At Radovan Karadzic’s Hague trial, a witness said that Bosnian Serb forces killed some of the 7,000 who died at Srebrenica in 1995 because Bosniak prisoners had rebelled.
Defence witness Jovan Nikolic testified at former Bosnian Serb leader Karadzic’s trial this week that the mass killings of Bosniaks from Srebrenica in the Kravica village near Bratunac in eastern Bosnia were provoked by an uprising by prisoners who killed a police officer.
Nikolic was the manager of the Kravica farming co-operative, where around 1,000 Bosniaks were killed July 13 and 14, 1995, in the first of several massacres of Srebrenica prisoners, according to Karadzic’s indictment.
The witness said that on July 14, 1995, he came across a “horrific scene”.
“Masked soldiers forced a dozen or 15 prisoners to lie down facing the ground and shot them in the back,” Nikolic recalled, saying that he did not recognise the killers.
Karadzic is charged with genocide against more than 7,000 Bosniaks from Srebrenica in the days following the capture of the eastern Bosnian enclave by the Bosnian Serb army.
He is also standing trial for taking part in the persecution of Bosniaks and Croats, terrorising civilians in Sarajevo and taking UN peacekeepers hostage.
During cross-examination, prosecutor Julian Nicholls reminded witness Nikolic that in 2001 he had stated that he “had seen genocide” in Kravica. Nikolic replied that he did not remember using that word, but that what he had seen “was horrific”.
When the prosecutor suggested that the murders of 1,000 men could not have been a spontaneous reaction, Nikolic said that “there weren’t 1,000 people there”.
“It was the uncontrolled response of people that are either suffering from a mental disorder or are outlaws or seeking revenge. No normal person could have done that,” he said.
Another defence witness at Karadzic’s trial this week, Aleksandar Tesic, former municipal secretary for national defence in Bratunac, said that in July 1995, while driving recruits to Zvornik by bus, he saw corpses in front of the warehouse in Kravica.
“When I passed by, many corpses were lying next to the co-operative building. Indeed, even when I think about it now, it was a real shock for me and those young guys,” he said.
“I think that there were between 200 and 300 corpses and that the pile was a metre and a half high, so as I was passing by, I got an impression that it was a stack of logs. When we approached them, I realised that those were people… We passed by them slowly. It was horrible,” Tesic continued.
Former Bosnian Serb assistant justice minister Slobodan Avlijas meanwhile testified that local crisis committees disregarded Karadzic’s instructions about the humane treatment of prisoners of war and the unconditional release of civilians.
The indictment alleges that Karadzic participated in a joint criminal enterprise, in collaboration with members of local crisis committees, with the aim of persecuting the non-Serb population.
Karadzic this week also called demographic expert Stevo Pasalic, who refuted the Hague prosecution’s demographic experts’ evidence about ethnic cleansing in Bosnia.
Pasalic said that they were “tendentious” and based on incorrect samples, adding that the experts failed to consider all the significant causes of changes in the composition of the population.
Karadzic’s trial will resume on Monday.
To the media in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the arrest of Radovan Karadzic, indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, ICTY, for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, was a true sensation, and one to be exploited day after day.
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.