Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change
A wartime driver for former Bosnian Serb general Ratko Mladic this week told judges that he was with the defendant in Serbia’s capital Belgrade at a time coinciding with the Srebrenica massacre in July 1995.
Mladjen Kenjic’s testimony supports Mladic’s alibi for his whereabouts in the days after Bosnian Serb forces captured Srebrenica, at a time when Bosniak men and boys were being killed. A married couple, Biljana and Zarko Stojkovic, recently testified that Mladic acted as best man at their wedding in Belgrade on July 16. (See Mladic Away at Wedding During Srebrenica Killings.)
Kenjic’s wife Bosiljka also confirmed these details when she appeared before the tribunal.
The Bosnian Serb army, of which Mladic was commander, completed its takeover of Srebrenica on July 11, 2005. The eastern Bosnian town had been declared a “safe area” in 1993 and a United Nations peacekeeping battalion assigned to protect it. Despite this special status, the Srebrenica enclave was seized by Serb forces, and over the course of several days after July 11, more than 7,000 Bosniak men and boys were murdered. Mladic stands accused of genocide and other crimes relating to the massacre.
The prosecution does not dispute that Mladic travelled to Belgrade on July 14, but argues that he maintained contact with officers in his general staff, returning to the theatre of war on the evening of July 16.
Kenjic said he drove Mladic to Belgrade on July 14 for a number of appointments, including the wedding and a meeting with Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic. He then drove him back to Bosnian Serb Army headquarters near Han Pijesak on July 17. According to the witness, there was no telephone or any other communication device in the vehicle.
Prosecutor Peter McCloskey asked the witness the route via which he had driven Mladic to Belgrade. On a map, Kenjic identified the road as running via Zvornik to Belgrade.
“Were you aware at the time that, on the 13th and 14th of July, large numbers of Muslim soldiers and civilians were fleeing the Serb enclave and had crossed that road, and were still in the woods all around that area where you’re driving?” the lawyer asked him.
“No, I didn’t know that,” the witness replied.
McCloskey asked whether, as they drove through Nova Kasaba, they had seen “any large pits” being dug at the side of the road.
“No,” the witness replied.
Continuing to track the route they had taken, the lawyer asked whether after they arrived in Konjevic Polje they had heard anything about “hundreds and hundreds of dead and dying Muslims at the Kravice warehouse at that time?”
“No,” the witness replied.
Asked whether they had driven northwards by the Jadar river, Kenjic said the name sounded familiar but that he did not know where it was.
“You didn’t hear about the executions of 16 people right near the road that you’d driven by that happened the day before, on the banks of the Jadar river?”
“No, no,” he replied.
McCloskey then asked whether, when they drove by the Zvornik Brigade headquarters in Karakaj on the afternoon of July 14, Kenjic knew “that within about eight km to the east of Karakaj was a place called Orahovac where about 1,000 prisoners were in a school and were in the process of being murdered. Did you hear any information about that when you were in Karakaj in the afternoon of July 14?”
The witness said he had not heard anything.
McCloskey then asked him whether he had heard about any of the thousands of prisoners detained in places including Petkovici and Pilice as he was driving through that area.
“No,” he said.
Turning to the events of July 16, when Mladic attended the Belgrade wedding, McCloskey asked the witness what time he had taken the general home to change and attend his next function.
“Around six pm in the afternoon,” the witness replied.
The lawyer then read from a statement which Kenjic gave to the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) in 2012 in which he said, “I drove him home afterwards in the afternoon, I don’t know what time it was, it might have been three or four o’clock, as long as the lunch ceremony lasted. I don’t know how long it lasted.”
“You told the OTP three to four o clock. Now that you’re testifying here, you’re saying six o’clock, maybe five o’clock, so you have been influenced between the time you told the OTP three or four o’clock and now,” McCloskey said. “You’ve been influenced, haven’t you? Your recollection has been influenced in some way.”
The witness denied this.
The prosecution contends that Mladic returned to the enclave later that same evening in a helicopter flown by his pilot Dusan Maran.
McCloskey asked the witness whether he knew of Maran, the general’s main helicopter pilot during the war.
“[Mladic] called him Dule, didn’t he, a classic nickname for Dusan,” the lawyer asked.
“Possibly,” the witness said.
McCloskey turned to an intercept recorded on July 16 at eight am between Mladic and a man who is addressed as Dule.
“And Dule says, ‘It’s Dule, and Mladic says, “I’ll see you tonight Dule’, and Dule says, ‘Fine’ and Mladic says ‘Bye’. So you were with General Mladic for some time on July 16 including in the evening in Belgrade. Are you aware of General Mladic meeting anyone named Dule the night of July 16 in Belgrade?” he asked.
“No,” Kenjic said.
The lawyer asked Kenjic whether he had ever travelled with Mladic in a helicopter.
The witness said he had not.
McCloskey then turned to testimony given by another wartime driver for Mladic, who recalled travelling with the general in a helicopter as part of his job. This other driver, the lawyer continued, “acknowledges that he travelled several times with Mladic in a helicopter. How so that you say that you never travelled with him by helicopter?”
“Never, really never,” Kenjic replied. “If you understood what I said, really never.”
Daniella Peled is an IWPR editor in London.
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