Former Serbian and Yugoslav foreign minister Vladislav Jovanovic contends that in 1995 he found the reports on Muslims killing each other in Srebrenica ‘implausible’. In the meantime, just before he was due to testify in Radovan Karadzic’s defense, he received information that made these claims ‘less implausible’. Now Jovanovic is less sure that the Bosnian Serbs were the only culprits

Vladislav Jovanovic, defence witness of Radovan KaradzicVladislav Jovanovic, defence witness of Radovan Karadzic

In the final part of the cross-examination of former Serbian diplomat Vladislav Jovanovic, prosecutor Tieger focused on the crimes committed in Srebrenica in July 1995. The prosecutor put it to Jovanovic that in his effort to help the accused Radovan Karadzic he downplayed the responsibility of the Bosnian Serb army and police for the killing of Muslim civilians; his current testimony ran counter to the claims he had made earlier.

In his evidence at the trial of Slobodan Milosevic in 2005, in an interview to the newspaper Slobodna Bosna three years later and in his statement to the OTP investigators in 2009, Jovanovic claimed that a ‘terrible massacre’ was committed in Srebrenica by the Bosnian Serbs who were subordinated to Karadzic and Mladic. Jovanovic did not know if Karadzic and Mladic knew about it. As Jovanovic said, it was deplorable that Serbs had taken part in such an ‘unacceptable’ act. In his statement to the defense team, Jovanovic didn’t repeat any of these claims, saying merely that in late 1995 he received a report from a Serb representative in Srebrenica that Muslims had split into two groups, those who wanted to fight and those who opted for retreat. These two groups then killed each other. Jovanovic forwarded the information to Russian ambassador Lavrov, who was the president of the UN Security Council at the time, on the eve of the debate on the Srebrenica events.

When Jovanovic was asked to explain the discrepancy between his former and current opinions, he said that at first he didn’t believe the story about the Muslims in Srebrenica killing each other. Jovanovic found the story ‘implausible’. For a long time, Jovanovic was convinced that the Serbs had committed a ‘terrible massacre’ in Srebrenica. Then, two weeks ago, Jovanovic saw a statement by a former BH Army soldier and SDA member Ibran Mustafic, in which he accused his former commander in Srebrenica, Naser Oric, of killing 500 to 1,000 Muslim fugitives from Srebrenica after Srebrenica fell. This made the claim that Muslims had been killing each other in Srebrenica seem ‘less implausible’ to Jovanovic. That is why he didn’t mention the massacre committed by the Serbs in his statement to the defense. The prosecutor put it to Jovanovic that he gave the statement to the defense team last year, months before he learned about Mustafic’s allegation. Jovanovic readily agreed.

Former Rogatica Brigade chief of staff Milovan Lelek was called to testify after the former Serbian and Yugoslav foreign minister completed his evidence. Lelek denied that there was a prison camp in Rogatica. As he said, there was a collection center in the town secondary school; Muslim civilians who were too afraid to remain in their homes and who expressed their desire to go to the BH Army-controlled territory were put in the school, the witness explained. As for Rasadnik, Lelek claimed it was a military prison for the Muslim as well as Serb suspects.

In the cross-examination, prosecutor Gustafson reminded Lelek that Radisav Ljubinac was sentenced to 10 years by the BH State Court for detaining Muslims in the secondary school and transferring them forcibly to the Sarajevo area. The witness claimed he didn’t know why Ljubinac was convicted. Lelek assumed that Ljubinac only wanted to protect his neighbors from possible retaliation after the murder of a Serb family near Rogatica. The witness did not change his opinion of the Rasadnik camp even when he was confronted with the evidence of a number of witnesses who spoke about the crimes against the detainees in the Rasadnik prison camp, and a report on the exhumation of civilians’ bodies at that site. Some elderly men and women were among the exhumed victims. Lelek said that all of them ‘may have died in their village and it was said that they were exhumed in Rasadnik’.

Karadzic’s defense case continues tomorrow with the testimony of a new witness.