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

Krstic Accuses Mladic of Srebrenica Attack

General Radislav Krstic, former commander of the Drina Corps of the Bosnian Serb army, VRS, last week accused his commander General Ratko Mladic of responsibility for the attack on the Srebrenica UN "safe haven" in July 1995.

The general made the charge in the first week of his testimony in the Srebrenica genocide trial. The allegation was consistent with claims he had made in a two-day interview with tribunal investigators in February this year.

In a video of that interview, presented to the court by the prosecution at the end of its

case, Krstic admitted that "grave crimes" were committed in Srebrenica, but said they were the responsibility of Mladic, the VRS commander and his "Knin" clan of officers belonging to the former Yugoslav National Army (JNA). (See Tribunal Update No. 187).

Krstic said Operation "Krivaja '95" - the code-name for the VRS attack on Srebrenica - was the result of constant "subversive-terrorist actions" by the 28th Division of the Bosnian army, which was stationed in the enclave and commanded by General Naser Oric.

Krstic's defence counsel, Belgrade lawyer Nenad Petrusic, presented several dozen combat orders and reports from the 28th Division, the 2nd Corps and the headquarters of the Bosnian army outlining military activities in the enclave and beyond its borders.

The defence was trying to show with the confidential military reports that Bosnian army activity in the enclave intensified before and during its "spring offensive" in 1995, when it tried to break the siege of Sarajevo and liberate Bosnia.

The defence claimed that as part of the offensive, units of the 28th Division were to "increase subversive-terrorist actions" in Srebrenica and beyond, to tie up the Drina Corps of the VRS in that area and prevent their redeployment at the Sarajevo front.

The VRS command ordered the "Krivaja '95" operation in response to the activities of the 28th Division and attacks by Bosnian army 2nd Corps forces against Serb forces around the enclave.

Krstic said its original aim was to cut the link between Srebrenica and Zepa, and to shrink the enclaves to the borders of the so-called protected areas.

The general said the operation began at dawn on July 6. Early on, he said, the units of the Drina Corps encountered unexpectedly strong resistance from the 28th Division of the Bosnian army, but the VRS achieved its objective after five days of fighting.

On the afternoon of July 10, General Mladic turned up at General Krstic's command post. After brigade commanders reported to him on the success of the operation, Krstic quotes Mladic

then saying that "the task was not carried out" and ordered them to "continue the attack and enter Srebrenica."

From that moment, Krstic said, Mladic "directly took over command and issued orders to all brigade commanders."

After that Mladic ordered the forces of the Drina Corps from Srebrenica to Zepa, putting Krstic in command of this operation. Krstic said Mladic told him he would personally command the units that had arrived in the Srebrenica area. These included the 10th sabotage unit, a battalion of the military police and an interior ministry (MUP) unit.

According to the testimony of survivors from the Srebrenica execution sites, as well as other prosecution evidence, it was these units that took part in the mass executions of detained Muslim men.

In his testimony last week, General Krstic made several "corrections" to the interview that he gave investigators in February.

In February, he had claimed he was not at the UN base in Potocari, from where some 30,000 women and children were deported on July 12 and 13, 1995, after the men had been separated from them.

Several prosecution witnesses - officers of the Dutch Battalion of UNPROFOR - said they had seen Krstic in Potocari on July 11 and 12, in a group of Serb officers with Mladic. A

video from Krstic's interview with Republika Srpska Television, that the prosecution maintains was given at Potocari, was also shown.

In his sworn testimony, Krstic said that on July 12 - en route from Bratunac to the new position where he was to command the operation against Zepa - he was stopped at a checkpoint in Potocari, where soldiers told him they had been ordered not to let anyone through until General Mladic had passed.

Krstic said that while waiting, he was spotted by a television crew and gave them a short interview, in which he said, "We shall go all the way..." Prosecution witnesses saw the remark as indicating a determination to eliminate the enclave completely.

In his testimony, Krstic also altered the date on which he took command of the operation against Zepa. In February, he had said it was on the evening of July 11. But after the court was shown a video of him taking part in negotiations with representatives of UNPROFOR and the Muslim population in Bratunac before midnight on July 11 and around noon the following day, he changed his story.

The prosecution will cross-examine General Krstic on his version of events in Srebrenica in July 1995.