The prosecution opened its case at the trial of General Zdravko Tolimir with the evidence of a Bosniak who survived the execution in Orahovac. As alleged in the indictment, about 1,000 captured men and boys were executed there. Tolimir is charged with genocide and other crimes in Srebrenica and Zepa in July 1995

Zdravko Tolimir in the courtroomZdravko Tolimir in the courtroom

The prosecution begins with its case at the trial of Zdravko Tolimir, former Mladic’s assistant for security and intelligence in the VRS Main Staff, with the evidence of one of about a dozen Bosniak men who survived the executions in Srebrenica in July 1995.

In his fifth testimony before the Tribunal, protected witness PW 007 described how he and his brother fled in the face of the Serb troops entering Srebrenica. On 11 July 1995, the two joined the column of soldiers and civilians moving through the woods in an attempt to reach Tuzla. The column had approximately 15,000 people and was headed by a group of 400 or 500 armed BH Army soldiers, the witness said. The next day, the Serb forces surrounded the rear of the column, where the witness was. Almost 1,000 men decided to surrender. The Serb soldiers gathered them in a field near the village of Sandici. At sunset, General Mladic addressed them, greeting them and saying ‘Good evening, neighbors’. Mladic said that they would be exchanged. The prisoners cheered and shouted ‘Thank you, commander’, the witness recounted.

Soon afterward, the prisoners were taken to Bratunac on buses and trucks and spent the night there. Serb soldiers took some of them out to a nearby garage, the witness described. The other prisoners then heard blunt blows, cries and gunshots.

The next day, 14 July 1995, the convoy of trucks and buses took off from Bratunac via Konjevic Polje and Zvornik to arrive at the primary school in Orahovac. Prisoners were placed in the gym. Young soldiers stood at the doors of the gym; they said they were ‘Karadzic’s baby Chetniks’.

In the evening, some officers appeared at the door. Then, the witness went on, the prisoners were taken out in groups of thirty; they were blindfolded and a woman in uniform gave them ‘some water, a cup each’. Then they got into trucks and after a short ride, the prisoners were told to get out. Despite being blindfolded, the witness recounted, he was able to see ‘a dead man’ before him on the ground. There was a burst of gunfire and the witness was knocked down by the man standing next to him. The witness was not hit but remained on the ground for as long as the trucks kept on coming, bringing new groups of prisoners. After they were executed, a backhoe and a front-loader arrived. The witness managed to escape and after a couple of days he reached the territory controlled by the BH Army.

In the cross-examination, Zdravko Tolimir, who is self-represented, maintained that Bosniaks heading towards Tuzla in a column ‘violated the agreement’ between General Mladic and the representatives of the refugees in Potocari. Under the agreement, men of military age had to surrender in order for the others to be allowed go to the BH Army-controlled territory. Tolimir also said that ‘the able-bodied men, aged between 15 and 60’ were in the column; this should supposedly mean that they were a legitimate military target although they were unarmed.

General Tolimir’s trial continues tomorrow with the evidence of yet another survivor of Srebrenica executions.