Ratko Mladic waved prosecution witness Osman Selak goodbye and ‘rewarded’ the presiding judge Orie with applause after the judge showed his knowledge of military terminology. The cross-examination of the former JNA colonel about the casualties of the attack in Kozarac, the responsibility of the army for prison camps in the Prijedor area and the paramilitary units, ‘the drunken revels’ of the officers and politicians in Banja Luka and Colonel Selak’s refusal to obey orders

Osman Selak, witness at the Ratko Mladic trialOsman Selak, witness at the Ratko Mladic trial

As retired JNA colonel Osman Selak left the courtroom today, Judge Orie wished him all the best, a safe trip home and good health, as is his usual practice with all the witnesses. The judge was joined on this occasion by the accused Ratko Mladic, who waved to Selak from the dock and thanked him loudly for his answers.

The former commander of the Bosnian Serb Army tried to engage the witness in a dialogue from the beginning of the hearing this morning. The witness complained that the accused was ‘taunting’ him. Mladic made loud comments and either agreed with what the witness was saying or protested at some of the witness’s replies. At one moment, Mladic applauded Judge Orie when he explained to the defense counsel the meaning of the term ‘curvimeter’ and its function. A curvimeter is an instrument used to measure the length of curved lines on military maps. Judge Orie warned Mladic several times to speak in a lower voice and warned him he would be ‘removed from the courtroom’ if he continued to behave like that.

The cross-examination of Colonel Selak covered a number of topics but only a few questions had to do with the events the witness had spoken about in his examination-in chief. Selak described how General Talic, commander of the 1st Krajina Corps, ordered his subordinates to reduce the number of casualties in a report about the attack on Kozarac from 800 to 80. The witness confirmed that he hadn’t discussed the ‘correction’ with Colonel Marcetic, who had initially reported the death toll to General Talic.

The defense counsel put it to the witness that the fighting in Kozarac lasted from 20 to 27 May 1992. On 25 May 1992, a military column passed through Kozarac. The column stopped when the driver of the first truck was killed. The witness said that it had all been ‘staged’. The ‘political factions were trying to explain why more than 1,200 persons were killed in Kozarac’, the witness said. The defense counsel asked the witness if the wounded received medical treatment in prison camps and if there was any kind of paper trail about it. Selak said that there ‘are no documents, in order to cover up the responsibility of the perpetrators’. The witness claimed that the 343rd Motorized Brigade of the 1st Krajina Corps, stationed in Prijedor, was responsible for the ‘genocide in Kozarac’.

Since Selak claimed that the Krajina Corps was in charge of establishing the Keraterm prison and providing security there, Mladic’s defense counsel argued there should be a ‘paper trail’ to prove it. The reports, such as for instance the report about the number of casualties in the Kozarac attack were routinely ‘fabricated with a view to avoid legal repercussions’.

Selak confirmed the defense counsel’s suggestion that paramilitary units were not under the military control. Selak nevertheless insisted that the army provided them with arms and allowed them to use the training area in Manjaca.

Defense counsel Lukic finally put it to the witness that the VRS officers and SDS political structures trusted Selak and even invited him to ‘their parties and dinners’. The witness said he had gone to only one such event, but soon realized he ‘didn’t like political topics and liquor that was served’. When the defense counsel put it to Selak he had refused to fulfill his superiors’ orders several times, the witness said he was ‘proud’ he refused to lay mines in the Karlovac military depot as he had been ordered to and that he prevented the booby-trapping of the military hospital in Zagreb.

The trial of General Mladic on charges of double genocide and other crimes in Bosnia and Herzegovina continues with the evidence of Sulejman Crncalo, who will speak about the persecution of Muslims in Pale in 1992.