The trial of former Mladic’s assistant for security in the VRS Main Staff proceeded for the most part in closed session today with the evidence of a police officer from Bijeljina. In July 1995, the witness saved the life of a 16-year old youth when he took him out from a group of Bosniak captives who were later executed by the Bosnian Serb soldiers

Zdravko Tolimir in the courtroomZdravko Tolimir in the courtroom

A former Serb police officer from Bijeljina testified today at the Zdravko Tolimir trial under the pseudonym PW 054 and with image and voice distortion to protect his identity. He testified for the most part in closed session. In the examination-in chief, the public heard only that the transcript of the witness’s testimony at the trial of seven Bosnian Serb military and police officers in 2006 had been admitted into evidence. The seven Bosnian Serb military and police officers faced the same charges as Tolimir: genocide and other crimes in Srebrenica and Zepa in 1995. Even the brief summary of the witness’s statement, as a rule meant to be made public, was read out in closed session.

In a mop-up operation in the Zvornik area in the second half of July 1995, a group of Bosniaks surrendered to the witness’s unit. After the fall of Srebrenica, the Bosniaks were trying to reach Tuzla through the woods. Among them was a 16-year old youth whom the witness saved by hiding him in a safe place before the other prisoners were executed. This is more or less all that could be learned in the brief parts of the hearing that were open to the public.

In the cross-examination, the accused general referred to the witness’s statement that his superior officer had ordered him not to allow any of the civilians and soldiers in the column moving from Srebrenica through the territory covered by the witness’s unit. ‘Not even a fly shall pass through’, Tolimir repeatedly quoted the words of the witness’s commander. Tolimir put it to the witness that the purpose of the instruction was to stop further advance of the column towards Serb positions and not to kill all the men from the column who fell into the Serb soldiers’ hands. The witness remained adamant that his understanding of the order was for his unit to kill everybody they encountered.

The trial of Mladic’s former assistant for security in the VRS Main Staff continues tomorrow with another prosecution witness.