In his cross-examination of British pathologist John Clark and Guatemalan anthropologist Fredi Peccerelli, Radovan Karadzic argued that the Srebrenica victims had been killed in combat, and not in mass executions. The witnesses didn’t rule this out entirely but added it was not very likely, considering all the evidence collected during the investigation of the crimes in Srebrenica

John Clark, witness at the Radovan Karadzic trialJohn Clark, witness at the Radovan Karadzic trial

In the cross-examination of British pathologist John Clark, Radovan Karadzic strove to prove that the victims whose remains were exhumed in the Srebrenica mass graves had been killed in combat, not executed. Karadzic argued that the British pathologist didn’t have all the necessary information that, in the view of the accused, corroborated his case.

Karadzic put it to the witness that when the witness was sent to Srebrenica he was not told there had been heavy fighting in the area for 44 months, with heavy casualties. The fallen soldiers were buried in mass graves when the area was cleaned up. The witness agreed that he had not been told about the fighting, admitting it was possible that some of the exhumed victims had died in combat. Nevertheless, as the witness noted, many victims had ligatures on their hands and legs and were blindfolded: this ruled out any possibility that they had been killed in the fighting.

Karadzic argued that victims had been blindfolded because purportedly it is ‘Muslim soldiers’ custom’ to wear cloth ribbons wrapped around their heads, arms and even legs in combat. The British pathologist briefly replied that he hadn’t heard of any such custom.

The next witness, Guatemalan anthropologist Fredi Peccerelli, said that blindfolds were found on many of the victims exhumed from the mass graves in Lazete 1 and 2. In some cases, the blindfolds slipped to the victims’ foreheads or mouths as the bodies were moved and as tissue decomposed. Peccerelli added that in many cases, the blindfolds were made of the same pink fabric which, in his view, ‘isn’t appropriate’ for use in combat.

The indictment charges Karadzic with the execution of about 1,000 Muslims in Orahovac following the fall of the Srebrenica enclave. The prosecution alleges that their bodies were buried in mass graves prepared by the engineering unit of the Zvornik Brigade on 14 and 15 July 1995 at Lazete 1 and 2 sites.

Peccerelli said that a large number of empty bullet casings were found near the graves indicating that the victims had been executed there and their bodies dumped into the mass graves using earth-moving equipment. As Karadzic argued, the casings and other items, such as bullets, watches, razors and documents, found next to the victims indicated that they died as soldiers and not prisoners of war, because all such items are routinely taken away from prisoners of war after their capture. Although the witness admitted the argument could not be refuted out of hand, he added it was necessary to look at the investigation in its entirety.

At one point, Karadzic did admit that there had been some executions, at least in the case of the 12 victims from Orahovac who were blindfolded with their hands tied behind their back. However, based on what Karadzic has argued in the trial so far, he blames the executions on revenge by individuals; this is something he and his subordinate generals could not have controlled.

After Peccerelli completed his evidence, the prosecution called its third witness, retired Kenyan colonel Josef Kingori. Between March and July 1995, Kingori served as UN military observer in Srebrenica. In the first half of his examination-in chief, Kingori described the shelling of Srebrenica that began on 6 July 1995. Kingori went on to describe the fall of the enclave into the hands of the VRS. Kingori continues his evidence tomorrow.

John Clark, witness at the Radovan Karadzic trial
Fredi Peccerelli, witness at the Radovan Karadzic trial
Josef Kingori, witness at the Radovan Karadzic trial