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UK General Links Milosevic to Srebrenica

Testimony may reinforce claims that Milosevic had command powers over the Bosnian Serbs.
By Emir Suljagic

British general Rupert Smith told the Hague tribunal this week he believed Slobodan Milosevic knew of the killings in Srebrenica in July 1995.


Smith, commanding officer of UN forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina at the time of the fall of the enclave, told the Milosevic trial on October 9 that his belief stemmed from a meeting he had with the defendant, EU envoy Carl Bildt and Bosnian Serb army commander General Ratko Mladic.


At the gathering, at a hunting lodge near Belgrade, on July 15, 1995, Smith said he came to the conclusion that Milosevic was aware of the Srebrenica massacre, “He had to know because… he had Mladic there.”


The witness told the court it was clear that Milosevic was superior to Mladic, “Milosevic told Mladic to talk to me and solve the question of Dutch hostages and access to prisoners by Red Cross and UNHCR [UN refugee agency].”


The evidence could be an important building block in the prosecution case, possibly blocking any attempt by Milosevic to say he did not know about the Srebrenica killings.


And this testimony is likely to reinforce prosecution claims that Milosevic had command powers over Bosnian Serb forces.


In cross-examination, Milosevic asked the general, “Do you believe that Mladic knew at the time of the killings of Srebrenica?” “Yes,” Smith said. The defendant then asked, “Do you believe his soldier’s honour would allow him to tolerate killings of war prisoners?” “Yes,” came the answer.


Smith said that he first became aware that Serb forces were planning to attack Srebrenica at a meeting with Mladic in April 1995.


“He thought that UN should pull back its observation posts to allow the Serbs to have access to roads that are important to them,” said Smith.


In his testimony, the majority of which was tendered in writing, Smith told the court of his decision in August 1995, after the second shelling of Markale market place in Sarajevo, to call in NATO air power to bomb the Bosnian Serbs.


Smith said that the UN launched an investigation into the shelling. After crater analysis and checking with UN observation posts around Sarajevo whether the shell was fired from outside the city, Smith made his decision to punish the Bosnian Serb military leadership. “It was beyond reasonable doubt that the projectile came from the position of the Bosnian Serbs,” the witness said.


Emir Suljagic is an IWPR reporter in The Hague.