CHECKING AUTHENTICITY OF INTERCEPTED CONVERSATIONS
In an effort to prove the authenticity and reliability of intercepted communications between various RS military and police officers recorded in 1995 by the BH Army and police intelligence services, the prosecution called Stephanie Frease to give evidence at the trial of Zdravko Tolimir. Frease is former OTP investigator; in 1995, she was involved in a project to gather and analyze materials related to the intercepted conversations
At the trial of Zdravko Tolimir today, the prosecution tendered into evidence the statement its former investigator Stephanie Frease gave at the previous trial for crimes in Srebrenica and Zepa. In her evidence, Frease talked about the effort to collect, analyze and verify the authenticity of intercepted communications between various RS military and police officers recorded by the BH military and police intelligence services. The prosecutor then asked her some additional questions about the criteria and the procedure used to check the authenticity of the material.
The prosecution learned there were recordings and transcripts of intercepted conversations as soon as it began investigating the Srebrenica events in 1995. The authorities in Sarajevo did not deliver the first documents to the prosecution before March 1998, Frease said. The material contained 550 pages of photocopied transcripts of conversations intercepted from 9 to 30 July 1995. In April 1998, the prosecution received 134 notebooks in which the operators wrote down the contents of the communications they intercepted. The collection was supplemented in May 1999 with 57 more notebooks and two floppy disks. In 2000, the prosecution got two boxes of audio tapes with recorded conversations.
Stephanie Frease worked on analyzing the material until 2000 when she left the OTP. With the help of a team of experts, translators and analysts, Frease was trying to establish the reliability and authenticity of the material by comparing it to other documents and aerial photos taken at the same time. Frease also created a data base which systematized all the documents related to the intercepted conversations.
In preparations for the trial of the Srebrenica Seven which started in 2006, the prosecution once again hired Stephanie Frease to make a comparative analysis of the existing material and new documents obtained after Frease left the Tribunal. In 2001, the BH Information and Documentation Agency handed over to the OTP four floppy disks with the transcripts of conversations the BH State Security surveillance service recorded in 1995.
After a detailed analysis of all the versions of intercepted communications – from audio recordings and handwritten notes in notebooks to typed-up copies in electronic format – the initial skepticism of the investigators about the material was quashed. As Frease said, she never found any documents that would cast doubt on the whole collection.
The authenticity of the documents was additionally verified by linking the intercepted conversations with other documents about the period and locations discussed in the conversations. Among them are the conversations between Colonel Ljubisa Beara, security officer in the VRS Main Staff, and the commander of the 65th Protection Regiment Zoran Malinic Zok of 13 July 1995, Frease confirmed. In their first conversation around 11am, Malinic tells Beara about 400 Muslims captured in Konjevic Polje who are to be taken to a nearby sports field. In their second communication around 2pm, Malinic says there are now about a thousand Muslims. Beara tells Malinic to ‘cram them all into the sports field’.
Frease linked two documents with those conversations: an order from the 65th Protection Regiment command, issued on 13 July 1995 about what to do with ‘1,000 prisoners in the Konjevic Polje area’, and aerial photos of a football field near Konjevic Polje taken on 13 July 1995 and showing a field full of people.
Stephanie Frease continues her evidence tomorrow.
- Case : Tolimir - "Srebrenica"
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