Momir Nikolic continues his evidence at the trial of Radovan Karadzic. Nikolic described how Ratko Mladic first promised the Muslim captives on 13 July 1995 that nothing would happen to them. He then indicated to the witness what fate actually awaited the prisoners: he slashed with his hand from left to right. On 13 July 1995, the witness said, everybody knew that the prisoners would be killed. The only question was where they would be executed: in Bratunac or in Zvornik

Momir Nikolic, witness at the Radovan Karadzic trialMomir Nikolic, witness at the Radovan Karadzic trial

Former security officer in the VRS Bratunac Brigade Momir Nikolic continued his testimony at the trial of Radovan Karadzic. Nikolic said there was no military reason to separate the men in Potocari from the rest of the population: most of them were not BH Army soldiers and didn’t commit any crimes against the Serbs around Srebrenica. ‘Only those who knew for sure that they had done nothing wrong and who had hoped to leave with their families came to Potocari’, Nikolic noted.

Describing the process of ‘separation’ in Potocari, Nikolic said that in the first convoy heading towards Kladanj on 12 July 1995 under UN escort there were some men. All the other men were taken to Bratunac, Nikolic said, where they were first held captive in the Vuk Karadzic primary school. On 14 July 1995, the men were moved to Zvornik municipality where they were ‘executed’.

As Nikolic said, he returned to the Bratunac Brigade command from Potocari on 12 July 1995. The next morning, Ratko Mladic met with Radislav Krstic, Vujadin Popovic, several senior officers and the Zvornik police chief Dragomir Vasic there. Nikolic didn’t know what they discussed at the meeting. Both Radislav Krstic and Vujadin Popovic have been convicted for genocide in Srebrenica by the Tribunal.

On 13 July 1995, Nikolic was on a security detail along the Bratunac – Konjevic Polje road, where General Mladic was expected to travel that day. In Konjevic Polje, Mladic briefly talked to the Muslim captives, telling them ‘not to worry, that they will be exchanged’, the witness recounted. However, when Nikolic asked Mladic on their way to the car what would really happen to the prisoners, Mladic just laughed and made a slashing movement with his hand from left to right.

Upon his return to Bratunac, Nikolic reported to Ljubisa Beara, who ordered Nikolic to find Drago Nikolic. Both Drago Nikolic and Beara have in the meantime been convicted of genocide. Momir Nikolic was to tell his namesake Drago that the prisoners would be transferred from Bratunac to the area of responsibility of the Zvornik brigade and that facilities for their temporary detention should be prepared, ‘On 13 July 1995 I knew what would happen to those men’, the witness said, confirming that Beara told him the prisoners would be killed. The witness completed his task and returned to Bratunac. There were already many busses full of prisoners who had been brought in from Nova Kasaba and Konjevic Polje.

After he returned to Bratunac, Nikolic was told to go the SDS office and to report to Beara. When Nikolic got there he saw Beara, Miroslav Deronjic and the Zvornik police chief Dragomir Vasic. Beara and Deronjic quarreled at the meeting about whether the prisoners should remain in Bratunac or go to Zvornik, the witness recounted. According to Nikolic, the issue of the prisoners’ fate was not raised at all at the meeting: it was clear that they would be killed. The only question was where the executions would take place.

Beara claimed at the meeting that he had been ordered by Mladic to keep the prisoners in Bratunac. Deronjic on the other hand wanted the prisoners to be sent to Zvornik, quoting ‘his boss’, Karadzic, as authority. After a while, Deronjic brought out the glasses and as people started drinking, the talk went back to ‘normal’. An agreement was reached that the prisoners would be moved the next morning to Zvornik municipality.

At the end of his examination-in-chief, Nikolic apologized once again to the families of the victims for his contribution to what was, as he put it, ‘a heinous crime’. Nikolic said he was sorry that he didn’t run away when he realized what would happen to the prisoners.

As the hearing drew to a close, Radovan Karadzic began his cross-examination of Momir Nikolic, an insider who pleaded guilty to his crimes and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Nikolic will thus continue his evidence tomorrow.