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Krstic Trial

Defence witness says French may have been to blame for Srebrenica

Defence lawyers for General Radislav Krstic, accused of genocide for his role in the Srebrenica massacres, rounded off their case last week by calling their final two witnesses - military expert, Yugoslav General Radovan Radinovic, and a protected witness, a Bosnian Serb army, VRS, officer.

Radinovic spent a seven-days at the witness stand and at no point did he question whether the massacres took place, saying that as an honourable Serb he carried a "moral blemish" for what happened. "It is to our great regret and shame," he said.

The general said, however, it was possible the French intelligence services had "planted" the crimes on the Serbs.

Radinovic's main task as the defence's expert witness was to dispute the conclusions presented by the prosecution military experts, United States military intelligence analyst Richard Butler and British Major General Richard Dannett. (See Tribunal Updates Nos. 202, 182, 185 and 186)

Radinovic, however, appeared to admire at least some of the prosecution experts' analyses, especially Butler's.

When prosecutor Andrew Caley listed nine locations identified by Butler as execution sites used between July 13 and 16, 1995, Radinovic said he had studied the report "in detail" and was in "complete agreement" with regard to the "locations, dynamics and times of the executions."

But Radinovic said he did not agree with Butler's main conclusion that those executions were carried out by units of the Bosnian Serb Army, VRS, Drina Corps - at the time commanded by Krstic.

During cross-examination, Radinovic refused to say which troops he thought had carried out the executions. He said his task before the court was to discuss the responsibility of Krstic and not to accuse other VRS officers.

On two occasions during his exchange with the prosecutor, Radinovic chose to hide behind a vague and unhelpful "collective responsibility" rather than identify individuals who were involved.

For example, when talking about crimes committed during the deportation, or as Radinovic put it the "transfer" of civilians from the United Nations base at Potocari, he said, "I condemn them more than the prosecutor because I now have to wear a moral blemish, which has besmirched the people to whom I belong, and which must be felt by every honourable Serb."

Interestingly, when Radinovic first took the stand he gave his nationality as Montenegrin.

Later the prosecutor asked Radinovic to comment on a combat report from the Bosnian Serb Zvornik brigade which contained a protest from the unit commander about the burden his men were under dealing with 3,000 detainees in his area. Radinovic said the report was "an appeal to the superior command to deal with prisoners of war."

"To our great shame and regret we now know how they were dealt with," Radinovic added.

Radinovic was somewhat less reticent in naming those from the international community and Bosnian Muslim side he considers individually responsible for the crimes in Srebrenica.

He accused members of the Bosnia-Herzegovina, BiH, Army 28th division of failing to defend Srebrenica "with sufficient persistence". The BiH Army supreme command, the general said, "sacrificed the 28th division" when it ordered the soldiers to break through the Bosnian Serb lines to territory under the control of Bosnian government forces.

The commanders of the United Nations Protection Force, UNProFor, Dutch Battalion stationed in Srebrenica were incompetent and cowardly, Radinovic said. The international community's top officials - UN representative Yasushi Akashi, High Representative Carl Bildt and UNProFor commander British General Rupert Smith - displayed an "incomprehensibly irresponsible attitude" to what was happening in a so-called "protected area", he added.

Finally, as Caley pointed out from Radinovic's report, there is the question of the role of the French intelligence services.

Clearly keen to discredit the witness, Caley read out a section of the general's report:

"Goran Matic, the Federal Minister of Information of the FRY [Federal Republic of Yugoslavia], talked about the massacre of Muslim civilians at a press conference where he informed local and foreign journalists about the results of an investigation into the uncovered and arrested group [known as] 'Spider'."

Spider, the Radinovic report went on, was made up of mercenaries - Croats, Slovenians, Muslims and Serbs - "organised, equipped and trained by the French intelligence services to commit a massacre against the civilian Muslim population."

Radinovic's report quoted Matic as saying the purpose of this operation was to "attribute the crime to the Serbian side" thereby providing a pretext on which to declare criminal "the Serbian military and political strategy" and to brand "Republika Srpska a political child born of a planetary crime."

Radinovic's report concluded, "It goes without saying not a single Serb military commander, not even general Krstic, could know of this criminal plot, so that, unfortunately, they did not manage to prevent it."

Caley then asked Radinovic if he really believed the French intelligence services had sent the mercenaries to kill thousands of Muslims in the Zvornik and Bratunac areas in July 1995.

Radinovic responded that "as a responsible person dealing with a difficult topic… he had no right to ignore the fact an authorised minister of state… had presented the facts about the participation of a group of people then under the control of the Yugoslav judiciary."

Caley retorted that as an expert witness he should base his analysis on serious sources, and not on the statements of [former Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic's former minister, a man notorious for his verbal outrages.

The prosecutor then thanked Radinovic and concluded his cross-examination. It is now up to the judges to determine the value of the witness's expert evidence.

Despite the seriousness of the charges Krstic faces, the defence has called only ten witnesses on the general's behalf. Many of the witnesses the defence originally planned to call have withdrawn, apparently reluctant to face prosecution questions which, judging by the experience of Radinovic and others, could have pressured them into identifying other parties responsible for the crimes committed at Srebrenica.

Last week, however, the trial chamber, comprising judges Almiro Rodigues, Fouad Riad and Patricia Wald, ordered BiH Army general, Sefer Halilovic, to appear as a witness on February 1 next year.

The judges called Halilovic on their own initiative (proprio motu) in order to establish more clearly the role of the BiH Army's 28th Division before, during and just after the attack on Srebrenica.

The judges also wish to clarify the composition of the column of people seeking to leave the enclave, including weapons carried by the column and the military experience of those involved.

The judges are especially interested in the possibility the column sought to meet up with BiH forces operating out of Tuzla and other Bosnian government controlled areas.

Halilovic will also be questioned on the possible breakthroughs made by the column, the number of people concerned, losses suffered and the moments, as exact as possible, when the authorities and population generally became aware of the capture, execution or sudden disappearance of members of the column.

When war broke out in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Halilovic was commander of the BiH Army headquarters. He was dismissed from his post several months later.

During his testimony, Radinovic referred several times to Halilovic's book "Shrewd Strategy", in which the former BiH Army commander expresses a very critical attitude towards the Sarajevo political and military leadership during the Srebrenica crisis.

The trial will continue on January 15 when the prosecution will have five days in which to rebut the defence's presentation.