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Court Hears How Srebrenica Muslims Moved to Execution Sites

Witnesses at the trial of seven former high-ranking Bosnian Serb officers described how the transport of captured Bosniaks was organised after the fall of Srebrenica.
A former military policeman told the Hague tribunal this week how Bosniaks from Srebrenica were crammed into buses that took them away to be shot.

Mile Janjic told the court that he had been counting the men as they were “evacuated” from Potocari, the village were civilians had gathered to seek shelter from the United Nations base, on July 12 and 13, 1995.

He said members of the military police were escorting buses to Bratunac. The buses were only designed to hold 52 passengers, but police forced more people onto them.

“You had the seats and you had the isles. 15 to 20 people could fit there,” he said.

Recalling how the number of Bosniaks around the UN base increased over the two days, the witness explained, “When the number of buses increased there was a crowd and it became compounded by the process of separating the men from women.”

Janjic was testifying at the trial of seven high-ranking Bosnian Serb military and police officials - Ljubisa Beara, Vujadin Popovic, Ljubomir Borovcanin, Vinko Pandurevic and Drago Nikolic - who face genocide and war crimes charges, as well as Radivoj Miletic and Milan Gvero, who are accused of blocking aid and supplies to Srebrenica.

Another accused from the same indictment, Zdravko Tolimir, will be tried separately, because he was arrested only after the trial of the other seven accused had already started.

The prosecution alleges that the indicted officers planned and participated in the “separation” and the “forced movement of the population” at Srebrenica and that they planned and ordered the execution and burial of Bosniak men and boys in the enclave after it fell to Serb forces in July 1995.

At least 8,000 Bosniaks were killed in the massacre, the largest act of mass murder in Europe since World War Two.

The Bosnian Serb army’s records show that up to 9,000 people were transported away from Potocari by bus or truck on the two July days in 1995.

Large trucks carried up to 140 people, mostly women and children, said Janjic. He estimated that on July 12 between 10 and 15 busloads of Bosniaks left Potocari and that on the following day there were as many as three times this number.

According to Janjic, members of the special police, rather than of the military police, were in charge of separating the men from their families.

“I was present throughout the two days…The military police did not participate in separating able-bodied men from women,” he told the court.

Both the military police, including defendants Ljubisa Beara and Drago Nikolic, and the special police stand accused of removing the Muslim population from Srebrenica and planning the murder of all able-bodied men.

Janjic has already given evidence twice. In February, he testified at the trial at the Bosnian war crimes court in Sarajevo of four of his colleagues from the Bratunac brigade military police. His testimony is being used and re-examined as evidence in the current case against the military officers.

He also testified as a defence witness at the trial of his former commander, Vidoje Blagojevic, before the Hague tribunal. Blagojevic was sentenced to 15 years on appeal in May this year for his role in the Srebrenica massacre.

On November 21, another witness, Dragan Jovic, described how prisoners at the school in Rocevic were lying on the floor of the gym which was three quarters full of civilians and soldiers. According to Jovic, the prisoners were then transported in trucks to gravel pits in the area of Kozluk, about three kilometres away.

Jovic was a driver for the commander of the Bosnian Serb army’s second battalion and transported military police for the operation. He said he was sent to ask a Bosnian Serb who had recently lost his brother “whether he would like to come and execute the people from Srebrenica as revenge”, but the man did not agree to do so.

On arrival at Kozluk, the prisoners were unloaded and taken away and must have been shot, Jovic told the court. However, he said he “hadn’t seen or heard their execution”.

“It was none of [my] business, so I didn’t look,” he said.

Simon Jennings is an IWPR reporter in The Hague.

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