The prosecution witness testifying at the Srebrenica trial claims that he took a rifle in his hands only once, on 14 July 1995 in Orahovac. As about a thousand captured Muslim men were killed there on that day, the witness is treated a suspect for this crime

Tanacko Tanic, witness in the trial of the former military and police officials charged with the Srebrenica genocide Tanacko Tanic, witness in the trial of the former military and police officials charged with the Srebrenica genocide

Before a new prosecution witness was called at the trial of seven Bosnian Serb military and police officers, there was a half an hour long debate on the status of Tanacko Tanic, former Zvornik Brigade treasurer, who is being treated a suspect by the OTP.

The defense argued that the witness “has not clearly understood his position and rights” as the OTP failed to explain fully the consequences of his status. As the prosecution dismissed those allegations, the debate was ended by the presiding judge who said to the witness after he entered the courtroom that he was still considered a suspect and had the right to testify in the presence of his attorney. Tanic declined, asking only that “his status be defined as soon as possible” and that he be “either indicted or set free”.

Tanic was drafted to the Republika Srpska Army (VRS) in April 1992, but, in his words, he never fought because he didn’t want to “carry arms”. He took up a rifle for the first time on 14 July 1995. On that day, he met Mr. Mijatovic, a Zvornik Brigade sales officer, in the barracks compound. Mijatovic told him to grab a rifle and follow him to Orahovac because “the prisoners were escaping”.

As “Mijatovic’s was on good terms with the commander”, Tanic thought it “would not be good to turn down his request”. So he took a rifle and drove to the Orahovac School with a group of Zvornik Brigade soldiers. There he saw the prisoners being loaded onto trucks. Judging from the way they were treated, Tanic said, it was quite clear they were not being taken to “an exchange”, despite the previous announcements that they would be exchanged.

This was confirmed by the dead bodies of prisoners who had been killed and “a pile of jackets and a pair of crutches” he had seen by the school playground fence. Tanic said that he had tried to leave the school area as soon as possible. There he saw Drago Nikolic, the then Zvornik Brigade security officer, and was told that Vujadin Popovic was also there although Tanic was not able to describe him.

The prosecution uses the testimony of this witness to prove the responsibility of the accused VRS officers for the execution at Orahovac. The indictment alleges that about a thousand Srebrenica Muslims – including children – were executed there on 14 July 1995. The witness said that he had been appalled to see boys aged 10 to 12 among the prisoners, but could do nothing about it. When he said that “at least the children could have been taken somewhere else”, some soldiers said, “they’ll grow up too”.

After about two or three hours at the school, Tanic left and went to his friends’ house in Orahovac and then, at about 10 pm, set off towards Zvornik on foot. Soon afterwards, he came upon a brigade supplies van and the soldiers gave him a lift to the barracks. A boy was in the van together with them, Tanic said. Both the boy and the van driver already testified at this trial in February 2007, under identity protection measures.

Tanacko Tanic will continue his testimony tomorrow afternoon.