Former municipal official from Bratunac testified at the trial of General Zdravko Tolimir. On 12 July 1995, the witness attended the meeting between Mladic and the representatives of the Muslim people gathered in Potocari. Tolimir is charged with genocide and other crimes in Srebrenica and Zepa

Zdravko Tolimir in the courtroomZdravko Tolimir in the courtroom

In the summer of 1995, a civilian official in the Bratunac municipality was involved in the effort to ‘take care’ of the people of Srebrenica who had sought shelter near the UN Dutch Battalion base in Potocari following the arrival of Mladic’s forces. Today, he testified under pseudonym PW 063.

At the trial of former assistant commander for security in the VRS Main Staff Zdravko Tolimir who is charged for genocide and other crimes in Srebrenica and Zepa, the witness’s testimony from May 2007 at the trial of the seven RS officers charged with the same crimes was admitted into evidence today. The prosecutor read a summary of the witness’s testimony, which focused on the role of Ljubisa Beara, the security chief in the VRS Main Staff, in the effort to organize the transportation of the men captured after the fall of Srebrenica and their detention.

In response to the prosecutor’s questions, the witness confirmed that on 12 July 1995 he attended a meeting in the Fontana Hotel in Bratunac. As the witness said, General Mladic asked the Bosniak delegation from Srebrenica to state whether they wanted to leave the enclave or to stay. The witness was able to identify the VRS officers and representatives of the Srebrenica’s Muslim population – Ibro Nuhanovic, Camila Omanovic and Nesib Mandzic – on the photos. As the witness said, they stated they wanted to leave the enclave as soon as possible.

General Mladic then ordered the ‘comrades from the municipality’ to provide food, drinks and accommodation to the people gathered in Potocari, the witness recounted. The witness spent two hours in Potocari, monitoring the distribution of bread, water and fruit juice. He claimed he didn’t notice any abuse of refugees. The next day in Bratunac, the witness saw buses full of men. As he recounted, he was told that those men would be taken to the Batkovic prison camp to be exchanged for captured VRS soldiers. Instead of Batkovic, the men were first taken to various locations where they were detained for a short time and were then transferred to execution sites in the broader Srebrenica area.

In the cross-examination, the accused general focused mostly on the crimes against the Serb population in the villages around the Srebrenica enclave after it was declared a protected area in March 1993.

The witness said that contrary to the demilitarization that had been declared, the Serb villages around the enclave were under constant attacks in 1993 and 1994; the buildings were destroyed and the inhabitants expelled or killed. According to the witness, 139 persons, mostly civilians, were killed in two attacks on the village of Bjelovac. On Christmas Day in 1994, 60 persons were killed in the village of Kravica and 25 persons were killed in the village of Fakovici.

The witness said that the attempt of the men from Srebrenica to break through to Tuzla in July 1995 through the woods and hills was caused by their fear of facing the Serb army because they most probably ‘had blood on their hands’ from the attacks on the Serb villages. The witness also corroborated the defense claim that the Bosniaks moving in the column killed each other, because they quarreled over whether to surrender or to continue fighting the Serb forces that encircled them.

In the re-examination, the prosecutor confronted the witness with the fact that a number of detained Muslims were killed in the schools in Bratunac: as a municipal official the witness had to have known about that. The witness was reluctant to answer. The presiding judge then told the witness that he had the right not to answer a question if it could incriminate him. The hearing then continued in closed session. The re-examination of Witness PW 063 continues tomorrow.