General Krstic Trial

Tribunal Update 181 Last Week in The Hague (June 19-23, 2000)

General Krstic Trial

Tribunal Update 181 Last Week in The Hague (June 19-23, 2000)

Friday, 23 June, 2000

The prosecution continued their case, calling seven former members of the Bosnian army surveillance service and the Centre for Public Security in Tuzla. The witnesses had, they said, intercepted radio communications between units of the Bosnian Serb army active in the Srebrenica area at the time of the massacre.


The prosecution also presented three thick volumes containing written transcripts of radio transmissions recorded at the time. The original tape recordings of the intercepts no longer exist, the witnesses explained, due to a shortage of tape cassettes. Once each intercept was written down the tape was recycled, they said.


The prosecution presented the listeners' handwritten notebooks along with the typed transcripts as evidence of authenticity. Due to the large quantity of material, the defence has been asked to wait until all the prosecution witnesses have testified before declaring on whether they believe the transcripts admissible.


The prosecution read out dozens of examples of radio conversations between officers in the Bosnian Serb army concerning the Srebrenica operation. In one conversation, the duty officer for "Zlatar" -the codename for the Drina corps headquarters - said to an unidentified party, "Let me put you through to General Krstic. He is in charge of this offensive".


The prosecution claim Krstic, as commander of the Drina corps, was responsible for the planning and execution of the Srebrenica operation.


The Bosnian Electronic Reconnaissance and Anti-Electronic Warfare Unit, despite its grand title, was mostly made up of radio-amateurs and former Yugoslav Peoples Army soldiers with some signals training. The unit had limited and largely amateur radio equipment at its disposal, which it adapted for reconnaissance purposes.


Some officers in the Bosnian Serb army, however, used open lines or failed to sufficiently protect their communications, thereby facilitating the work of the unit. Several transcripts recorded conversations requesting dozens of trucks and buses for the transportation of "Turks" - a pejorative term for captured Bosnian Muslims - at Konjevic Polje, Kasaba and other locations around Srebrenica, now known to be the sites of executions. Other intercepts recorded requests for bulldozers and heavy digging equipment.


Krstic was a participant in some of the intercepted communications but one conversation in particular, between Krstic and Colonel Ljuba Beara, is of great importance to the prosecution. After protected witness Z confirmed he had personally recorded the conversation and entered it into his notebook, the prosecutor read out the entire transcript.


Beara begs Krstic to send him 15 to 30 men urgently to do an unspecified job. He complains the men he was expecting on 13 July have not arrived. Krstic replies he has no men spare and tells the colonel to ask for troops from other units or from the police.


Beara, however, replies that he has already asked but that nobody would send him men, adding that the police do not want "to do that". He complains he has already lost three days and is now in a difficult situation. Krstic warns that the line is not secured. Beara replies he is aware of that but there is no alternative because he needs men urgently.


Krstic complains, "You have done everything to me" before adding, "Fuck it, now I am going to be guilty of this." Beara then said, "Krle [Krstic], I am telling you the most important thing, I have got 3,500 parcels still to distribute and I haven't got any other solution."


Krstic replies, "I will see what I can do."


In his opening statement, the prosecutor claimed the term "parcel" was code for a Muslim prisoner and "distribute" code for murder. Beara had, the prosecutor said, helped in deciphering this code due to a slip-up he made during one intercepted conversation where he said, "I have got major problems with men...I mean, parcels."


The prosecution has no evidence Krstic actually dispatched the 15 to 30 requested troops to Beara for the "distribution" duties mentioned. Their task, however, is to prove beyond reasonable doubt Krstic's responsibility as a senior officer for crimes committed by troops under his command - the so-called "command responsibility" outlined in Article 7 (3) of the Tribunal Statutes. The prosecution contest Krstic as a commanding officer had a duty to prevent his subordinate, Colonel Beara, from committing a crime, which he know the officer intended to commit - a duty he failed to perform.


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