Through the testimony of wartime defense minister Milan Ninkovic, the former Republika Srpska president continues his effort to distance himself from the former VRS Main Staff commander Mladic. Ninkovic described the relations between Karadzic and Mladic as ‘intolerable’. However, Ninkovic admitted that in the summer of 1995, the civilian authorities helped the army move the civilians from Srebrenica

Milan Ninković, defence witness of Radovan KaradzicMilan Ninković, defence witness of Radovan Karadzic

Former official of the Doboj municipality Milan Ninkovic claimed in his evidence in Radovan Karadzic’s defense that the local authorities in Doboj had no jurisdiction over the army. The witness claimed the relations between the civilian and military authorities were very bad. The army acted independently in an effort to impose the military rule in the town. The witness, who was a member of parliament and the third wartime defense minister in the Bosnian Serb government said in his statement to the legal advisors of the accused that the relations between the military and civilian authorities were no better at the level of the Republika Srpska.

In the summary of the statement read out in court by the accused, the witness said that the relations between the supreme commander Radovan Karadzic and the Main Staff commander Ratko Mladic were ‘intolerable’. The witness claimed that Karadzic – who had no jurisdiction over the military operations – was against the attack on Srebrenica. At a Supreme Command meeting the accused ‘expressed his concern’ about it, the witness claimed.

Prosecutor Pack noted in her cross-examination that the civilian and military authorities in the republic were able to work together well in the effort to evacuate Muslim women, children and the elderly from Srebrenica after the Serb army overran the enclave in July 1995. The prosecutor reminded the witness that his Defense Ministry requisitioned the buses that were used to transport the Srebrenica civilians out of the Republika Srpska territory. The witness didn’t deny it, but he argued it was ‘standard procedure’.As the defense minister, the witness didn’t know anything about it. The witness’s assistants did all the work while he was on the western front with General Manojlo Milovanovic.

In the cross-examination, the prosecutor referred to the witness’s claim that the civilian authorities respected the rights on non-Serbs in Doboj. The prosecutor confronted the witness with documents that indicate that in late June 1992 the municipal bodies demanded that Muslim prosecutors be dismissed from their posts in the judiciary, to be replaced by ethnic Serbs. This was indeed done, in line with a decision issued by President Radovan Karadzic. Ninkovic confirmed that it was true. As the witness was re-examined by the accused, he clarified that the Muslims in fact ‘didn’t want to work anymore’, adding that as time went by, non-Serbs left Doboj and it was ‘logical’ for Serb prosecutors and judges to hear cases against Serbs.

Before Ninkovic took the stand, Branko Grujic, the first president of the Zvornik Serbian Democratic Party and the chief of the local Crisis Staff, completed the evidence this morning. In the re-examination, the accused put it to the witness that the Muslims from the village of Kozluk were not ‘expelled’ but ‘evacuated’. When the Territorial Defense commander reported to Karadzic and Mladic that ‘Serbs took the most active part in the effort to move people out of Kozluk’, it meant that Muslims from Kozluk were ‘given assistance to leave for the liberated territory or to foreign countries at their request’, Grujic explained.The witness added that Muslims thanked the Zvornik authorities when they were transferred from Kozluk to Serbia. At a later stage, it became ‘expedient’ to someone or other to label this effort as forcible transfer.

As the hearing today drew to a close, Mirko Trivic began his evidence. In July 1995, Trivic was the commander of the 2nd Romanija Brigade. This unit was involved in the Srebrenica operation. Trivic has testified for the prosecution at the trials of the Srebrenica Seven, Zdravko Tolimir and Ratko Mladic. Karadzic has decided to call him as his defense witness.