A protected prosecution witness described in the cross-examination what happened before and after the execution of about 150 Muslims in the village of Biljani near Kljuc. The witness survived the execution by a miracle. Mladic ‘conferred quietly and properly’ with his defense counsel. After the presiding judge commended Mladic, he responded by clapping

Ratko Mladic in the courtroomRatko Mladic in the courtroom

Yesterday, at the trial of Ratko Mladic a protected prosecution witness testifying under the pseudonym RM 010 described in court how he survived the execution of about 150 Bosnian Muslims on 10 July 1992 in the village of Biljani near Kljuc. In the cross-examination today, defense counsel Miodrag Stojanovic asked the witness what happened after he fled from the execution site.

The witness spent two months hiding in the woods nearby. Around 10 September, the witness left Kljuc in an organized convoy and went to Travnik. After a while, he joined the BH Army because he ‘had nowhere to go’. The witness remained in the army until the end of the war. As the defense counsel was keen to stress, the only reason he was asking the witness about it was because of what the witness had claimed in evidence yesterday: that to this day, he felt fear as a result of the incident he had survived. And yet, the defense lawyer said, the witness joined the army so soon after the incident. The witness said that during his service in the BH Army he ‘more or less was never issued any weapons’.

The defense counsel noted that in the Kljuc area, Muslims were the first to organize. In the spring of 1992, Muslim paramilitary units attacked a JNA column as it was pulling out and then a Serb police patrol, the defense counsel put to the witness. Six soldiers and a police officer were killed in the two incidents. The witness heard about the incidents some months after they happened and didn’t know much about them.

The witness was asked questions about the arming of the Muslims. Some Muslims were able to obtain automatic rifles before the war in BH, mostly from the Serbs who had come back from the battlefields in Croatia. The witness had two hunting rifles and a ‘homemade’ gun. Most of the weapons, including those owned by the witness, were handed over to the local police. In the re-examination, the witness explained to the prosecutor, Silvia D’Ascoli, that the arms were handed over after the police demanded their surrender, threatening to ‘shell and cleanse’ entire villages. Only Muslims were called to surrender the weapons, not Serbs, who had been issued weapons on several occasions. This was an organized effort, the witness said.

Ratko Mladic’s behavior in court has been improving on a daily basis, after a number of cautions issued by the Trial Chamber earlier for loud and inappropriate comments. Today, Mladic became the centre of attention only once, when he interrupted the cross-examination of the witness with a request to confer with his defense lawyer. He was allowed to do so. Afterwards, presiding judge Orie commended Mladic for complying with the proper procedure. Mladic had asked for permission to speak to his defense counsel and the conversation was conducted at a ‘satisfactory volume’: not too loud. The accused clapped his hands, although it remained unclear whom he was applauding – himself for managing to be quiet or the judge for commending him.

As the hearing continued, the prosecution called a new witness, who will testify in closed session, under the pseudonym RM 018.