On 12 July 1995, General Mladic decided to send most of his troops to Zepa instead of ordering them to pursue a column of Muslim fighters trying to break through from Srebrenica towards Tuzla. According to the OTP military analyst, this doesn’t prove that the ‘VRS didn’t want to kill those men’. Rather, it indicates that the VRS commanders ‘made a mistake in assessing the enemy strength and his intentions’

Richard Butler, witness in the trial of the former military and police officials for the crimes in SrebrenicaRichard Butler, witness in the trial of the former military and police officials for the crimes in Srebrenica

General Mladic and other VRS commanders involved in the operation to take the enclaves in Eastern Bosnia in July 1995 made ‘a number of wrong assessments about the strength and intentions of the enemy’. Richard Butler said this at the beginning of his cross-examination by the defense teams of the seven Bosnian Serb military and police officers on trial for genocide and other crimes in Srebrenica and Zepa.

Butler said that came after Zoran Zivanovic, the defense counsel of the accused Vujadin Popovic, noted that on 12 July 1995 General Mladic ordered the attack on Zepa and sent most of his forces ‘in the direction opposite of the route taken by the 28th Division personnel, who were trying to break through from Srebrenica towards Tuzla’. ‘If the VRS wanted to kill them all, it would have sent all its forces there, not in the opposite direction’, Zivanovic emphasized.

Butler, however, disagreed. General Mladic and the VRS leadership were in a hurry to take Zepa before the response of the international community. They were aware of the danger the Muslim column approaching Zvornik posed, but underestimated it. In Butler’s view, ‘they were over-confident’.

Butler also dismissed the defense’s argument that the attack the 28th Division launched on the village of Visnjica in early July 1995 ‘precipitated Operation Krivaja ’95’. This was codename for the attack of Mladic’s troops on Srebrenica and Zepa. According to Butler, the real reasons why the Srebrenica and Zepa operations were launched can be found in Karadzic’s famous ‘Directive number 7’ and the strategic objectives of the Bosnian Serbs, calling for ‘the removal of the border on the Drina river’ between two Serbian states.

The cross-examination of the OTP’s military analyst is expected to continue for at least two working weeks.