Milenko Katanic from Bratunac spoke in his evidence at the trial of Radovan Karadzic how his close friend Miroslav Deronjic ‘tried to save the honor of Bratunac’ when he managed to convince Ljubisa Beara not to keep thousands of Muslims in Bratunac. Deronjic, who had pleaded guilty before the Tribunal, persuaded Beara to ‘at least distribute them evenly in accommodation facilities in several municipalities’, Katanic said

Milenko Katanic, witness at the Radovan Karadzic trialMilenko Katanic, witness at the Radovan Karadzic trial

Former technical secretary in the SDS office in Bratunac Milenko Katanic testified at the trial of Radovan Karadzic. Katanic described a meeting on 11 July 1995 at which Radovan Karadzic announced over the phone that he had appointed Miroslav Deronjic as the ‘civil affairs commissioner’ for Srebrenica.

As Katanic recounted, Deronjic invited him and other participants of the meeting to his office in the SDS office in Bratunac. Karadzic spoke to them over the phone, saying that Deronjic ‘will answer to him with his life for all civilian affairs in the municipality’ and that all of them answered to Deronjic. Katanic described the relationship between Karadzic and Deronjic as ‘professional’.

Prosecutor Kimberly West asked the witness who, in his opinion, was Deronjic’s superior and who issued orders to him. The witness replied that ‘the very fact that he had appointed Deronjic to the post’ made it logical that Karadzic was Deronjic’s superior. Katanic also said he learned about the murder of Muslim captives in Kravica from Deronjic a few hours after the incident, in the evening of 13 July 1995. The way in which Deronjic told him about the event made the witness realize Deronjic was ‘concerned’ about it.

The prosecutor showed a segment from the Serbian TV news broadcast on 14 July 1995, reporting on a meeting between Karadzic and Krajisnik and Deronjic and other members of the delegation from Srebrenica, including the municipal SDS president Momcilo Cvjetinovic, the Municipal Assembly speaker Milenko Canic and the witness’s relative Dane Katanic, member of the Bratunac SDS municipal board.

In the cross-examination, Karadzic focused on the part of the witness’s written statement where he described how Deronjic ‘tried to save the honor of Bratunac’. Deronjic managed to avoid having the Muslim detainees remain in Bratunac. The Muslims had arrived in Bratunac on 12 July 1995 in about 30 buses. The witness said to the OTP investigators in his interview that he ‘thinks that Karadzic helped Deronjic’ convince Beara not to let the prisoners stay in Bratunac and to have them ‘at least be evenly distributed in the accommodation facilities in several municipalities’.

The witness said that Deronjic had ‘major problems’ with Beara, who insisted that the prisoners remain in Bratunac. Katanic explained why Deronjic wanted to get rid of the prisoners: such a large number of people would have been ‘a big burden’ on Bratunac municipality because it ‘already had financial problems’. When Karadzic put it to him that ‘an order was issued for Batkovic to receive 1,000 persons and for Rogatica to prepare the premises for another 1,000 persons’, the witness said he didn’t know about it.

Presiding judge Kwon then asked the witness ‘why Bratunac would have been dishonored’ if the prisoners had remained in Bratunac. People knew that among the captives there were ‘civilians who didn’t deserve to be treated as prisoners’ and their detention would be unjustified, the witness replied.

The witness learned from his relatives who lived close to the school Vuk Karadzic about the killings there. After the school was evacuated and the prisoners taken away, a number of dead bodies were found in each of the 16 classrooms.

Radovan Karadzic’s trial continues next week with the evidence of Momir Nikolic, former security officer in the VRS Bratunac Brigade. Nikolic pleaded guilty for the crimes in Srebrenica and is currently serving his 20-year sentence in Finland.