In the final part of the cross-examination of the French officer testifying under the pseudonym RM 55, Ratko Mladic’s defense tried to prove that the VRS ‘had the right’ to reclaim the heavy artillery under UNPROFOR’s control to defend itself against the Muslim attacks. That right was purportedly granted in a protocol signed in 1994 by Radovan Karadzic and Yasushi Akashi

Ratko Mladic in the courtroomRatko Mladic in the courtroom

In the cross-examination of the French officer testifying under the pseudonym RM 55, the defense of the former VRS commander Ratko Mladic tried to prove that the Bosnian Serb forces ‘had the right’ to reclaim the heavy artillery placed under UNPROFOR’s supervision in February 1994.

The defense invoked a protocol that had purportedly been signed in 1994 by Radovan Karadzic and the UN special envoy Yasushi Akashi. According to defense counsel Branko Lukic, the protocol ‘allowed the Serbs to reclaim the weapons if the Muslim forces attacked them, and if UNPROFOR couldn’t prevent these attacks’.

The French officer claimed that the United Nations never approved such a protocol. Furthermore, as the French officer noted, Muslim attacks could never be construed as justification for the Serbs to reclaim their heavy artillery, in light of the intensity of the attacks and the fact that the Serb army had enough artillery to respond to them adequately.

Lukic put it to the witness that the protocol prohibited ‘any military activity’, including the fortification of trenches and any advances by the two sides. Asked if the UN notified either of the warring sides that it had not accepted the protocol, the witness couldn’t give an answer; as he explained, he only knew the text of the official agreement.

In the cross-examination, the defense relied on three documents: the official agreement to place the heavy artillery under UNPROFOR control from February 1994, the protocol signed by Karadzic and Akashi the same month, and Akashi’s cable to Kofi Anan on 16 August 1994. The text of the protocol invoked by Mladic’s defense was attached to the cable. The prosecution insisted that the text was ‘not signed and not valid’.

The judges noticed that the defense used different terminology than the controversial protocol. Presiding judge Orie recalled that in the cross-examination it was put to the witness that under the protocol, the Serbs ‘have the right’ to reclaim the heavy artillery if they were attacked by the Muslim forces. However, the protocol specifically referred to two scenarios, Judge Orie noted.

In the first case, if for any reason UNPROFOR were to withdraw from the heavy weapon collection points or from the positions between the warring sides, the Serb side ‘reserves the right to redeploy’ the heavy artillery. The second scenario envisaged that if the opposing side attacked the Serbs, they ‘reserve the right to take adequate measures’ to defend themselves.

Ratko Mladic’s trial will continue tomorrow with the evidence of the former commander of UNPROFOR in Sarajevo Rupert Smith.