Retired VRS colonel Petar Salapura said at the trial of Ratko Mladic that he learned about the involvement of the 10th Sabotage Detachment in the massacre in Branjevo in December 1995 or January 1996, not before. Salapura didn’t think he needed to report it because by that time, ‘everybody knew’ about it. The prosecutor and the judges asked if Mladic had known what everybody else knew. As the witness said, the whole town was abuzz about these facts

Petar Salapura, witness at the Ratko Mladic trialPetar Salapura, witness at the Ratko Mladic trial

Retired VRS colonel Petar Salapura, former chief of the intelligence service of the VRS Main Staff, testified today at the trial of Ratko Mladic. The transcript of Salapura’s testimony at the trial of Mladic’s assistant for security and intelligence Zdravko Tolimir was admitted into evidence.

At Tolimir’s trial, Salapura claimed that it was only in December 1995 or January 1996 that he learned about the involvement of the 10th Sabotage Detachment in the execution of more than 1,000 detainees at the Branjevo farm in July 1995. Salapura learned about it in Bijeljina from the detachment commander Miodrag Pelemis. By that time, ‘everybody knew about it’, and Salapura did not feel any urge to report this to his superiors. Salapura said that ‘entire town, not just the soldiers’ knew about it. According to him, it was a massive operation in which many people were involved.

Salapura tried to evade giving a straight answer when the prosecutor asked him to identify all those who knew about the executions. After Judge Orie intervened, the witness replied that he meant the competent bodies in the Security Service and the ‘majority’ in the Main Staff. However, Salapura noted he ‘could not claim’ that Mladic knew about it. Cornered by the judges, Salapura said he couldn’t give any facts that would corroborate the claim that Mladic didn’t know about the crimes.

Salapura confirmed that the 10th Sabotage Detachment was directly subordinated to the VRS Main Staff. During the attack on Srebrenica, the detachment was subordinated to the Drina Corps, under the command of General Radislav Krstic. As soon as the protected zone was captured, the members of the detachment were purportedly allowed to go ‘on leave’. A number of them that didn’t have anywhere to go remained in the Srebrenica area. The witness claimed that they ‘voluntarily’ and ‘on their own initiative’ participated in the executions in Branjevo.

In the cross-examination prosecutor Vanderpuye showed Salapura a request he had sent to the RS interior minister Dragan Kijac on 16 January 1996, asking him for new identity cards with false names for eight members of the 10th Sabotage Detachment – Franc Kos, Brane Gojkovic, Aleksandar Cvetkovic, Vlastimir Golijan, Zoran Garonja, Stanko Savanovic, Marko Boskic and Drazen Erdemovic.

Salapura admitted that he had filed that request but didn’t see anything strange about it. According to Salapura, that is ‘how it is done all around the world’. The prosecutor didn’t deal with the document in detail because the witness had spoken about it at Tolimir’s trial. The prosecutor nevertheless recalled that the reason for the request was the fact that the detachment members were indicted by the Tribunal.

Mladic’s defense counsel Miodrag Stojanovic noted in the cross-examination that the 10th Sabotage Detachment was ‘multi-ethnic’. Stojanovic put it to the witness there were Slovenes, Croats and Muslims in its rank; they purportedly had problems in their countries and entities and this prompted them to seek a new identity.

Before the witness replied, Judge Flugge stated that the Trial Chamber had not seen any evidence that the members of the detachment had sought new identities. On the contrary, ‘this document says that the witness requested it’, the judge noted. Salapura agreed with the judge that the detachment members didn’t request the false documents. That request was based on ‘our assessment’ and he submitted it ‘on his own initiative’, Salapura explained.