Australian general John Wilson says in 1992 he ‘got the impression’ that Zivota Panic, chief of the JNA General Staff, was Ratko Mladic’s superior when Mladic was the VRS commander. In August 1993, Panic was replaced by General Momcilo Perisic

John Wilson, witness in the Momcilo Perisic trialJohn Wilson, witness in the Momcilo Perisic trial

The prosecution today called Australian general John Wilson to testify at the trial of Momcilo Perisic, in an effort to prove the widespread and systematic nature of attacks against the civilian population during the war in Sarajevo. The prosecution also wants to prove that General Momcilo Perisic was aware that crimes were committed in Sarajevo; as the prosecution alleges, Perisic, as the chief of the VJ General Staff, ‘significantly contributed’ to the commission of the crimes by providing personnel, material and logistic support to the Bosnian Serb forces that perpetrated those crimes.

Although the indictment against Perisic covers the period from August 1993 to November 1995, General Wilson spoke about the events he witnessed in May and June 1992 while he served in Sarajevo as the chief of staff of the UN military observers. In 2005, General Wilson testified at the trial of Momcilo Krajisnik, former president of the Bosnian Serb Assembly. The transcript of that evidence was tendered into evidence today, and the prosecutor read a brief summary of Wilson’s statement.

According to the summary, in late May and early June 1992 Wilson took part in ‘negotiations between political and military representatives of the parties engaged in the war’ in relation to the opening of the Sarajevo airport and the deblocking of the JNA barracks and their evacuation. The participants included the representatives of the BH Presidency, Zivota Panic, the then chief of the JNA General Staff, and Ratko Mladic.
Mladic introduced himself to Wilson as the VRS commander.

Each party had its particular interest in the negotiations, Wilson said. The BH presidency said that the JNA would be allowed to withdraw if it surrendered its weapons. Panic wanted the JNA to evacuate at any cost, and was ready to surrender the weapons. Mladic wanted the both - the personnel and the weapons to be allowed to evacuate without giving anything in return. However, after a brief but heated exchange between Panic and Mladic, the VRS commander had to bow down, Wilson recounted. This led Wilson to conclude that Mladic was subordinate to the chief of the JNA General Staff.

Momcilo Perisic’s defense counsel Gregory Smith quoted from the transcript of the evidence Wilson gave at the Krajisnik trial where he said that Mladic was ‘out of control, independent and irrational’. The witness confirmed this, adding that it was his impression that Mladic was not responsible to the Bosnian Serb leadership.

After General Wilson completed his evidence, prosecution political expert Patrick Traenor began his evidence. Traenor drafted a report on ‘different aspects of the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia and goals of Serbian leaders to create state structures for the Serb people who had lived in the SFRY up until that time’. Traenor’s evidence continues tomorrow.