As the cross-examination of Vinko Pandurevic continues, the prosecutor has tried to show that, contrary to his previous testimony, on 15 July 1995 the VRS Zvornik Brigade commander was aware of the operation to detain and execute Bosniaks captured after the fall of Srebrenica
Vinko Pandurević u sudnici Tribunala
Continuing his cross-examination of Vinko Pandurevic, prosecutor Peter McCloskey returned to the issue of the interim combat report sent by the former commander of the VRS Zvornik Brigade to the Drina Corps command on 15 July 1995, the day when he returned from Zepa to his brigade on the orders of general Krstic.
In the report, Pandurevic describes the situation saying that the Zvornik municipality is ‘overflowing with Turks from Srebrenica’; as he puts it, he ‘cannot understand how somebody could bring 3,000 Turks of military age and put them in schools all over municipality, in addition to some 7,000 of those who had managed to flee hiding in the woods’. At that moment, several thousand prisoners guarded by members of the Zvornik Brigade were kept in schools in the wider Zvornik area.
The report went on to warn of the danger of ‘a total occupation’ of Zvornik. The local population was not happy and the general opinion was that ‘Zvornik paid for the capture of Srebrenica’. Pandurevic threatens that ‘if nobody takes care of this problem, I will be forced to let them go’.
This threat is the controversial part of Pandurevic’s report, interpreted differently by the defense and the prosecution. According to the prosecution, the threat refers to the Bosniaks detained in the Zvornik schools: Pandurevic threatened he would ‘let them go’. The defense however pointed to the next paragraph in Pandurevic’s report speaking of negotiations with the enemy about letting the column of civilians and BH Army soldiers heading towards Tuzla pass through the area of responsibility of the Zvornik Brigade. According to Pandurevic, the ‘threat to let them go’ referred to letting the column pass through. On the next day, 16 July 1995, Pandurevic opened up a corridor so that the column could indeed pass through.
The prosecutor tried to corroborate his claim with the testimony of Radislav Krstic, the accused, and defence military expert Radoslav Radinovic at the trial of the Drina Corps commander. The expert report drafted by General Radinovic says that Pandurevic’s report is in fact an ‘appeal to the supreme command to take over the prisoners’. In his evidence in his own defense, General Krstic said that Pandurevic in his report of 15 July 1995 ‘probably meant the prisoners who were a burden to him’ so he threatened he would let them go. General Krstic was sentenced to 35 years for the same crimes Pandurevic is now charged with.
Pandurevic, however, claims that Krstic interpreted the report in light of what he knew about what had happened; any ‘reader who doesn’t have inside knowledge’ will clearly see that the threat was about letting the column pass. Radinovic’s assessment, Pandurevic maintained, was contradictory and based on the interpretation of ‘just one paragraph and not the entire report’ Pandurevic had sent to the Drina Corps on 15 July 1995.
Vinko Pandurevic’s cross-examination will be completed next Monday, the prosecutor has indicated.