Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change
Ratko Mladic in the ICTY courtroom. (Photo: ICTY)
Defence lawyers for wartime Bosnian Serb army commander Ratko Mladic this week raised objections to maps of the Srebrenica area which the prosecution asked to be entered as evidence.
The issue came up during testimony from Erin Gallagher, an investigator in the tribunal’s Office of the Prosecutor, who worked on issues relating to the 1995 massacre at Srebrenica. Gallagher began giving testimony in March this year, but it was halted while the prosecution prepared "additional information" that it wished to supply to the chamber.
Mladic, who commanded the Bosnian Serb army from 1992 to 1996, is accused of planning and overseeing the massacre of more than 7,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica in 1995, as well as the 44-month siege of Sarajevo that left nearly 12,000 people dead.
The indictment – which lists 11 counts in total – alleges that he was responsible for crimes of genocide, persecution, extermination, murder and forcible transfer which "contributed to achieving the objective of the permanent removal of Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats from Bosnian Serb-claimed territory".
For reasons not disclosed to the public, Mladic was not present during Gallagher's testimony this week, but Judge Alphons Orie said he would be back in the courtroom for the next witness.
During Gallagher's testimony, the prosecution asked to submit as evidence a collection of maps that it had prepared in order to "illustrate the situation in and around Srebrenica in July 1995”.
"Bear in mind that the area we are speaking about covers some 2,800 square kilometres, which is a very large area", prosecutor Peter McCloskey said, adding that "orientation when confronted with foreign names of numerous localities is not an easy task".
The defence objected strongly to these maps, especially markings that indicated the movement of Bosnian Muslim civilians and Bosnian government army personnel who were trying to flee the Srebrenica enclave and its surroundings.
The defence also objected to markings showing places of "execution of Bosnian Muslim men by Bosnian Serb troops”.
One of Mladic's defence lawyers, Dragan Ivetic, said that "these maps are trying to establish accusations and allegations as determined facts, and therefore cannot be used to illustrate the objective situation on the ground, but rather the allegations of the prosecution, and that is why they are unacceptable to us".
Judges will decide whether the maps will be entered to evidence.
The defence did not object a map of the Bosnian Serb army operation to take Srebrenica, referred to by the codename "Krivaja '95". The map bore Mladic’s signature, whose authenticity the defence did not contest, calling it a "legitimate military document".
This map was one of several discovered during investigations conducted into Bosnian Serb military units, and was the subject of Gallagher's work, along with other maps provided by the Republika Srpska authorities.
Earlier during the hearing, Mladic's defence attorney Branko Lukic asked the chamber whether it would allow the accused to address the chamber about some "issues of a personal nature".
Asked what these issues were, Lukic said that he did not, and that he was unable to speak on Mladic's behalf, but that his client had written a letter about the "management of the UN Detention Unit".
Presiding Judge Alphons Orie replied that the chamber could not allow the accused to speak without knowing what he wanted to talk about. He denied the request, and instructed Lukic to first "get acquainted with the contents of the letter" himself.
"Once you know what the letter is about, we will be able to decide if the matter is in our jurisdiction", Judge Orie said.
The trial continues next week.
Velma Saric is an IWPR contributor in Sarajevo.
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