Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Bosnian Serb Officials Linked to Srebrenica Killings

Witness says defendants were present at site where hundreds of Srebrenica Muslims were held before being murdered.
By Rebekah Heil
A prosecution witness testifying this week in the trial of seven Bosnian Serb officials indicted for crimes at Srebrenica said he saw two of the accused, Ljubisa Beara and Drago Nikolic, at the site where some 1,000 Muslim prisoners were executed in July 1995.

Marko Milosevic, former deputy commander of the 6th Battalion of the Bosnian Serb Army, VRS, Zvornik Brigade, also confirmed key points from the testimony given by his superior commander Ostoja Stanisic in the same trial last month, in which he also provided a link between Beara and prisoners held at the school in Petkovci.

But during cross-examination of Milosevic, Beara’s defence lawyers suggested that he and Ostojic “concocted” the story about Beara in order to hide their own responsibility for the crime that ensued.

Beara and Nikolic are on trial for the July 1995 massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica, together with five other Bosnian military and police officials - Vujadin Popovic, Ljubomir Borovcanin, Radivoje Miletic, Milan Gvero and Vinko Pandurevic.

Milosevic, whose testimony this week was rather short, told the court he was on duty when he received a phone call from the Zvornik brigade in the morning of July 14, 1995.

“Between 10 and 12, the brigade called…and the duty operations officer told me that in two hours’ time, some Muslims would be taken to the Petkovci elementary school,” he told judges.

He said that as soon as Stanisic returned from the field, he gave him the message. According to the witness, Stanisic told him to relay the message to soldiers on duty near the school in Petkovci around four or five o’clock in the afternoon.

“He told me to go to Mr Beara, who was near the school, and tell him to report to the command. That is exactly what I did,” said Milosevic.

The witness testified that he had never seen Beara before that date, but came across Nikolic who pointed out him out.

Milosevic said his encounter with Nikolic and Beara - which took place some 70-80 metres from the school - lasted only a few minutes. According to him, Beara said nothing when he heard the message and the witness went back to his post.

He testified that military police were present near the school, along with several buses parked nearby, but that he saw no prisoners.

Milosevic said he spent the rest of the night at the battalion command. He was sent to the battalion’s defence sector the next morning, but was wounded and taken to hospital on the following day, July 16.

During cross examination, Beara’s defence suggested Milosevic, like Stanisic, was trying to blame Beara and Nikolic in order to hide his own responsibility for failing to guard the Muslim prisoners who were later executed.

The defence lawyers also put it to the witness that he and Stanisic used a two-and-a-half-hour car journey they’d taken in March 2002 to “concoct” the story about delivering the message to Beara.

At that time, Milosevic was on his way to Banja Luka to give his first interview to the Hague tribunal’s investigators.

“I claim with full responsibility that what you are saying is completely false,” responded Milosevic, reiterating this several times throughout the questioning.

Milosevic also said he could not remember if he ever told Stanisic that he would be testifying at the tribunal.

After Milosevic, the prosecution called Mitar Lazarevic, former assistant to the commander of the 2nd Battalion of the VRS Zvornik Brigade Srecko Acimovic, who testified last week.

Lazarevic confirmed some important details in Acimovic’s testimony about refusing orders to send a group of soldiers to the village of Rocevic to assist with the execution of Muslim prisoners captured after the fall of Srebrenica.

He said that they received a telegramme saying that “a group of men from our battalion should be allocated for the execution of the people in Rocevic”.

He added that “the commander [Acimovic] refused to carry out the order, and we all supported him”.

The defence countered Lazarevic’s testimony by showing that he had learned details of events at Rocevic from his commander. They also tried to establish that he wasn’t even in the village on July 14 or 15.

The trial continues next week.

More IWPR's Global Voices

Amid Pandemic, Cuban State Curbs Its Entrepreneurs
The crackdown on street vendors selling basic goods means people have to join long queues in government-run shops.
Cuba's Elderly Work Through the Pandemic
Cuba Slow to Act Over Domestic Abuse