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

Radislav Krstic (IT-98-33)

Current Status: Trial Finished (Convicted) Serving his sentence in the United Kingdom
By IWPR
The Accused Radislav Krstic was born in Vlasenica, Bosnia and Hercegovina on February 15, 1948. Krstic was commander of the Drina Corps of the Bosnian Serb army, VRS. The corps – one of six in the VRS - played a crucial role in the capture of the Bosnian Muslim enclave and United Nations “safe zone” of Srebrenica and in the subsequent mass executions of its male inhabitants. Krstic was promoted during the operation, called Krivaja 95, on the very day the killings are assumed to have started. After the end of the operation, he continued his career in the VRS, got promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel General and was the commander of the VRS 5th Corps until his arrest in December 1998.

The Indictment Indictment, amended for the last time on October 27, 1999, charged Krstic on the basis of his personal and command responsibility with:

* Genocide or, alternately, Complicity to Commit Genocide * Crimes Against Humanity (5 Counts: Extermination, Murder, Persecutions, Deportation, and Inhumane Acts). * Violation of the Laws or Customs of War (Murder).


Proceedings Radislav Krstic was arrested by NATO peacekeepers (SFOR) in Bosnia on December 2,1998 and transferred to The Hague the next day.


He appeared in front of tribunal judges on December 7, 1998 and pleaded not guilty on all counts.


The trial started just over a year later, on March 13, 2000 and ended on June 29, 2001. Just over a month later, on August 2, the judges issued their verdict, sentencing Krstic to 46 years in prison for genocide, murder and persecutions.


Krstic’s lawyers appealed arguing that Srebrenica was not a case of genocide. But the appeals chamber supported the general findings of genocide, and only changed their verdict as to the specifics of Krstic’s engagement in it.


In the appeal judgement, issued on Apri1 l9, 2004, the judges found him guilty of aiding and abetting genocide, aiding and abetting in extermination and persecution, aiding and abetting murder, murder and persecution. Sentence was revised to 35 years imprisonment. On December 20, 2004, he was transferred to the United Kingdom to serve his sentence.


Factual Allegations The Drina Corps was one of the six corps of the Bosnian Serb army, and it formed the backbone of the forces that attacked Srebrenica. Krstic was the corps’ chief of staff and after 13 July its commanding officer.


Throughout the trial, the prosecutors insisted that Krstic planned and organised the executions, after the fall of the enclave – many of which were conducted by members of the Drina Corps. These, in the prosecutors’ view, amounted to genocide.


The prosecutors also held Krstic responsible for the “opportunistic killings” of Muslim refugees that gathered at the Potocari base of the Dutch peacekeepers in the first days after the fall of the enclave. Similar random murders happened all over the wider Srebrenica area, along the routes to various execution sites.


On top of that, Krstic was charged with removal of the Bosniak population from the enclave to the territory controlled by the Bosnian army, which was also organised by the troops under his command.


The prosecution first had to show that all of those crimes had indeed been committed, and secondly that General Krstic, because of his place in the chain of command, was responsible for them.


The judges were convinced of the commission of the crimes, but were not convinced that Krstic actually planned or organised them. Both trial and appeals judgements found that Krstic did not directly plan or organise the worst of all crimes he was charged with – genocide.


The trial chamber found him guilty of complicity in it and later the appeal judges ruled his role was only that of aiding and abetting the crime. The main planners, they ruled, were people in the Bosnian Serb army main staff, and Krstic’s role was that of a obedient and non-interfering accomplice, who allowed his troops to be used in the commission of the crime.


Relevant Issues Genocidal Intent: In order to show that Krstic was guilty of genocide, the prosecution had to show that he had genocidal intent; that he meant to destroy a part of the Bosniak national group. The prosecution had relatively few pieces of evidence indicating genocidal intent. What they did have was enough to at least secure a conviction on aiding and abetting in genocide.


Alternate Chain of Command: Krstic’s defence strategy relied heavily upon establishing an “Alternate Chain of Command” which existed parallel to his own but beyond his command, and which was generally responsible for the crimes committed around Srebrenica. Krstic specifically accused General Ratko Mladic and his “Knin Clan”, a group of officers which served together in the JNA (Jugoslav People’s Army) in the Kninska area of Croatia during the initial stages of the Croatian war, of responsibility for the crimes. In practice, this strategy consisted of general denial of any ability to countermand orders which violated international law, and consistent attempts to shift the blame for the actual massacres onto interior ministry and paramilitary forces outside his chain of command.


Highlights of the Trial “Survive or Vanish”: As part of his triumphal entrance into Srebrenica, Mladic brought along a Serbian TV crew, which filmed him throughout the next few days. On July 12, they covered the meeting at the Fontana Hotel in Bratunac, near Srebrenica, between Mladic, Krstic, and other VRS/Drina Corps officers on one hand, and a several Bosniaks, including a local schoolteacher by the name of Nesib Mandzic, on the other, with DutchBat (of the UN Protection Force) officers observing.


During the course of the conference, Mladic threatens Mandzic that his people could either “survive or vanish”. In court, the Bosniak representatives characterised the attitude of the other VRS officers, including Krstic, as agreeing with the possibility of making the Bosniaks “vanish”. This video played an important part in establishing Krstic’s proximity to Mladic and his knowledge of what was to come.


“Kill Them All”: In the last days of the prosecution’s cross-examination of Krstic, Peter McCloskey brought to light damning new evidence that struck at the very heart of Krstic’s reliability as a witness. On November 1,2000, the prosecution entered into evidence exhibits 789a and 789b, a tape and transcript of a conversation between Krstic and a Drina Corps subordinate, Dragan Obrenovic on August 2, 1995, in the mop up phase of the Srebrenica operation. The previous day McCloskey asked Krstic whether he had ever issued orders to execute prisoners or to offer no quarter, to which Krstic quickly answered that he had never done so. The reasoning behind those questions quickly became evident.


After brief legal wrangling over authenticity, the original tape containing an radio intercept made by Bosnian army personnel was played. As the court translators interpreted the conversation, a grisly order was revealed. When Obrenovic remarked that his unit had captured several more Bosniak prisoners, Krstic tells him to “Kill them all. God damn it”, and “[not] a single one must be left alive”. Krstic, at a loss for a more believable rebuttal, replied that the tape was “montage, 100 per cent, rigged.”


The prosecutors seem to have held this piece of evidence back to the very end of the cross-examination in order to impeach the veracity of all of Krstic’s testimony. But the belated entry of this piece of evidence meant that the judges did not use it in determining the final verdict.


First Hand Accounts: Survivors Testify During the course of the Krstic trial, the prosecution brought in a number of protected witnesses who had survived the massacres by VRS troops and had come to the tribunal to give eyewitness accounts of their capture, transport, attempted murder, and eventual escape. Over the course of four days, April 11-14, 2000, the prosecution called six protected witnesses, L, M, N, O, P, and Q, to the stand, five of whom were massacre survivors.


Four of the five were captured from the column of Bosniak men that formed to try and break out to Tuzla. The fifth was separated from his family at Potocari by VRS troops. After being captured, the men followed similar paths, several passing through the stadium at Nova Kasaba and all but on through Bratunac. The witnesses recounted seeing Mladic at various times, particularly Witness N, separated at Potocari, who saw the general six times in the days between his capture and attempted murder, the final time being at the execution site at Orahovac. Two of the men were eventually taken to the Orohavac execution site, two to Petkovci Dam site and one to a site near Pilica, possibly Branjevo Military Farm.


Although none of the witnesses offered any evidence specifically against Krstic, they did establish the presence of VRS soldiers at almost all points in their journey, and, perhaps more importantly, they served to illuminate the final days of the lives of thousands, as they were fed through the great killing machine established under the auspices of the VRS.


The Deportee: Camila Omanovic On March 22 and 23, 2000, the prosecution called to the stand Camila Omanovic, who testified on her flight to the Potocari UNProFor base, her encounter with Mladic, and the horrors that presented themselves before she lost consciousness while attempting suicide. In particular, her testimony helped to bring to life the showmanship of Mladic, the chaos around the Potocari UN base, and the absolute terror instilled in the Bosniak refugees in the days before they were deported to Bosnian army territory.


Omanovic was in a special position to comment on Mladic because she was one of the Bosniak representatives at the second meeting with VRS officers in the Fontana Hotel in Bratunac, where Mladic famously gave the Bosniaks the choice to “survive or vanish”. Omanovic described how the meeting seemed entirely to be a show put on for the benefit of the TV cameras that were present, and how a course of action had already been agreed upon by the VRS staff, that nothing said in the Fontana had any real significance. She went on to describe the second time she saw Mladic, as he passed out chocolate to the refugees near Potocari, also for the benefit of the cameras.


In the second, more emotional portion of her testimony, Omanovic described the second night near the zinc factory adjacent to the UN base at Potocari. Throughout the first night, the refugees had been under sporadic sniper fire, with artillery targeting the hillsides around them. By the second night, the VRS soldiers had mingled with the refugees, and had begun singling out men to be taken away. Omanovic recounted the screams of the men being tortured which continued on through the night. She told of the wild rumours spreading among the crowd, of murders, tortures, and rapes, which transformed the already nervous mass into a terrified mob, their fears spiralling out of control.


As the next day dawned, Omanovic made her own desperate attempt to get out of Potocari. Having fought her way through the crowds, she finally deposited her children and grandchild in a truck, but didn’t leave in the truck herself. She was terrified of what might happen to her or her children, and terrified of all the Serb soldiers she saw. From this point forward, her testimony truly moved into the surreal. Omanovic fled to the UN base and made contact with a brother of hers who worked as an interpreter.


He showed her a noose he had prepared for himself, which she took with her to the top floor of the base. First making sure that the people near her moved away, so that the children might not see her dead body, she prepared to hand herself, but saw VRS soldiers approaching. She hid as they moved past her, convinced that they were searching her out. As soon as they passed, she attempted suicide and lost consciousness, waking up in a hospital some time later.


This testimony very much brings to life the chaos and panic that was spreading through the refugees at Potocari, and the absolute fear of the Serbs possessed by the populace. Also, it helps to expose Mladic’s humanitarian gestures as nothing more than a cover-up. Overall, Omanovic’s testimony, by its content and its delivery, have helped the tribunal very much to understand the situation on the ground at the Potocari compound in the early days of the Srebrenica operation.


Witness DD: Struggling to Survive Protected Witness DD was called to the stand by the prosecutor on July 26, 2000. In the course of her testimony, she offered one of the most emotional and compelling testimonies seen at the tribunal.


Forced from her home in the opening days of Operation Krivaja 95, Witness DD fled with her family towards Potocari, where they joined the ever-growing mass of refugees. En route, her husband and eldest son separated, presumably to move towards Susnjari to join the column of men trying to escape to Tuzla, and were never heard from again. Along with her three remaining children, DD stayed in the open at Potocari for two days. When they did try to board the buses, her eldest remaining son, nearly 14 at the time, was singled out by the Serb soldiers, and was forcibly separated. As she recounted this part of her story, DD broke down crying, unable to contain her sadness. She recalled her sons cries of “I was born in 1981, what do you want with me?” as he was taken away. Devastated, DD was eventually helped by her sister-in-law onto a truck, and they were deported to Bosnian-controlled territory.


Next, the prosecutor asked DD about her present situation. DD answered that she currently lives in small room in a collective centre, and that it is so awful that she often wishes she weren’t living. She’s unemployed, with a child to support and an older daughter who already has two children, and is living off a stipend from her husband’s company. This account brings to light an often-ignored consequence of the deportation of civilians, that is, the loss of livelihood and continued poverty as they are unable to return to their homes even after the cessation of hostilities.


Composition of the Court:


Trial Chamber I Judge Almiro Rodrigues, Presiding Judge Fouad Riad Judge Patricia Wald


Office of the Prosecutor Mr Mark Harmon Mr Peter W. McCloskey Mr Andrew Cayley


Defence Council Mr Nenad Petrusic Mr Tomislav Visnic


Appeals Chamber Judge Theodor Meron, Presiding Judge Fausto Pocar Judge Mohamed Shahabuddeen Judge Mehmet Güney Judge Wolfgang Schomburg


Office of the Prosecutor Mr Norman Farrell Mr Mathias Marcussen Ms Magda Karagiannakis Mr Xavier Tracol Mr Dan Moylan


Defence Counsel Mr Nenad Petrusic Mr Norman Sepenuk


Court Documents: Indictment:


Testimony of:


Radovan Radinovic:


http://www.un.org/icty/transe33/001204it.htm


http://www.un.org/icty/transe33/001205it.htm


http://www.un.org/icty/transe33/001206it.htm


Cross-examination


Cross-examination


Cross-examination


Radislav Krstic (day of “kill them all” radio intercept being introduced):


http://www.un.org/icty/transe33/001101ed.htm


Survivors Testimony (not all survivors’ testimonies took place on these days, but this is a good selection):


http://www.un.org/icty/transe33/000411ed.htm


http://www.un.org/icty/transe33/000412ed.htm


http://www.un.org/icty/transe33/000413ed.htm


http://www.un.org/icty/transe33/000414ed.htm


Camila Omanovic:


http://www.un.org/icty/transe33/000322it.htm


http://www.un.org/icty/transe33/000323ed.htm


Witness DD:


http://www.un.org/icty/transe33/000726ed.htm


Trial Chamber I Judgement:


http://www.un.org/icty/krstic/TrialC1/judgement/index.htm


Appeals Chamber Judgement:


http://www.un.org/icty/krstic/Appeal/judgement/index.htm