A member of the 1st Battalion, Zvornik Brigade testifies about the mysterious disappearance of the order on “accommodation” for a group of Muslim captives in the gym of the school in Kula on 14 July 1994

Aleksa Babic, witness in the trial of the former military and police officials charged with the Srebrenica genocide Aleksa Babic, witness in the trial of the former military and police officials charged with the Srebrenica genocide

Aleksa Babic, Serbian language teacher from the village of Pilica, was twice drafted in the 1st Battalion of the Zvornik brigade. In July 1995 he was the assistant to the commander for general affairs.

Testifying at the trial of the seven Bosnian Serb military and police officers charged with the crimes in Srebrenica and Zepa, Babic described how he had returned to the battalion HQ after a brief absence and seen a note in a duty officer’s notebook about an order from the Zvornik brigade “to accommodate about 100 to 200 people from Srebrenica who will be brought there that day in the school gym in Kula; they will be taken to Tuzla the next day to be exchanged”.

Together with the deputy commander and the assistants for security and morale, Babic was tasked with the preparation of the gym while two groups of four soldiers guarded the school entrances.

Soon afterwards, some soldiers unknown to the witness arrived at the school and then there came a column of civilians with their hands up. The witness was not able to count how many of them were brought into the gym, but he said today that it had been two thirds full when all captives were inside. Because of the heat and the bad stench spreading from the gym, some prisoners were soon moved to classrooms. The guards at the entrances were relieved every five minutes.

The next day Babic came back to his flat near the school. In the same afternoon, he saw an officer in front of the school and was told that he was a colonel or a lieutenant colonel. The man was tall and strong with blond receding hair. When Babic asked him what to do with the people in the school, the officer retorted angrily that they were “incompetent”. “We bring you Muslims, and you don’t even know how to take them away”, Babic quoted him as saying.

In the morning of 16 July 2007, the witness saw from the window of his flat that the captives were being lined up facing the wall. Their hands were tied behind their backs and they were blindfolded. He also saw a bus and guessed the prisoners were then made to board it.

When he returned to the HQ on 17 July he found out that the page in the duty officer’s logbook where the order to “accommodate” the captives in the school in Kula “simply was not there any more”.

According to the indictment, many of 1,200 prisoners from the Kula school were executed summarily. Ljubisa Beara was responsible for their arrest and execution, Vinko Pandurevic was in charge of their burial and Drago Nikolic was in command of the military and police officers securing the school in Kula, the prosecution alleges.