Witness KDZ 039 completed his evidence at the trial of Radovan Karadzic. The trial continued with the testimony of Dutch military officer Johannes Rutten. Karadzic claimed that Muslims detained in the ‘white house’ in Potocari threw away their documents and burned them deliberately, in order to prevent the Serb authorities from identifying them. The captured Muslims also burned their money because they didn’t want it ‘to end in Serbian hands’

Johannes Rutten, witness at the Radovan Karadzic trialJohannes Rutten, witness at the Radovan Karadzic trial

Continuing his cross-examination of Witness KDZ 039, Radovan Karadzic tried to contest his evidence that Ratko Mladic attended the execution of the captured inhabitants of Srebrenica on 14 July 1995 in Orahovac. Karadzic claimed that Mladic spent that whole day in Dobanovci near Belgrade, at a meeting with the Serbian president Milosevic and the European envoy to the Balkans Carl Bildt.

The witness told Karadzic it was ‘possible’ that the meeting took place in the evening. He said once again that during the day General Mladic was near the school in Orahovac. The indictment alleges that about 1,000 boys and men from Srebrenica were detained there and were executed in a nearby field the same day. The witness repeated that he saw Mladic no less than six times, from the time when he was detained in Potocari to the time where he faced the firing squad in Orahovac. In the re-examination, prosecutor Nichols brought up entries in Mladic’s diaries stating that the meeting on 14 July 1995 began at 9:15 pm. This left the VRS commander enough time to fly by helicopter from Orahovac to Dobanovci.

Dutch lieutenant colonel Johannes Rutten was called to the witness stand next. In July 1995, Rutten, who was a lieutenant at the time, served as intelligence officer in the Dutch Battalion in the UN protected zone. The witness’s statement based on his previous evidence at the three Srebrenica trials was tendered into evidence together with a collection of video recordings related to the trials and events in Srebrenica.

A video showing Serb soldiers giving candy, bread and water to the children and women in Potocari was played in court. The witness said he was clear that it was propaganda because the situation changed the very moment the cameras were switched off. The witness took photos with his camera of a group of terrified men detained in the ‘white house’ and of the bodies of nine men who had been killed near the house. The witness handed the film to the authorities after his return to Holland, only to be told later that ‘something went wrong’ as the film was developed and the pictures were lost.

In the cross-examination Karadzic claimed that Srebrenica was never fully demilitarized and that the 28th Division of the BH Army operated from within the area with ‘thousands of soldiers’. Karadzic specified that about 6,000 Muslim soldiers were deployed in Srebrenica in July 1995. They burned down dozens of Serb villages, killing almost 4,000 Serbs, mostly civilians, Karadzic said.

Karadzic also put it to the witness that civilian authorities had ordered the people from Srebrenica to evacuate and to move towards Potocari ‘a long time before the Serb army entered the town’. As the witness said, if the civilian authorities had in fact issued such a decision, he found it reasonable: based on what had happened before, the VRS was known not to ‘treat the civilian population kindly’, the witness explained.

Karadzic put it to the witness that he ‘only saw’ the bodies of nine male victims, but not the killings, claiming this information could not be used in a court of law because there had been no ‘crime scene investigation’. Karadzic also argued that the prisoners from the ‘white house’ in Potocari threw away their personal documents themselves so that the Serb authorities who had a list of 387 ‘war criminals’ couldn’t identify them. The captured Muslims threw away their money too, ‘lest it should fall into Serbian hands’, Karadzic claimed.

Responding to Karadzic’s claims, Rutten said that the soldiers in front of the ‘white house’ forced prisoners at gunpoint to throw away their personal possessions and documents; some of the prisoners were boys not older than 12. The witness confirmed to the accused that he saw it with his own eyes. As he said, the photo he took which Karadzic showed in court clearly shows the documents burning. The reason why the documents were destroyed, in the witness’s opinion, was to prevent the identification of victims.