Former member of the Bratunac Brigade confirmed at the trial of the VRS Main Staff commander that thousands of Muslims captured after the fall of Srebrenica were detained in Bratunac in the night of 13 July 1995. In his replies to Mladic’s defense, the witness confirmed that there ‘was hate among the people’, but no ‘desire for revenge’. It is the defense case that the Srebrenica crimes were the consequence of the locals’ desire for revenge

Zlatan Celanovic, witness at the Ratko Mladic trialZlatan Celanovic, witness at the Ratko Mladic trial

In July 1995, Zlatan Celanovic was a desk officer for morale, religious and personal affairs in the VRS Bratunac Brigade. At three previous Srebrenica trials before the Tribunal, Celanovic described what happened in Bratunac in the night of 13 July 1995. The Muslims captured after the fall of Srebrenica were brought on buses and trucks to Bratunac. In his evidence at the trial of Ratko Mladic, the witness confirmed the authenticity of his testimony at the Srebrenica Seven trial in 2007. The relevant parts of the transcript from that trial were admitted into evidence.

Celanovic was shown an aerial photo of Bratunac and was able to mark the street that was, according to his account, full of buses with prisoners on 13 July 1995. Some of the Muslim detainees were put in the Vuk Karadzic school. On that day, the special police brought a group of detainees to the military police headquarters. Ljubisa Beara, who was the security chief in the Main Staff, ordered Celanovic to interrogate them and establish if some of them had committed crimes against Serbs. Celanovic was to use the data in the book The Chronicle of our Graves by Milivoj Ivanisevic as a reference.

Celanovic’s friend Resid Sinanovic was among the detainees. Celanovic didn’t believe Sinanovic was involved in any crimes at all. Sinanovic was later taken to the Vuk Karadzic school by some police officers. He disappeared without a trace two days later, on 15 July 1995, after he was admitted for treatment in Banja Koviljaca.

In the evening of 13 July 1995, Celanovic walked by the Vuk Karadzic school together with Ljubisa Beara when they heard the detainees screaming and crying. They shouted ‘when will you let us go’, Celanovic said. According to Celanovic, nobody answered them and there was nobody else there but the guards. Celanovic would later learn that the prisoners were not taken to Kladanj, but to the execution sites in the Zvornik area on 14 July 1995.

As he answered questions put to him by Mladic’s defense, Celanovic described the attacks of the Muslim forces on the Serb villages in the Srebrenica and Bratunac area. ‘Killings, looting and arson’ continued throughout the entire war, Celanovic said. During and after the war, the witness was in charge of documenting the attacks on the Serb villages and the treatment of Serb prisoners. Celanovic confirmed that only two villages in that area hadn’t been attacked during the war. Also, Celanovic noted that the attacks didn’t stop after Srebrenica was proclaimed a protected and demilitarized zone in March 1993.

‘There was hate among the people’, Celanovic said as he described the consequences of the attacks. When Mladic’s defense counsel asked if it also generated the ‘desire for revenge’, Celanovic said he didn’t notice it. ‘I only saw that people wanted to stop the war’, Celanovic said.

The trial of the former VRS Main Staff commander for genocide and other crimes in the war in BH continued with the testimony of a protected prosecution witness. The witness testifies via video link in closed session.