Srebrenica Indictee Focus

Who are the officers accused of arranging the Srebrenica massacres?

Srebrenica Indictee Focus

Who are the officers accused of arranging the Srebrenica massacres?

Tuesday, 22 February, 2005

The trial of the Bosnian Serb officers accused of planning the 1995 massacres of more than 7,000 Bosnian Muslim men from Srebrenica began on May 14 – one defendant short.

Vidoje Blagojevic, Dragan Jokic and Dragan Obrenovic – all of whom held leadership positions in the Bosnian Serb army – were originally indicted along with Momir Nikolic, a Bosnian Serb security officer.

Last week, however, Nikolic changed his plea. Not only did he admit guilt for the massacre, he also agreed to testify against his fellow officers.

The indictment against Blajogevic, Jokic and Obrenovic claims that they were part of a “joint criminal enterprise” whose purpose was “to forcibly transfer the women and children from the Srebrenica enclave to Kladanj; to capture, detain, summarily execute by firing squad, bury and rebury thousands of Bosnian Muslim men and boys". All three men have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

In his opening statements, prosecutor Peter McClosky told the court that Obrenovic, Blagojevic and Jokic provided the men and material that made the murder operation in Srebrenica possible.

"For many Serbs, Srebrenica is still a myth, a story beyond belief... for these accused, it is their legacy – a disgrace to humanity that will follow them into the miserable legacy of this war,” McClosky said.

Nikolic’s last-minute decision to plead guilty - a plea for which he was duly rewarded by having the most serious charges against him withdrawn - will no doubt significantly aid the prosecution in its case.

The trial of Blajogevic, Jokic and Obrenovic is the second for the Srebrenica massacres. The accused’s commanding officer, General Radislav Krstic, was convicted of command responsibility for genocide in June 2000.

The following are brief biographies of the accused.

Vidoje Blagojevic, 52, was the commander of the First Bratunac Light Infantry Brigade when Bosnian Serb forces overran the Srebrenica enclave in July 1995. He is charged with genocide, crimes against humanity and violation of the laws and customs of war.

He was arrested by SFOR on August 10, 2001 as he drove to a meeting in Banja Luka with international mine-clearing officials in Bosnia.

According to press accounts of his arrest, NATO vehicles blocked the road, soldiers fired rubber bullets at his car, breaking his windshield, and then pulled him out of his car, placed him into a van with Bosnian number plates, and drove him away.

Blagojevic appeared before the judges in The Hague one week later and pleaded not guilty to all five counts of the indictment. Several weeks ago, shortly before his trial was to begin, he tried to dismiss his lawyer, but the tribunal turned his request down because he could not show any legitimate reason for doing so.

Dragan Jokic, 45, was the chief of engineering units in the Zvornik Brigade when Bosnian Serb forces attacked Srebrenica in July 1995. He is charged with crimes against humanity and violations of the laws and customs of war.

The indictment alleges that Jokic played the part of grisly undertaker, stating that he "assisted in the planning, monitoring, organizing and carrying out of the burials involved in the murder operation".

A graduate of the Yugoslav military academy, he joined the Zvornik brigade in early 1992 when it was formed. He held the rank of major throughout the war, but was promoted to lieutenant-colonel following the Srebrenica operation and was assigned to the Bosnian Serb army’s fifth corps, based in Sokolac.

He turned himself in voluntarily in August 2001, pleaded not guilty to all counts in the indictment and was provisionally released until the start of the trial. He returned to The Hague last month.

Many believed that he, not Nikolic, was the most likely candidate to change his plea.

Dragan Obrenovic, 40, was the chief of staff and deputy commander of the Zvornik brigade at the time of the Srebrenica massacres. He is charged with complicity in genocide, crimes against humanity and violations of the laws and customs of war.

When the war began in 1992, he was a captain in a JNA mechanised brigade that took control of Zvornik. After paramilitary troops led by Zjelko Raznatovic – better known as Arkan – took the town, JNA troops under Obrenovic’s command reportedly blocked all of the main roads to prevent the Muslim population from leaving.

After the war, Obrenovic was promoted to the rank of colonel and was appointed commander of the 503rd brigade, an offshoot of the Zvornik brigade.

During the trial of General Krstic, the prosecution played an audio intercept of a conversation he had held with Obrenovic. In it, Obrenovic tells the general that his troops have "fished out" some of the Srebrenica men who were trying to escape through the forest to Tuzla.

“Kill them all,” Krstic was heard telling Obrenovic.

“Everything is going according to plan. Everything...” Obrenovic replied.

The intercept was not accepted as evidence against Krstic by the judges because the prosecution had not followed all of the tribunal procedures for introducing evidence.

Obrenovic was arrested by NATO troops on Easter Sunday 2001.

Stacy Sullivan is IWPR project manager in The Hague. Emir Suljagic is an IWPR reporter in The Hague.

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