In July 1995 protected witness RM 254 was captured twice. The witness was able to escape the first time when he was sent to fetch water. The second time, he was saved after he lied about his age, saying he was just 14. The witness recounted that during his detention in Bratunac he met a person who introduced himself as Ratko Mladic. The witness and some other boys of his age were forced to play football with ‘Chetniks’. While they played, the “Chetniks” filmed them with a camera

Ratko Mladic in the courtroomRatko Mladic in the courtroom

A protected witness testified under the pseudonym RM 254 at the trial of Ratko Mladic today. He was 16 at the time of the Srebrenica operation in July 1995. The witness’s written statement from August 1996 was admitted into evidence under seal.

Once they learned that Srebrenica had fallen, the witness and his father headed in a column of about 1,000 men through the woods towards the territory under the control of the BH Army. The witness got separated from his father near the village of Kamenica when they ran into an ambush. The witness never saw his father again. The witness was captured and taken to the warehouse in Kravica. There he saw Serb soldiers execute a group of about a dozen detainees.

While he was in Kravica, the witness was told to go and get some water. The witness saw a dying girl behind the warehouse; her throat had been cut minutes ago. That sight prompted him to flee: he took advantage of a moment when Serb soldiers weren’t looking and ran to the words. The witness met a group of about a dozen men who were wandering around the woods. They all went to the village of Burnica and joined the group of about 500 Srebrenica inhabitants there. The Serb soldiers surrounded the village, captured them and took them to a field near the road to Konjevic Polje. Their hands were tied with wire and they were ordered to lie down.

As they lay down in the meadow a ‘short and fat’ Serb soldier approached the witness and asked him how old he was. The soldier then cut the wire the witness was tied with and ordered the other soldiers to take him to a bus with some other boys. The boys were taken to the military barracks in Bratunac. There, they were interrogated and ordered to ‘play football with Chetniks’. They were filmed playing football. The next day, the boys were brought to the police station in Zvornik and then to Kalesija. There, they were released.

In the cross-examination, the witness recounted how he and other boys in Bratunac were taken to an office for interrogation. There a person told them his name was Ratko Mladic. When the boys told him that the Muslims hiding in the woods were eating snails, Mladic got angry and shouted at his soldiers. Mladic asked the soldiers why they, who had enough food, couldn’t defeat an army feeding on snails. The witness wasn’t able to identify Mladic in court, saying that he didn’t know him from before.

The defense tried to contest the reliability of the witness’s evidence by pointing to some differences in the statements he gave to the OTP investigators and the local BH authorities from 1996 to 2009. Defense counsel Dragan Ivetic noted that in his statement to the Agency for Investigation and Documentation (AID) the witness gave his age in 1995 as 14. Also, in the cross-examination the witness said he saw the Serb soldiers shoot some other men apart from the group of about a dozen detainees, the defense counsel argued.

As the witness explained, there may have been some confusion when he gave the statement to the AID. He deliberately told the Serb soldiers that he was 14 so that they wouldn’t kill him. In the re-examination, the prosecutor noted that the witness gave the AID agent his actual date of birth and that it was written down in the statement. As far as the arrest in Kravica was concerned, the witness said that some years after the war he visited Kravica and recalled the details, and ‘each and every wall’ where the people from Srebrenica were executed.