News 19 Mar 15

Srebrenica Prisoners ‘Killed Amid Escape Attempt’

A defence witness at Bosnian Serb military leader Ratko Mladic’s trial said that a massacre of prisoners near Srebrenica in July 1995 happened because of an “attempted escape”.

Justice Report
BIRN
The Hague
Mladic in court.

Defence witness Dragoslav Trisic, a former Bosnian Serb Army officer in Bratunac, told the Hague Tribunal on Wednesday that shooting started in the nearby village of Kravica when Bosniak captives from Srebrenica attempted to flee.

“I only heard stories that there was a shooting in a warehouse in Kravica... that there was an incident, guards were attacked and that there was shooting and dead people,” Trisic told the UN-backed court in a written statement.

He said that a Bosniak seized a Serb police officer’s rifle and killed him, and then “other policemen then started shooting in order to prevent the escape”.

Bosnian Serb forces killed around 1,000 Bosniak prisoners in the warehouse in Kravica on July 13, 1995.

Mladic, the former commander of the Bosnian Serb Army, is charged with genocide against about 7,000 Bosniaks from Srebrenica, including those killed in the mass execution in Kravica.

During cross-examination, Trisic confirmed that that former Bosnian Serb Army security officer Momir Nikolic informed him and other officers on October 16, 1995 that he was conducting a “clearing up” operation.

Prosecutor Caroline Edgerton asked him whether by “clearing up”, Nikolic meant digging up “thousands of bodies of Bosniaks from Srebrenica, killed in Kravica and elsewhere, and their reburial at other sites”.

The witness replied: “It seems Captain Nikolic said that... I heard that from Captain Nikolic at the meeting.”

According to the indictment against Mladic, the bodies were moved to inaccessible sites in order to cover up the crimes.

In 2003, Nikolic pleaded guilty to participating in the Srebrenica crimes and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. He has been a key prosecution witness against other people charged with genocide and other crimes against Bosniaks from Srebrenica.

Mladic is also on trial for the persecution of Bosniaks and Croats across the country, which allegedly reached the scale of genocide in several municipalities, terrorising the population of Sarajevo and taking UN peacekeepers hostage.

The trial continues on March 19.

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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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