VRS INSIDER GIVES EVIDENCE
Former commander of one of the brigades in the VRS 1st Krajina Corps is testifying at the trial of Ratko Mladic. The protected witness contends that the Bosnian army and police should have taken harsher measures against the persons responsible for the crimes at the very beginning of the war. In parts of the evidence in open session, the witness spoke about the massacre of 150 Muslims in the school in the village of Grabovica near Kotor Varos in November 1992
Former commander of one of the brigades in the VRS 1st Krajina Corps testifies at the trial of Ratko Mladic under the pseudonym RM 802. The witness contends that the Bosnian Serb police and army, at all levels in the chain of command, from companies to battalions, brigades, corps and the Main Staff, should have taken harsher measures against the persons who were guilty of crimes. ‘That should have been nipped in the bud’, the witness said. The witness holds himself and his former commander responsible for the failure to do that.
‘I remember that I was powerless to take such measures’, the witness said. The witness also recalled how he was present when a soldier stood up and said, ‘Now I am going to burn down some Muslim houses’; he claimed he had nothing better to do. The witness claims that at first he was able to stop the soldier but a few hours later the soldier disappeared, off to torch the houses. ‘I was not able to punish him at all’, the witness said.
The witness’s written statement was admitted into evidence after the examination-in chief. In the statement, the witness spoke about the massacre in the school in the village of Grabovica near Kotor Varos, in which 150 Muslims who were trying to break through to Travnik were captured and killed in early November 1992. The prosecution alleges that the murder of the Muslims in Grabovica was an integral part of the pattern of ethnic cleansing implemented by the troops under the command of the accused in 1992 in about 20 BH municipalities. The ethnic cleansing in Kotor Varos and some other regions reached the scale of genocide. The defense blamed the incident on ‘local [Serb] civilians’.
Defense counsel Miodrag Stojanovic showed the witness two reports drafted by the 1st Krajina Corps command and sent to the VRS Main Staff. The report of 4 November 1992 states that there was a clash when ‘the negotiations about the evacuation from the Vecici area were turned down’. Forty members of the Green Berets were killed and 200 arrested in the clash. The report notes that ‘the massacre began’ when a Serb soldier was killed and four were wounded. The report sent next day, on 5 November 1992, states that ‘more than 150 extremists were killed in combat’.
The witness confirmed the information was not correct. Asked how it was possible to ‘misinform’ the Main Staff, the witness replied this was due to the lack of ‘a regular system of responsibility from the bottom to the top’ of the chain of command. As far as the witness knew, the crime in Grabovica was never investigated. The witness was told ‘to mind his own business’ and that the incident would be investigated: it didn’t happen. Also, the witness said that he didn’t mention the incident before Ratko Mladic when Mladic visited the unit under the witness’s command in the spring of 1994. ‘The soldiers loved it when he visited’, the witness said, probably wanting to say that he didn’t want to bother the Main Staff commander with the story about the massacre of 150 Muslims.
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