At the trial of the former Bosnian Serb army chief, Ratko Mladic, his defence argued that the attack of the Serb forces on the village of Kozarac in 1992 was a was a consequence of a Bosniak ambush.
The suggestion was made by Mladic’s lawyers during the cross examination of the prosecution witness Osman Selak who dismissed this claim, sticking to his earlier assertion that 1,200 Bosniaks had been killed in the attack.
Testifying a day earlier, Selak, the former commander of the rear base of the Army of Republika Srpska in Banja Luka, described the meeting on May 27, 1992, when subordinate officers informed the commander of the First Krajina Corps Momir Talic that 800 Muslims were killed and 1,200 captured in Kozarac and the area.
According to Selak, General Talic issued an order that the headquarters of the Bosnian Serb army be informed that the number of victims was ten times smaller, aware that his units violated the international law of war.
Mladic, former commander of the Army of Republika Srpska, is charged with the expulsion of Bosniak and Croat civilians across Bosnia and Herzegovina, which, according to the indictment, in seven Bosnian municipalities, reached a level of genocide. He is also charged with genocide in Srebrenica and terrorizing Sarajevo citizens.
Asked by the defence whether he knew that an army column passed through Kozarac in late May 1992 and what was its assignment, Selak replied negatively, adding that he knew that “a battalion from Belgrade went in that direction.”
Asked whether he knew that a driver from the column was killed, the witness replied: “I did not know. That is how political parties were trying to justify the killing of 1,200 people”.
The defence lawyer, Branko Lukic, asked how many wounded people there were in Kozarac, suggesting that, having in mind the number of killed that the witness stated, there had to be a “couple of thousand” wounded.
“I believe there was, because people from the village were taken to the camps near Pijedor and many of them died from the wounds there,” said Selak.
Mladic’s lawyer asked the witness about the “resistance movement” in Banja Luka, whose member he was after he retired in July 1992. Selak confirmed this, emphasising that the resistance never carried out any action against the Serb authorities.
He added that during the war “300 people were killed and thrown into the Vrbas river” and that “Bosniaks and Croats were ordered to leave.”
In the course of the trial, presiding judge Alphons Orie had to warn defendant Mladic on several occasions not to talk loudly during consultations with his lawyers and not to comment loudly during the ongoing testimony.
The trial is set to resume on September 28.
In July 1995 Srebrenica was shelled and occupied by the Army of Republic of Srpska,VRS, despite being declared a protected area by the United Nations. More than 7,000 people were killed, the victims of genocide.
Key dates and events in the Bosnia war.
The Bosnian Serb commander’s role in the genocide committed in Srebrenica is described in detail in many indictments and verdicts pronounced before local and international judicial institutions.