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Krstic Points Finger At Mladic And His 'Knin Clan'

Tribunal Update 187 Last Week in The Hague (July 31 - August 4, 2000)

"In Srebrenica crimes were indeed committed, and they were committed by individuals who did not have the best interests of their people at heart and who should answer for those crimes," Krstic said.

Krstic said the motives for the killings remained "unclear" to him, but that he believed those responsible "were insane", whether officers or soldiers.

The three-and-a-half hour recording, made during interviews on February 18 and 19 this year, had been presented to the trial judges on July 28. The judges ruled the evidence should be made public, but immediate disclosure was delayed for unspecified "security reasons."

Krstic, accused for his alleged role in the Srebrenica killings of July 1995, told the investigators responsibility for the crimes in the former United Nations "safe haven" rested with General Ratko Mladic, commander of the Army of Republika Srpska, VRS, main headquarters.

Mladic and his "Knin clan" of officers from the former Yugoslav Peoples Army were to blame for all the events in Srebrenica, Bratunac, Zvornik, Milici and Vlasenica between July 11 and 20, 1995, Krstic said.

The recording gives a fairly clear insight into Krstic's main line of defence. During the interview the general said that following the capture of Srebrenica on July 11, Mladic ordered the Drina Corps, under Krstic's command, to keep going towards Zepa. Mladic meanwhile assumed full command of operations in and around Srebrenica, Krstic said.

Krstic claimed forces under Mladic's direct command were deployed in the Srebrenica area. The units included the 10th Sabotage Detachment, a battalion of military police from the 65th Armoured Motorised Regiment and special police from the Republika Srpska Interior Ministry, he said.

Mladic appointed a hand picked group of officers to oversee the operation, Krstic said. Among those named by Krstic were General Tolimir, Mladic's intelligence and security advisor, and Colonel Ljubo Beara, head of security at the main VRS headquarters.

Major Pecanac, Mladic's head of security, was also named alongside Colonel Milorad 'Miso' Pelemis, commander of the 10th Sabotage Detachment, Major Malinovic (or Malinic), commander of the military police battalion from the 65th Armoured Motorised regiment stationed in Nova Kasaba, and Lieutenant Colonel Vujadin Popovic, chief of security for the Drina Corps. Popovic was ordered by Mladic to report direct to Beara, Krstic said.

According to Krstic, the officers mentioned traced their links with Mladic back to the Knin campaign.

"They were untouchable. No one could do anything against them," Krstic said.

These officers were "the main order-makers and executioners of everything that took place between 12 and 20 July 1995," Krstic claimed.

The former Drina Corps commander said that after his troops successfully achieved their military goals around Srebrenica, Mladic ordered the advance to continue into the town itself. This resulted in the civilian population of Srebrenica and its surrounding villages being moved out, Krstic said.

Krstic said Mladic had personally overseen the loading of women and children onto buses and trucks at Potocari, the former UN base just outside the town. Officers and soldiers attached to Mladic's security forces separated the men and took them away for "security checks," Krstic said.

At dawn on July 12, the general went on, VRS troops arrested between 3,500 and 4,000 soldiers from the Bosnia-Herzegovina Army 28th Division and the civilians who followed them in a failed attempt to walk to Tuzla. All the detainees, Krstic said, were handed over to Mladic.

The detainees were initially held at the Nova Kasaba football ground before being driven off to Bratunac, Kravica and other villages, Krstic said. The detainees received the same treatment as the men separated off at Potocari, but the general added he had "little data on where that happened."

When asked by investigators to specify what "that" meant Krstic said, "Those people were executed."

Krstic claimed that while all this was happening he was at a Drina Corps command post in Krivaca near Han Pijesak overseeing the attack on Zepa. The general said he had no knowledge of what was going on in the Srebrenica area and that he had no contact with Mladic or the officers stationed at Nova Kasaba.

At the end of the interview Krstic said, "Not for myself, but for the sake of the Drina Corps and the people within the zone of responsibility of the Drina Corps, I sincerely regret they were so smeared."

Several of the claims made by Krstic in the February interview have been undermined to some degree already by prosecution evidence presented during their 11-week long case in chief. For example, video footage of the general visiting the former UN base outside Srebrenica casts some doubt on Krstic's claim that "he never was in Potocari."

Likewise his claim that he set off for the command post near Zepa at dawn on July 12, contradicts video footage shot in Bratunac about noon the same day showing Krstic sitting next to Mladic during a meeting with the commander of the UN Dutch Battalion and representatives from the Muslim population.

Intercepted radio communications also challenge Krstic's claim that once at the command post in Krivaca he had no contact with unit commanders operating around Srebrenica.

In addition intelligence and military expert witnesses challenged claims the Drina Corps was excluded from the chain of command or that Mladic took over direct command of the operation.

To some extent the prosecution, by presenting the interview recording, has stolen some of the defence's thunder. Krstic's lawyers will begin their presentation on October 16.