The trial of Radovan Karadzic continues with the evidence of a protected witness. In July 1995, the witness survived a mass execution of people from Srebrenica at Orahovac. The accused put it to the witness that Muslims had been preparing for the war against Serbs and not the other way round, adding that ‘nobody would have died’ if they hadn’t resisted. The witness shot back that it was ‘rubbish’

Radovan Karadžić u sudnici TribunalaRadovan Karadžić u sudnici Tribunala

The third witness of the prosecution at the trial of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic is a Bosniak from Kamenica. In July 1995, the witness survived a mass execution at Orahovac. The indictment alleges that about 1,000 men and boys were killed there. The witness is testifying under a pseudonym and with image distortion as protective measures.

The prosecution tendered into evidence the witness’s consolidated written statement based on his previous evidence. The witness already testified at five trials, including those of Slobodan Milosevic and Vujadin Popovic. According to the summary of the statement, in March 1993 the witness fled Kamenica first to Konjevic Polje and then on to Srebrenica. After the Bosnian Serb troops entered Srebrenica on 11 July 1995, the witness went to Susnjare, hiding in the woods there.

Some 1,000 people, including the witness, surrendered to the Serb troops in Sandici on 13 July. Ratko Mladic addressed the prisoners that day. The prisoners applauded when Mladic promised them they would be exchanged. A smaller group of women and children was first transferred to buses, while the men and some ten boys were first taken to Bratunac and then to a school in near Zvornik. On 14 July 1995, the prisoners were taken out of the school in groups, every 15 minutes. They were put on trucks and driven to a nearby field where they were executed. The killing lasted the whole day and evening. The witness was not hit and played dead, hiding underneath a dead body. When the night fell, he ran away, leaving behind a field littered with bodies.

In the brief examination-in-chief by prosecutor Julian Nichols, the witness said he left Srebrenica on 11 July 1995 because he was afraid. ‘One year earlier, Radovan Karadzic threatened revenge against the residents of Srebrenica’, the witness explained, adding, ‘we were afraid of the exact same thing that eventually happened to us on the way’, the witness said.

In his cross-examination, Karadzic put it to the witness that he was ‘not a victim but a BH Army soldier’ and in Karadzic’s view, the two are mutually exclusive. Referring to the BH Army documents and books authored by its commanders after the war, Karadzic argued that in the Zvornik area, Muslims ‘secretly organized themselves’ as early as in 1991. The JNA then turned into a Serb army ‘because the Muslims left its ranks’. Karadzic noted that ‘nobody would have been killed’ had there been no resistance. ‘Mr. Karadzic, if we hadn’t resisted at all, there would have been half a million victims’, the witness responded, reminding Karadzic of what had happened in Srebrenica. ‘According to you, we should have stayed indoors, because it would have made it easier for you to get everybody together in one building, rape the girls and women, kill whomever you please and let others go, as you pleased’, the witness said.

The accused also put it to the witness that he returned to Kamenica on 3 April 1992 from Belgrade where he had a job to ‘defend his village’. ‘No, I came to celebrate Eid-al-Fitr’, the witness replied. The witness doesn’t contest the fact that he later joined the BH Army and that he defended his country. The witness added that under the law, all citizens were obliged to defend BH. ‘And you ethnically cleansed BH’, the witness told Karadzic. The witness also rejected Karadzic’s suggestion that he ‘defended his village against the Serbs’. ‘Fikret Abdic is a Bosniak, but we had to defend ourselves against him, too’, the witness noted.

During the cross-examination, tempers flared often in the courtroom. The witness disagreed with practically everything the accused put to him. ‘Karadzic, you talk rubbish’, the witness said several times. Addressing the judges, the witness said that he ‘can’t give answers to stupid questions’. The witness reminded the court that Srebrenica had been under UN protection but fell nevertheless before the eyes of whole world. ‘First you took our property, then you stole our lives and now you are trying to convince me that we wanted the war’, the witness said as he turned to face the accused.

As the cross-examination continues tomorrow, Karadzic is expected to eventually get to the most relevant part of the evidence of the witness KDZ 064, how he survived the execution in July 1995 near Orahovac.