Former soldier in the VRS Zvornik Brigade testifies at the trial of seven former Bosnian Serb military and police officers. He witnessed the executions of Bosniak prisoners in Orahovac and described the moment when "a living being rose" from the heap of corpses. It was a six-year old boy

Drago Nikolic, charged with crimes in SrebrenicaDrago Nikolic, charged with crimes in Srebrenica

Protected witness 101 gave evidence today at the trial of seven Bosnian Serb military and police officers. "Something so terrible happened, something that I still live with, and that I will live with for the rest of my life", he said describing how he saved a six-year old boy from one of the execution sites in Srebrenica.

The witness was a soldier in a logistics unit of the Zvornik Brigade, stationed in the Karakaj barracks near Zvornik. He was driving a van delivering supplies for the troops. He says he was "a Jack of all trades”, constantly on the move. Doing the rounds of the area in July 1995, he had the opportunity to see buses loaded with Bosniak men at several more locations around Zvornik. He was told they had been brought there to be exchanged.

Several days after the fall of Srebrenica, he found out this was not true. He was ordered to take the van and deliver bread, water and juice to a school in Orahovac, some 5 to 6 kilometers from Zvornik. The school gym was full of captured Bosniak men, he said, and the school building was surrounded by Serbian soldiers and military police. With them were two officers, Sreten Milosevic, assistant commander for logistics, and Drago Nikolic, one of the accused, who was the security chief in the Zvornik Brigade.

Nikolic was considered to be a "decent and pedantic" officer, the witness said, not "arrogant" He was very "successful" in his task as the coordinator of prisoner exchanges. He was there when about 25 captured Bosniak men were taken out of the gym blindfolded and with hands tied behind their backs and loaded onto trucks. The witness did not hear who and when had issued the order for the prisoners to be put on the trucks and transferred to a place where, as it later transpired, they would be executed by a firing squad.

The witness was ordered to follow the truck in his van. At the execution site located near the train tracks, he witnessed something that "silenced the firing squad". The Bosniak prisoners were brought there in groups and shot to death and this process lasted the whole day. Suddenly a figure of a boy, five or six years old, rose from the pile of dead bodies. He walked towards the firing squad. The soldiers were struck dumb by the scene and dropped their weapons.

The boy was covered in blood and confused. An officer, described by the witness as a tall man with a moustache, a lieutenant-colonel or a colonel, turned to the frozen soldiers and said, "What are you waiting for? Finish him off". When the soldiers refused to do so, the order was given for the boy to be shot "with the next batch of prisoners".

The witness offered to take the scared boy with him. Instead of taking him back to the school in Orahovac, he took him to the hospital in Zvornik where the boy was given medical treatment. The court heard about the fate of the “lucky child”, as the witness called him, in closed session. Most of the cross-examination by Drago Nikolic’s defense was also conducted in closed session.

Witness 101 will continue his evidence tomorrow.