, nothing at all,” he said.

The Bosnian state court sentenced Mladen Blagojevic, a military policeman with the Bratunac Brigade, to seven years in prison for shooting at the captives at the Vuk Karadzic school building through a window.

According to US military expert Butler’s report, senior sergeant first-class Mirko Jankovic was commander of the Bosnian Serb Army Bratunac Brigade’s military police squad. Some members of the squad confirmed that to the Hague Tribunal, also saying that Mile Petrovic was Jankovic’s deputy.

Information gathered by BIRN from two independent sources, which could not be officially confirmed, suggests that Jankovic has since died and that no charges have ever been filed against Petrovic.

Petrovic testified for defence teams at the Hague court, and denied having command responsibility for the military police squad.

The Bratunac Brigade military police duty officer’s log, containing handwritten records of the unit’s daily activities from the beginning of July 1995, suggests that on July 12 and 13, the squad was engaged in “security for the UNHCR [UN refugee workers] and the surrender of Muslim people from Srebrenica; part of the unit provided security for the wounded and sick at the health Centre in Bratunac and for the passage of a truck transporting refugees from the Srebrenica enclave”. The log also indicated that the Bratunac Brigade military police were involved in guarding Ratko Mladic.

Click to downloadBratunac Brigade military police daily log from July 1995. Source: ICTY

Click to downloadCover of the Bratunac Brigade military police’s daily log. Source: ICTY.

Momir Nikolic, the former assistant commander for security and intelligence affairs of the Bratunac Brigade, who the Hague Tribunal sentenced to 20 years for Srebrenica crimes, said during his testimony that military policemen from Bratunac were involved in separating Bosniak men from their families in Potocari near Srebrenica.

Some military policemen denied Nikolic’s allegations. The Bratunac Brigade military police duty officer’s log, which is included as evidence in almost all Srebrenica genocide verdicts, indicates that on the night of July 14-15, 1995 “the police were assigned to escorting Muslim refugees [Bosniak captives from Srebrenica]”.

Prisoner shot ‘in front of Ratko Mladic’

Besides the military police of the Zvornik and Bratunac Brigades, Butler also mentioned the 65th Protection Regiment of the Bosnian Serb Army’s Main Headquarters in his report. According to Butler’s findings, the 65th Protection Regiment’s military police battalion was commanded by major Zoran Malinic, who in July 1995 was deployed in Nova Kasaba, where more fleeing Bosniaks from Srebrenica were seized.

“This unit participated in gathering and detaining Muslim captives in the vicinity of Nova Kasaba,” Butler’s report indicates.

A protected witness at the Hague Tribunal, codenamed PW-016, said that he was captured in Nova Kasaba on July 13, 1995 and put in a shack for some time before being taken to a local football pitch.

“About 1,500 or 2,000 people were sitting in lines in the field surrounded by Serb soldiers. Soldiers surrounded the field, standing at a distance of less than one metre from each other,” PW-016 said, adding that Ratko Mladic arrived at the football pitch in Nova Kasaba later and told them they would be part of a prisoner exchange.

“At that moment a captive stood up,” PW-016 continued. “Serb soldiers approached him, kicked him and hit him with a rifle butt. After that a Serb soldier pulled his handgun out and killed him. He was then thrown among the others. Mladic was there and did not react.”

Click to downloadIntercept of Bosnian Serb Army security chief Ljubisa Beara’s phone conversation dated July 13, 1995. Source: ICTY.

Click to enlargeIntercept of Ljubisa Beara’s phone conversation dated July 13, 1995. Source: ICTY.

Testifying at the Tribunal, 65th Protection Regiment military police battalion chief Malinic said that, according to his findings, the captives were not abused, but had to sit on the ground and were given water and bread. He added that he heard that there was a murder at the football ground in Nova Kasaba “when a captive attacked a soldier who was a member of the battalion’s military police”.

“That was the only person who lost his life, but it did not happen on someone’s whim. It was self-defence,” Malinic insisted.

The Bosnian state prosecution has unofficially confirmed that an investigation into Malinic is underway but that he is not in the country. BIRN has not been able to obtain his contact details.

Mevludin Oric said that finding and prosecuting commanders who were responsible for what happened to the detained Bosniaks from Srebrenica, as well as the direct perpetrators who shot the captives, would bring at least some satisfaction to him.

“It would mean a lot to find the people who were responsible and bring them to justice, and not only to me, but also to those who were killed and all the survivors,” Oric said.

“Twenty-five years have passed. Fifty more will pass, but the number of people who were killed will never be forgotten.”

Srebrenica suspects evade trial in Serbia

The Bosnian state prosecution has filed indictments charging more six people with involvement in the Srebrenica genocide, but they have not been brought to trial because they live in Serbia.

Radoslav Jankovic, former intelligence officer with the Intelligence and Security Affairs Section of the Bosnian Serb Army’s main headquarters, is accused of helping and supporting the partial extermination of the Bosniak population from the Srebrenica area through his actions and failure to act in the period from July 11 to 19, 1995.

Jankovic is charged, among other things, with having ordering military policemen from the Bosnian Serb Army’s Bratunac Brigade to bring civilians from the area around Potocari for transportation, organising the preparation of lists of women, children and men who were loaded onto trucks and buses, and escorting three buses driving captives to Orahovac, knowing they would be killed.

Svetozar Kosoric, former chief of the Intelligence Section of the Bosnian Serb Army’s Drina Corps, is charged with committing genocide and deliberately helping the participants in a joint criminal enterprise.

The indictment alleges that Kosoric found locations for the temporary detention and execution of men aged between 16 and 60, and participated in organising the transportation of women and children who were expelled from the Srebrenica area to territory controlled by the Bosnian Army.

Tomislav Kovac, the former deputy minister and interior minister of Republika Srpska, is accused of being in control of police units that participated in capturing Bosniak men and boys, forcibly detaining them and then transporting them to mass executions at several locations including Kravica, Cerska, the Cultural Centre in Pilica, Branjevo Farm, Sandici and Konjevic Polje.

Milisav Gavric, the former deputy commander of the police station in Srebrenica, is charged with assisting in the forcible transportation of several thousand Bosniak civilians, participating in the separation of men from the others and then taking them away, away after which they went missing without trace.

Borislav Stojisic and Rajko Drakulic, who were both military policemen with the Bosnian Serb Army’s Vlasenic Brigade, are accused of stopping vehicles transporting Bosniak civilians from Srebrenica to Kladanj in the village of Luke and seizing their money and gold, and also forcibly separating men and young women from the other passengers.

    Haris Rovčanin