The fifth witness of the prosecution in the trial of former Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic recalled how he survived mass execution on a military farm Branjevo in 1995.
|Eelco Coster, former member of the UN Dutch Battalion|
Before its summer recess, the trial of Ratko Mladic, former general of the Repubika Srpska Army, continued on Thursday and Friday with the testimonies of the protected witness and the former member of the Dutch Battalion Eelco Koster.
Testifying on Thursday, the protected witness, under the pseudonym of RM-255, said that on July 13, 1995, Bosnian Serb soldiers separated him from his family in Potocari and took him to a school building in Bratunac where he was detained for two days.
On July 16, the Bosnian Serb soldiers drove imprisoned Bosniaks by bus to a nearby Branjevo military farm. According to the witness, the detainees were ordered to line up, after which they were shot with automatic guns. RM – 255 was not shot, but he fell down between dead bodies and stayed there until the shooting was over.
The witness recalled that later he managed to untie his hands and ran away, along with four other survivors. After they wandered for a few days, he surrendered to the military police of the Serb Army, which transferred him to Batkovic detention camp, near Bijeljina. He was released five months later.
According to the ICTY indictment, Bosnian Serbian forces commanded by Mladic, killed more than 1,000 Bosniaks on Branjevo farm on July 16, 1995.
A former member of the Dutch Battalion of the UN Protection Forces, Eelco Koster, testified on Friday about his attempts to prevent the separation of men from women and children in the Potocari refugee camp, near the town of Srebrenica in July 1995.
Koster said that he spoke with Mladic on July 12 and tried to convince him to allow UNPROFOR to handle the evacuation of Bosniak refugees, but that Mladic refused, telling the witness “if you confront me, you will be in trouble”.
“I managed to save one 16 year old boy who was taken from his mother. His mother was crying. I yelled at the Bosnian Serbs solders and they brought him back with the refugees,” added Koster.
On July 15, 1995, the Bosnian Serb army separated Bosniak refugees stationed in Potocari into a group for men and one for women and children. Following the separation, more than 7000 people were executed in the areas around Srebrenica by the Bosnian Serb forces.
Koster also recalled that he saw nine dead bodies on July 13 in Potocari.
“I saw nine corpses, lying in the line. I saw that they had wounds on their backs from automatic guns,” he explained.
However, the witness could not determine whether the killed men were Bosniaks or Bosnian Serbs.
During the cross examination, Koster confirmed that he was informed that “before the fall of Srebrenica” the Bosniaks fighters were taking over the checkpoints of the UN, where they fired on Bosnian Serb forces.
Mladic, who was arrested in May last year, has pleaded not guilty to charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and violations of the laws and customs of war during the Bosnian conflict between 1992 and 1995.
The trial will resume on August 21.
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.