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

Srebrenica Prosecution Blow

Trial witness admits giving evidence he gleaned from fellow inmates.
By Karen Meirik

When Miroslav Deronjic, the former president of the Bratunac branch of the Serbian Democratic Party, SDS, took the stand this week to give evidence against Vidoje Blagojevic and Dragan Jokic, the two Bosnian Serb officers on trial for the their role in the Srebrenica massacre, the prosecution hoped he would be an important witness for their case.


However, it appeared as if those hopes were dashed when Blagojevic’s defense counsel, US attorney Michael Karnavas poked holes into Dernonjic’s testimony and forced him to admit that some of the evidence he provided for the prosecution he had gleaned from talking to fellow detainees in the tribunal’s detention unit.


Deronjic, himself an indictee, was testifying against his former comrades as part of a plea agreement he struck with the prosecution.


In exchange for pleading guilty for his role in the destruction of the village of Glogova and the execution of at least 65 Muslims there in 1992, and agreeing to testify against his fellow Bosnian Serb indictees, tribunal prosecutors said they would recommend that Deronjic receive a maximum sentence of ten years.


Although he was not indicted for the crimes committed in Srebrenica, prosecutors believed that by virtue of his position in the Bosnian Serb leadership, he likely knew a lot about it.


Following the Serb takeover of the enclave in July 1995, Deronjic was appointed the civil affairs commissioner in both Bratunac and Srebrenica.


As part of his obligation under the terms of his plea agreement, Deronjic provided a written statement to the prosecution detailing what he knew about the Srebrenica massacre.


Exactly what his statement said is unclear, because although the statement was not confidential, the tribunal did not make it available for the public to see.


However, it was clear from prosecutor Peter McClosky’s questioning that Deronjic had provided information about what happened on July 11-12 during the Bosnian Serb takeover of the enclave.


In four days of unusually hostile questioning, though, Karnavas called into question Deronjic’s reliability as a witness as well as the prosecution’s methods.


“It seems strange to me that the indictment talks only about Glogova, while most of the prosecutions interviews were about what happened in Srebrenica,” Karnavas said.


He went on to ask Deronjic how it came to pass that he know so much about the Srebrenica operation, and in so doing, forced Deronjic to concede that he gleaned information from other detainees.


“I got the information from a couple of the men who were there and who are also her in prison. We talked about the dates and discussed if it was this date or another,” Deronjic said.


Karnavas also elicited a confession that Deronjic himself was partially culpable for what happened in Srebrenica.


After a particularly aggressive session of questioning, Deronjic admitted that although he did not have “ de jure” authority over the military in eastern Bosnia, in fact, he did have “de facto” authority over it. He claimed that he was the most powerful man in Bratunac in 1995.


Deronjic will be sentenced for his own crimes next week.


Karen Meirik is a member of the IWPR project team in The Hague.