Slavica Ristic gave evidence at the trial of Radovan Karadzic today. On 13 July 1995, Ristic was in the office of the Republika Srpska president and could hear his conversation with General Ratko Mladic who reported that Srebrenica was ‘finished’ and it was Zepa’s turn. Karadzic insisted that the Serb leadership was ‘naïve’ and had all but run the state ‘from a field’

Slavica Ristic, witness at the Radovan Karadzic trialSlavica Ristic, witness at the Radovan Karadzic trial

American Serb Slavica Ristic testified at the trial of the former Republika Srpska president for genocide and other crimes in BH. In July 1995, when the VRS Srebrenica operation was in full swing, the witness met with Radovan Karadzic in his office in Pale. The transcript of her interview with the OTP investigators in April 2009 was admitted into evidence together with a series of photos she had taken during her visit to Pale.

One of the photos shows Karadzic speaking to General Mladic on the phone. In the afternoon of 13 July 1995, Mladic called Karadzic to report that ‘Srebrenica is finished’ and ‘it’s Zepa’s turn now’. The witness arrived in Pale the day before from Belgrade with Srdja Trifkovic and Tom Prevovic, who were also in the office.

In the cross-examination, Karadzic insisted that he had been ‘relaxed and in a good mood’ after talking to Mladic because he had realized that the military operations around Srebrenica had finished. Karadzic immediately focused on the fact that the war might end soon. As Karadzic noted, in his conversation with Mladic the deportation of civilians or prisoners of war was never mentioned.

The witness confirmed Karadzic’s claims, saying that on their way from Belgrade to Pale they passed through the village of Milici where they saw many empty buses. Neither she nor her travel companions understood why the buses were there, the witness explained. The witness also said that at the meeting with Karadzic and Koljevic, they insisted that ‘civilians should be taken care of’ and ‘there must be no mistakes’ which might badly affect the Serb side. Ristic found it ‘difficult to match the topic of that conversation with what happened later with the prisoners’.

Karadzic used the opportunity to highlight the fact that Slavica Ristic, Tom Prevovic and Srdja Trifkovic, ‘irritated by the way in which the Western media followed the disintegration of Yugoslavia’, co-founded the Lord Byron Foundation for Balkan Studies with Alfred Sherman. Former advisor to Margaret Thatcher, Sherman was also for some time advisor to him, Karadzic pointed.

As the witness said, Srdja Trifkovic, who served as Karadzic’s spokesman for a time, was frustrated by the inability of the Bosnian Serb leadership to clearly articulate its opinions, ‘naively’ expecting that its interests could be safeguarded through peace talks. Karadzic for his part argued that the Republika Srpska authorities – without telephones and other necessary infrastructure – had to take care of one million citizens, 2,000 km of frontlines, while suffering under a double sanctions regime;in effect, they had to run the state ‘from a field’.

In the re-examination, the prosecutor brought up an UNMO report of 13 July 1995, which shows that at the time Mladic was reporting to Karadzic over the phone, the evacuation of the Muslim population from Srebrenica was almost completed. The last convoy was to leave Potocari at 6pm. The witness replied that she didn’t know anything about it. The witness wasn’t aware of the events on 13 July 1995 in the Kravica farm warehouse or the next day, at a field near Orahovac the next day. She was still in Pale at the time.

The trial continued with the evidence of protected witness KDZ 122 in closed session.