In the final part of his cross-examination of the prosecution military and intelligence expert, Radovan Karadzic tried to prove that the Srebrenica mass graves in fact contained the remains of the soldiers from BH Army 28th Division. According to Karadzic, the fighters were killed in combat, as they attempted to break through towards Tuzla. Butler dismissed the argument of the accused that an operation to clean up the terrain was conducted in mid-July 1995. As the witness said, no commander would order a clean-up in the middle of a battle. The first wartime prime minister in the RS government, Branko Djeric, began his evidence

Richard Butler, witness at the Radovan Karadzic trialRichard Butler, witness at the Radovan Karadzic trial

In the final part of his cross-examination of the prosecution military and intelligence expert Richard Butler, Karadzic tried to prove that many soldiers of the BH Army 28th Division had been killed after the fall of Srebrenica in July 1995 in the woods, as part of a column that was trying to break through the Serb lines. Their bodies were buried in mass graves in a clean-up operation, Karadzic claimed.

To illustrate his claim, Karadzic used an instruction of the VRS Drina Corps command from April 1995, which says that captured enemy soldiers should be stripped of all personal belongings, except for their clothes and shoes. Since watches, identity cards and other personal belongings were found in the mass graves next to the bodies of some Srebrenica victims, Karadzic put it to the witness that they had not been captured but killed in combat.

According to Butler, the fact that the victims’ personal belongings were recovered from the graves did nothing to prove that the victims had either been arrested and executed or killed in combat. An analysis of the military actions in that period made Butler conclude that there had been no fighting at the primary mass grave sites in Orahovac, Petkovci, Branjevo and Rocevic.

Karadzic noted that the Zvornik Brigade commander Vinko Pandurevic said in his interim combat report of 15 July 1995 that the enemy had suffered great losses and spoke about a terrain clean-up operation. Butler contends that in the report, Pandurevic uses the term ‘clean-up’ in the context of mass executions that had already taken place in Orahovac and at the Petkovci dam. As Butler stressed, the Zvornik Brigade troops were at that time still fighting the parts of the column that was trying to break through. From the military point of view, recovering the bodies of killed enemy soldiers in the middle of a battle would be ‘madness’ and no commander would order anything of the sort, Butler contended.

Butler disagreed with Karadzic’s claim that the VRS didn’t have enough professional officers to effectively implement discipline. The accused put it to him that the number of ‘about 2,000 professional military officers’ was ‘far below the number needed’ to control an army of about 210,000 soldiers. Butler noted that numbers didn’t count: what mattered was the willingness on the part of the officers to impose discipline, as regulated by relevant rules.

As the accused argued, the prosecution didn’t have proof that he had in fact read Directive 4 in November 1992. In the re-examination, prosecutor Nicholls quoted General Manojlo Milovanovic’s wartime notes. On 10 November 1992, Milovanovic wrote the supreme commander orally approved Directive 4 and returned it to the Main Staff for signature. On 23 November, Karadzic attended a military conference where the Drina Corps tasks based on Directive 4 were discussed in detail. Therefore, Butler said, Karadzic must have known about its contents.

After Butler completed his evidence, the prosecution called its next witness, Branko Djeric, the first Republika Srpska wartime prime minister. The witness’s written statement, based on his previous testimony at the trials of Momcilo Krajisnik and Mico Stanisic and Stojan Zupljanin was admitted into evidence. The prosecutor read out a brief summary of the statement and as the hearing drew to a close, Karadzic began cross-examining Djeric and will continue tomorrow.