At the beginning of his cross-examination of Vinko Pandurevic, the prosecutor notes that Pandurevic’s ’false report’ of 16 July 1995 shows that his evidence couldn’t be trusted. On 16 July 1995 Pandurevic allowed the column of troops from BH Army’s 28th division pass through the Zvornik Brigade positions

Vinko Pandurević u sudnici TribunalaVinko Pandurević u sudnici Tribunala

The prosecutor Peter McCloskey finally got to cross-examine Vinko Pandurevic, former commander of the VRS Zvornik Brigade, who has been testifying in his own defense for the past month at the trial of Bosnian Serb military and police officers charged with crimes in Srebrenica and Zepa. The prosecutor asked for 20 hours for his cross-examination; it will last at least until the end of this week.

The first issue the prosecutor addressed was the famous corridor opened to let the BH Army’s 28th Division pass. Pandurevic alleges that he opened the corridor on 16 and 17 July 1995 on his own accord for ‘humanitarian reasons, to save lives’. The prosecution, however, contends that Pandurevic was motivated by fear that the Zvornik Brigade might suffer a defeat: the BH Army 28th Division moving in direction of Tuzla after the fall of Srebrenica posed a serious threat to the Zvornik Brigade.

’Saving his own soldiers’ was, according to the prosecutor, yet another reason why Pandurevic failed to inform the VRS Drina Corps command of his intention to open the corridor and to ask permission to do it. ’You didn’t ask permission because you knew it would not be granted’, the prosecutor said. Pandurevic said that today he ’cannot know’ it, but at the time it was his assessment that ’there is no need to call the Drina Corps commander, General Krstic’. ’I doubt that he would have allowed me to open the corridor’, Pandurevic noted.

The prosecutor went on with his examination, reminding the Zvornik Brigade commander that, according to his own evidence, he ’simply lied’ in his report when he painted a ’more dramatic picture than it actually was’ and failed to mention the opening of the corridor. As the prosecutor alleged, the danger the Zvornik Brigade soldiers faced might have been real, but it served Pandurevic to protect himself against being sanctioned for opening the corridor without permission.

When the prosecutor asked him, ’why didn’t you simply kept silent about everything instead of lying’, Pandurevic told him that ‘a commander in combat situation reasons differently from a lawyer in a courtroom’. He had to write a report in which it was impossible ’not to say anything’, Pandurevic clarified. He had to find a ’logical explanation for what he had done’. It is not possible to compare what he had stated in his report and what he was saying now in the courtroom as, Pandurevic claimed, ’that was not one and same lie’. Having said that, Pandurevic corrected himself, saying he didn’t lie in his evidence.