Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change
Drago Nikolic, 47, arrived in The Hague on March 17 to face some of the heaviest charges ever issued by the United Nations-run court. He is charged with one count of genocide, or alternatively complicity in genocide; three counts of crimes against humanity – extermination, persecution and murder – and one of violations of the laws or customs of war (murder).
The prosecutors allege Nikolic was a member of a joint criminal enterprise to expel Srebrenica’s women and children from the enclave, and execute those men captured on their flight from the town. The July 1995 events have become the first legally established case of genocide in Europe since the Second World War.
At the time Srebrenica fell, Nikolic was the chief of security of the large Zvornik brigade that participated in the operation to capture the enclave.
In this function he was in charge of the brigade’s military police, whose members are alleged to have actively participated in the logistics of the massacre – guarding the prisoners, blindfolding them and transporting them to execution sites.
He is alleged to have been fully aware of what was in store for these prisoners, and even to have been personally present at some of the execution sites.
Nikolic travelled to the Netherlands from Serbia, where he has been residing in recent years. The Belgrade government characterised his decision to surrender as a “moral” one, the media reported.
He is the ninth resident of Serbia to surrender to the Hague tribunal in the past six months.
At his initial appearance before the Hague tribunal on March 18, former Bosnian Serb paramilitary Gojko Jankovic took advantage of his right to a 30-day postponement before entering a plea.
Jankovic, who surrendered to the Bosnian Serb authorities on March 13 and was transferred to The Hague the following day, told judges he had not yet gone through his indictment in detail.
He faces 14 counts of crimes against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of war for the rape and torture of non-Serb women in Foca, where prosecutors allege he was one of the main paramilitary leaders and also a sub-commander of the military police.
Jankovic is charged partly on grounds of command responsibility – that is, for crimes committed by his subordinates which he failed to prevent or punish – and also for his own personal involvement in the crimes in question.
Former Bosnian Serb interior minister Mico Stanisic made his first appearance before tribunal judges this week to plead not guilty to ten counts of crimes against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of war.
The charges relate to his alleged role in a campaign of mass murder, deportation and detention of non-Serb civilians in Bosnia in 1992.
Stanisic, appearing without defence counsel, explained that he wished to represent himself in court. He did not say whether this decision applied only to the plea hearing, or whether he planned to continue mounting his own defence throughout the trial.
Prosecutors claim that at the time the alleged crimes took place in 1992, Stanisic was responsible for the police in Serb-dominated parts of the country.
These police forces, they claim, were involved in disarming and attacking the Bosnian Croat and Muslim civilian populations in order to drive them out of areas intended to be part of a future Serb state.
The indictment against Stanisic also details more than 60 detention facilities where non-Serb people were beaten, raped and murdered.
Stanisic surrendered to the Hague tribunal on March 11.
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