News 24 Sep 14

Mladic Witness: Muslims Left Bosnia’s Rogatica ‘Voluntarily’

Thousands of Bosniaks were not driven out of the Rogatica area by Serbs in spring 1992 but actually chose to leave, a former local Serb politician told the war crimes trial of Ratko Mladic.

Denis Dzidic
BIRN
Sarajevo
Milorad Sokolovic testifying in court.

Testifying in former Bosnian Serb military chief Mladic’s defence at the Hague Tribunal on Tuesday, Milorad Sokolovic, who was the president of the executive board of the Rogatica Municipal Assembly when the war started, said that Bosniaks were not coerced to flee the area.

He said that about 6,000 left Rogatica for Zepa and Sarajevo in April 1992 and that this halved the number of Muslims in the municipality.

“After the beginning of the conflicts, the remaining Muslims decided to leave Rogatica and they departed right away,” Sokolovic said.

“After their departure, the number of Muslims in Rogatica was very small,” he added.

Mladic is charged with having participated in the persecution of Bosniaks and Croats from 15 municipalities under the control of Serb forces, including Rogatica.

Among the incidents listed in the indictment are the murders of several prisoners in detention camps in Rasadnik and the Veljko Vlahovic school building in Rogatica in 1992.

When asked whether the Executive Board of Rogatica municipality dealt with the issue of prisoners in those detention camps, Sokolovic said no.

“I do not know if those facilities were organised by the [Bosnian Serb] police or the army, but the civil authorities certainly did not do it. As far as I know, the idea was to put Muslims, Serbs and a few Croats who still lived there, in those facilities at a time of war,” Sokolovic said.

He also said he had no knowledge of the mistreatment of prisoners held at the school.

“You should ask the army or police about it and examine those who have experience,” he said.

Mladic is also on trial for genocide in Srebrenica and seven other municipalities, terrorising the population of Sarajevo and taking UN peacekeepers hostage.

The trial continues.

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Background

Srebrenica: Genocide Reconstructed

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.

War in Bosnia

Key dates and events in the Bosnia war.

Ratko Mladic: The Force Behind the Srebrenica Killings

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.

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