Tribunal Update 186 last Week in The Hague (July 24-29, 2000)


Tribunal Update 186 last Week in The Hague (July 24-29, 2000)

Saturday, 29 July, 2000

The final week of the prosecution case opened with the testimony of British army officer, Major-General, Richard Dannett. As a commander of both UN and NATO peacekeeping forces, Dannett spent a number of years in Bosnia beginning in 1994. Called as an expert witness, he presented the court with a report outlining the individual and command responsibility of General Krstic in his capacity as former commander of the Drina Corps of the Republika Srpska Army, RSA.

The report concerned the general methods of military command and control within the RSA and the Drina Corps; the particular roles and responsibilities of corps commanders and chiefs-of-staff within the RSA and the Drina Corps; and the military headquarter's chains of command and control for operational and logistical planning in operations relevant to this case.

The British officer described a "well-disciplined and organised army, with an efficient command and control structure". The RSA was well armed and technically equipped, he said, but sometimes gave the impression of being a "tired army" as it lacked manpower. Assessing the military career of General Krstic and the orders that he issued, first as chief-of-staff and subsequently as commander of the Drina corps, he concluded that the accused was a "competent and experienced staff officer". For his part, Krstic seemed flattered by such compliments from a British soldier of similarly exalted rank.

Major General Dannett gave a detailed analysis of the planning and execution of Operation "Krivaja '95", as the attack on the UN safe haven was code-named by the RSA. He identified four operations, conducted simultaneously, after the enclave fell on 11th July 1995.

These were the detention of men and the deportation of women and children from the UN base in Potocari; the ambush of a column of men from the 28th Division of the B-H Army, who with a large number of civilians were trying to escape through forests and mountains to Tuzla; an attack on the neighbouring UN safe haven of Zepa, and finally, what he called the "dark operation".

That "dark operation" was the execution of those Muslim men detained in Potocari and on route to Tuzla. It was, according to Dannett, an operation "of significant magnitude, carried out over a short period of time". A large number of trucks and buses had to be requisitioned, with sufficient quantities of oil and other fuel. Then "willing executioners" - soldiers or paramilitaries - had to be found, along with machines to dig mass graves and bury the dead. Such "a dark and complex" operation could only be realised with the high-level involvement of the command and control structures of the RSA and Drina Corps, the witness concluded.

At the height of the "dark operation", on 13th July, General Krstic was promoted from chief-of -staff to commander of the Drina Corps. The judges wanted to know if the defendant's involvement could have been limited to "the military part of the operation," namely the frontline fighting and the attack on Zepa. Might he have left everything else to "follow its own course, " they asked.

Dannet was categorical. Commanding is a "personal matter" he said, in which the commander must take responsibility for everything which happens in his zone of responsibility. A "dark operation" could not have been mounted without the knowledge and participation of General Krstic, he said. Combat reports confiscated by investigators from RSA headquarters and radio communications intercepted by the B-H police and army both clearly indicate "a proper functioning of the chain of operational command and control". Moreover, the corps command was well-informed of events in its zone of responsibility.

After detailing the plight of the dead and missing, then piecing together all aspects of the "dark operation" using military-intelligence analyses, the prosecution turned its attention to the living, to the consequences of July 1995 for the survivors - mainly women and children.

Protected witness DD, aged 46, formerly from a village near Srebrenica, gave a harrowing testimony. Pausing to weep, she described watching RSA soldiers take her 14-year-old son away from her at the UN base at Potocari, as her husband and older son tried to escape through the forests. She has never seen them again. At the end of the testimony, she asked the court's permission to ask the defendant "if he knows what happened to my husband and sons." Declining permission, Presiding judge, Almiro Rodrigues, said he was "convinced that all who have heard her testimony will do their utmost to help her". General Krstic held his head in his hands, appearing shaken by the account.

Next Jasna Zecevic, director of the Tuzla NGO "Viva Zena" (Woman Alive), which provides psycho-social support for victims of the war and Teufika Ibrahimefendic, a psychologist specialising in post-traumatic stress syndrome, described the suffering of the survivors. Left without husbands, sons, fathers or any other male family members, women and children suffer nightmares, nerves, loss of concentration, excessive passivity, pessimism, feelings of persecution, of having no value and of a life suspended in uncertainty as they wait to learn what happened to their men.

Women from Srebrenica also suffer feelings of guilt for failing to predict what would happen, for not following their husbands or saving their children, for their struggles to survive. Most traumatic of all, said Ibrahimefendic, is the knowledge that their loved ones were not the victims of some huge natural catastrophe, but of other human beings.

As their husbands are listed as missing, the women are officially neither widowed or divorced, said Jasna Zecevic. Their children bear the burden of tragedy and are often incapable of fitting into normal life. "Is there any salvation for that generation?" asked Judge Fouad Riad. "Salvation?" Jasna Zecevic thought for a second. "I would rather say that this generation will survive," she replied.

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