Radovan Karadzic completed his cross-examination of Jean-Rene Ruez. Insisting that ‘numbers are important’, Radovan Karadzic counted 60 to 70 persons on an aerial photo of the football field in Nova Kasaba taken on 13 July 1995. Ruez replied that he never actually thought to count the prisoners, but, as far as numbers were concerned, he put his trust in the VRS documents, which show that more than 1,000 persons were arrested that day in the Nova Kasaba area. After Ruez completed his evidence, the prosecution called protected witness KDZ 333, a survivor of the execution at the Branjevo farm

Jean-Rene Ruez, witness at the Radovan Karadzic trialJean-Rene Ruez, witness at the Radovan Karadzic trial

As former Republika Srpska president Radovan Karadzic was about to complete his cross-examination of Jean-Rene Ruez, he asked the witness to tell him ‘what is the biggest number of bodies’ that could be counted on the photographs taken during the mass grave exhumations. ‘I want to see the photos showing hundreds of bodies in a single grave’, the former Republika Srpska president demanded today. Karadzic is charged with the genocide in Srebrenica committed by the forces under his command in July 1995.

Ruez explained that the mass graves were exhumed gradually, layer by layer, and it was therefore technically impossible to record the contents of an entire grave on a single photo. Ruez told the accused he should ask archeologist Richard Wright and forensic anthropologist William Haglund who could give him more detailed answers. Wright and Haglund conducted the exhumations in Srebrenica. Judge O-Gon Kwon noted that Karadzic had failed to ask them this question when he had a chance to cross-examine them.

Karadzic insisted on counting the victims on the photos. On an aerial photo of a group of prisoners in the football field in Nova Kasaba taken on 13 July 1995, Karadzic counted between 60 and 70 persons. Ruez replied that he never tried to count them because the photos were too fuzzy. Ruez noted that any reasonable person trying to count the prisoners would come up with a bigger figure than Karadzic.

In the re-examination, prosecutor Mitchell brought up a report sent by the 65th Protection Regiment of the VRS Main Staff on 13 July 1995, instructing the subordinates to transfer the prisoners from the football field in Nova Kasaba to ‘covered facilities’ to prevent them from being photographed from ground or air. The document spoke of ‘over 1,000 prisoners’ of Muslim ethnicity captured after the fall of the Srebrenica enclave. As the witness said, this document and other similar papers were the best way to accurately calculate the number of the captured men.

Ruez did not accept Karadzic’s theory that the bodies of Muslim fighters killed in fighting were added to the mass graves. ‘I find this theory shocking’, the witness said, insisting that none of persons indicted for the Srebrenica crimes had aired this as a possibility, which would have helped them to obfuscate. The Zvornik Brigade commander Dragan Obrenovic, who pleaded guilty to the crimes, and the chief engineer in the Zvornik Brigade Dragan Jokic did not bring up that possibility, Ruez noted.

After Ruez completed his evidence, the prosecution called a protected witness, KDZ 333. The witness was detained in the football field in Nova Kasaba on 13 July 1995. KDZ 333 confirmed that 1,200 to 1,500 persons were put there. The witness is one of the two survivors of the mass execution that was carried out three days later, on 16 July 1995 at the Branjevo farm. The transcript of the witness’s evidence at the trial of General Radislav Krstic in 2000 was admitted into evidence.

In the cross-examination, Karadzic put it to the witness that he had made up the whole story about the execution. Karadzic claimed that somebody from the ‘witness training center’ instructed the witness what to say in court. The witness dismissed Karadzic’s accusations and said he hoped Karadzic would never leave prison, ‘considering how many crimes he had committed’.

Jean-Rene Ruez, witness at the Radovan Karadzic trial
Areal photo of the prisoners in Nova Kasaba