Courtside

Karadzic Had "Detailed Information" on Srebrenica

Witness analyses Bosnian Serb army operations and plight of Bosniak prisoners.
  • Richard Butler, prosecution witness in the ICTY courtroom. (Photo: ICTY)

The trial of former Bosnian Serb president Radovan Karadzic continued this week with testimony from an American military analyst about events in eastern Bosnia in 1995. 

Richard Butler, an intelligence officer for the United States National Security Agency, worked as a military intelligence analyst for the Office of the Prosecutor, OTP, at the Hague tribunal from April 1997 until November 2003.

Butler was particularly involved in the Srebrenica investigation and wrote two expert reports for the OTP relating to the military structure, organisation and functioning of the Bosnian Serb Army, VRS.

He also interviewed a number of witnesses and analysed intercepted conversations between various Republika Srpska, RS, political and military leaders during the Bosnian war.

Karadzic is accused of planning and overseeing the murder of some 8,000 Bosniak men and boys at Srebrenica in July 1995. The indictment against him includes genocide, extermination, murder, persecutions and other crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Butler has already appeared as a prosecution witness at several trials at the Hague tribunal.

This week, he told the court that Karadzic had been well informed about all VRS operations in eastern Bosnia in 1995. He pointed out that in 1992 there were far more Bosniaks than Serbs in that area, which was under the jurisdiction of the Drina corps of the VRS.

He also said that one of the main goals of the Bosnian Serb political and military leadership was to cleanse eastern Bosnia of Muslim civilians. To this end, Karadzic issued two documents – Directive 4 in autumn 1992 and Directive 7 in March 1995 – which were given to the VRS. Butler explained said the Bosnian Serb leadership issued nine directives during the war. Directives 4 and 7 were designed to create an intolerable situation of total insecurity, with no hope of survival, for inhabitants of the Srebrenica and Zepa enclaves.

Butler told the court that Karadzic issued Directive 7 on March 8, 1995.

“The problem with this directive was that in addition to legitimate military targets, it introduced civilians as a target of military operations,” he said, adding that by doing this the VRS “had crossed the line”.

As a result of Directive 7, he said, VRS launched operation “Krivaja 95” in July 1995. The aim of this operation was to “set Srebrenica and Zepa enclaves apart, and therefore improve VRS’s tactical position for elimination of those enclaves”.

The witness said the then VRS chief General Ratko Mladic personally approved this operation. Mladic is currently awaiting trial for genocide and other war crimes at the Hague tribunal.

Prosecutors presented in court an intercepted conversation from July 6, 1995 between Karadzic and the head of the Drina corps at the time, General Milenko Zivanovic.

Zivanovic was appointed commander of the Drina corps when it was formed on November 1, 1992, and served in the post until 13 July, 1995.

Commenting on this conversation, Butler said that it showed that Karadzic was fully informed about events in the Srebrenica area at that time.

“This reflects the fact that President Karadzic, as [VRS] supreme commander, was involved in everything that was going on,” Butler said.

He added that Karadzic “did not only have detailed information on what was happening in Srebrenica, but in other areas as well”.

Butler then told the court that a July 13, 1995 report from the RS interior ministry or MUP showed that “the process [of taking Muslim men prisoner after the fall of Srebrenica] started in the evening of July 12”.

He explained that the report indicated that “at first there were hundreds [of prisoners] and during the day thousands were detained”.

According to the documents Butler examined, as the day went on, the numbers of captured Muslims were “increasing dramatically” in the Nova Kasaba, Konjevic Polje and Sandici areas, posing a major logistical problem for the VRS.

The witness said that on July 13, around 1,000 prisoners were taken to the Kravica warehouse and executed the same day. That same night, around 2,000 Muslim men were brought to Bratunac, with more on their way.

“They outnumbered the VRS soldiers,” Butler remarked, adding that during the night, thousands of detainees were brought to Nova Kasaba and Konjevic Polje.

The witness described the situation in the area where the VRS Zvornik brigade had jurisdiction, saying that the army “had to solve a problem of bringing enough people to kill all the prisoners”.

Butler said that captured Bosniak men and boys were also killed in Pilica and Branjevo farm, and that the VRS was struggling to provide logistic support to remove the bodies.

He pointed at a document from the Zvornik brigade’s engineering unit, which indicated the kind of equipment needed for that task.

“This shows that they [VRS units] were acting under the military control and were involved in the burials,” Butler said.

Asked by Judge O-Gon Kwon whether the murders were ordered through the VRS chain of command, Butler responded, “They had to be.”

He added that it would have been clear to all VRS units that “these orders had to be executed, even though they were illegal”.

Dzenana Halimovic is an RFE and IWPR reporter in Sarajevo.


Also in this issue

Documentaries stir debate among young people in Bosnia and Serbia.
Witness analyses Bosnian Serb army operations and plight of Bosniak prisoners.
Tribunal now considering third case of its kind.