Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change
Jean-René Ruez, giving testimony in the OCTY courtroom. (Photo: ICTY)
A former Hague tribunal investigator answered questions this week about the inquiry he conducted into the 1995 Srebrenica massacre.
The witness, Jean-René Ruez, began giving testimony to the tribunal in the trial of wartime Bosnian Serb army commander Ratko Mladic in April, but for scheduling reasons, this only resumed this week.
Srebrenica, a town in eastern Bosnia, fell to Bosnian Serb forces on July 11, 1995. In the days that followed, more than 7,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were killed, and Mladic is accused of planning and overseeing the massacre.
The indictment – which lists 11 counts in total – alleges that Mladic 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".
Ruez, a senior French police officer whom the tribunal was appointed as chief investigator for Srebrenica, said that he began his investigation in 1995, by taking statements from survivors in Tuzla "on or around July 20". He conducted the tribunal’s first official mission to the Srebrenica area in early 1996 after the arrival of NATO peacekeeping troops and the signing of the Dayton peace accords.
In this week's hearing, Ruez was cross-examined by Mladic’s defence lawyer Branko Lukic, and prosecuting lawyer Peter McCloskey carried out an additional examination.
Lukic began by asking Ruez why, in previous testimony, he said he had used as an information source was "AID, a secret service used equally by Bosnian Serbs, Croats and Muslims" – a description the lawyer said "did not correspond to the facts".
Ruez replied that it only became clear to him later, after he had been in contact with representatives of the Agency for Investigation and Documentation or AID in Tuzla, that "it had basically been a Bosniak intelligence service, servicing the then mostly Bosniak central government of the Republic of Bosnia and Hercegovina".
Lukic asked the witness whether he had received information on Srebrenica from various European intelligence services present in Bosnia at the time. Lukic claimed that the French intelligence service was “on the ground” as part of the United Nations peacekeeping force, known as UNPROFOR.
Ruez said that he was familiar with this fact, but that he had not asked, nor seen it as necessary to ask, the French intelligence service “or any other” for information.
Lukic asked Ruez whether he had considered "media rumours" that foreign intelligence services were involved in the "murder of Muslims in Srebrenica".
“These rumours were so close to fantasy that I had no reason to consider them at all,” Ruez answered.
During Ruez's earlier testimony, Mladic's defence tried to demonstrate that his investigative work was based almost exclusively on intelligence data, and was therefore not necessarily reliable.
In his additional examination, prosecutor McCloskey asked Ruez about the kinds of sources used in the investigation and about how he drew his conclusions.
"We used a lot of different information, including forensic evidence on the ground, documentation created by the [Bosnian Serb army], aerial photography, but also statements from survivors of mass executions," the witness said.
McCloskey asked him to illustrate these different sources with some examples, and Ruez mentioned "a drawing of the machinery used after the mass execution of several Bosniaks at Orahovac, including a caterpillar and bulldozer, drawn by Mevludin Oric, one of the survivors".
The trial continues next week.
Velma Saric is an IWPR contributor in Sarajevo.
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