Ratko Mladic’s defense contends that Mladic wasn’t informed about the conditions in the Rasadnik prison camp and wasn’t aware that detainees were physically and sexually abused. The defense asked why prisoners didn’t tell Mladic how they were treated when they encountered him in late April 1994. The former detainee replied that they all ‘shook like a leaf’ and ‘nobody dared say anything’

Sefik Hurko, witness at the Ratko Mladic trialSefik Hurko, witness at the Ratko Mladic trial

Sefik Hurko, former detainee in the Rasadnik prison camp in Rogatica, completed his evidence at the trial of Ratko Mladic, war commander of the VRS Main Staff. Mladic is charged with double genocide and other crimes committed in the war in BH.

In the cross-examination, defense counsel Dragan Ivetic focused on trying to prove that Muslims were armed too and attacked Serb villages, killing Serb soldiers and civilians. Judge Orie at one point advised him to ‘get to the point’, recalling that the witness testified about the crimes in the prison camp, physical and sexual abuse he had suffered and how he had been forced to beat his father. If the defense did not address these issues, the judge noted, the Trial Chamber might assume that it was not contesting that part of the evidence. Ivetic replied that such questions were necessary to establish the credibility of the witness. According to the defense, the witness ‘cannot be relied on to provide the truth’.

The defense counsel referred to several statements the witness had given to the local authorities in BH and the non-governmental organization Women Victims of War, an organization, as the defense counsel noted, that pays people who give statement. Hurko confirmed that he received a monthly allowance of about 350 convertible marks, or about 170 euros. The money is not automatically paid to all those who have given statements, but only to those that were victims of sexual abuse during the war, Hurko explained.

The defense counsel then addressed the topic of Hurko’s encounter with Ratko Mladic described by the witness in the examination-in chief. The defense counsel put it to the witness that the prison camp commander Vinko Bojic misinformed Mladic, telling him that the men were loyal Muslims, not prisoners captured in combat. Hurko described yesterday how he saw Mladic near Gorazde when he and a group of detainees were forced to work for the VRS on the frontline. The defense counsel asked if any of the detainees complained to Mladic about their treatment. They ‘all shook as a leaf and nobody dared say anything’, the witness replied.

As Hurko insisted, the most painful thing was when Mladic told them they would ‘have to be baptized’ if they wanted to stay. Those that don’t will be moved to ‘Alija’s state, if he ends up having a state at all’. The witness understood it meant that everybody would be killed if they refused to turn into Serbs by joining the Serbian Orthodox Church. When the defense counsel asked Hurko if his personal feelings towards Mladic meant he would ‘do everything to get Mladic convicted’, he concurred, but he nevertheless firmly denied that it meant he was ready to lie.

The presiding judge warned the accused to lower his voice when consulting with his defense lawyers because others could hear what was said. The witness complained to the judges that Mladic ‘made a gesture with a finger’. The judge then reminded the accused that he shouldn’t express in any way his agreement or disagreement with the way in which the examination was conducted or what the witness said.