The name of Zoran Malinic, former commander of the military police in the 65th Protection Regiment of the VRS Main Staff, was mentioned at all the trials for crimes in Srebrenica before the Tribunal. At the trial of Zdravko Tolimir, Malinic appeared for the first time as a prosecution witness. Malinic testified under his name but with image distortion as a protective measure. The presiding judge warned the witness that he had the right not to answer any incriminating questions

Zdravko Tolimir in the courtroomZdravko Tolimir in the courtroom

The key issue in the examination-in chief of prosecution witness Zoran Malinic were the events on 13 July 1995 in Nova Kasaba. As alleged in the indictment, the Serb forces held about 1,000 Muslim men captured after the fall of Srebrenica in the local football field in Nova Kasaba.

Malinic was stationed with his military police unit in the school building in Nova Kasaba, some 300 meters away from the football field. The witness described that in the early morning of 13 July 1995 he heard that ‘some members of the BH Army 28th Division surrendered’. Malinic sent a patrol that returned ‘with only three prisoners’. During the day ‘there was a lot of commotion, gunfire, explosions, people surrendering’ and the number of prisoners rose to ‘several hundred’.

According to Malinic, more and more prisoners were captured; this went on until the early evening, when the prisoners were put on the buses. Malinic later heard that they were ‘taken to Bratunac’. The prosecutor showed Malinic an order sent to him by the commander of the 65th Protection Regiment Milomir Savcic on 13 July 1995. In the order, General Tolimir, Mladic’s assistant for security, proposes how the captured Bosniaks should be treated. First, unauthorized access to prisoners was prohibited. UN vehicles were not allowed to travel along the Bratunac-Konjevic Polje road, which passes by the football field in Nova Kasaba. Thirdly, the prisoners were to be put in facilities where they ‘cannot be seen and photographed’.

Malinic contested the authenticity of the document, claiming that the way in which the order was phrased didn’t comply with the rules specifying how orders were to be drafted. ‘It’s impossible to say if it’s an order or an instruction’, Malinic said. According to Malinic, the fact that he ‘held the prisoners in the football field’ proved that he ‘either didn’t comply with’ the order ‘or he ‘never received it’. Since he would have been prosecuted if he had not executed the order, Malinic claimed, he concluded that he ‘probably didn’t receive it’. The prosecutor asked Malinic if he knew that mass graves were discovered in the Nova Kasaba area; hundreds of bodies were recovered from the pits. Malinic tersely said he did not.

The witness continued to contest the allegations from the indictment in his examination-in chief, corroborating the case of the accused Tolimir that the VRS treated prisoners ‘in line with its rules of service’. Finally, Malinic’s former superior officer gave him an opportunity to say something ‘about the accusations levied against you [Malinic]’. Malinic availed himself of the opportunity, saying that General Radislav Krstic, the VRS Drina Corps commander, should be asked why he identified not only Malinic but his entire unit too as the perpetrators of war crimes. In his statement to the OTP before the beginning of the trial, General Krstic identified as ‘main perpetrators’ of the crimes in Srebrenica General Mladic and his ‘clan from Knin’ – mostly security officers. Tolimir, Beara and Popovic topped Krstic’s list, and Zoran Malinic was on it too. General Krstic was convicted of the crimes in Srebrenica and was sentenced to 35 years.

At the end of the cross-examination, Tolimir wished the witness a safe trip home and a successful career. Malinic replied by wishing the general ‘good health and a long life’, and to ‘successfully proffer arguments to defend yourself against the accusations’.

The trial of Zdravko Tolimir continues next week.