A protected witness testifying under the pseudonym RM 254 said yesterday that a ‘Serb soldier’ took him away from a group of Bosniak prisoners on 17 July 1995. Today, the prosecution called a former artillery officer in the Bratunac Brigade who claimed he had done that

Mico Gavric, witness at the Ratko Mladic trialMico Gavric, witness at the Ratko Mladic trial

Former artillery chief in the Bratunac Brigade Mico Gavric testified at the trial of Ratko Mladic. This was the first time he testified as a prosecution witness: the two previous times, he testified for the defense. In 2004, Gavric gave evidence in the defense of his former commander Vidoje Blagojevic, and in 2008, he testified for the former security chief in the Zvornik Brigade, Drago Nikolic. Parts of Gavric’s testimony at that trial were today admitted into evidence in the case against Ratko Mladic.

According to the summary of Gavric’s evidence, on 17 July 1995 Gavric was ordered to join the police and the 3rd Battalion of the Bratunac Brigade in a clean-up operation in the area of Konjevic Polje near the village of Sandici. About 30 Bosniaks were captured in the operation, who had been trying to break through to the BH Army-controlled territory after the fall of Srebrenica. Among them were four boys aged from eight to 14. Gavric took them away from the rest of the prisoners and drove them to the Bratunac Brigade HQ. The boys were exchanged the next day. Gavric handed the rest of the prisoners to the special police unit commander Dusko Jevic Staljin. He didn’t know what happened to them later.

As the prosecutor asked him some additional questions, Gavric confirmed that he suggested that the boys be filmed the next day by TV cameras so that ‘it would not occur to anybody to harm them’. When the presiding judge asked why he thought something might happen to the boys, Gavric replied that that there were ‘a lot of people bent on revenge’. Gavric recounted he had to protect the boys from a ‘reserve soldier’ who tried to attack them. The prosecution is using Gavric to corroborate the evidence of a protected witness, RM 254, who testified yesterday. The protected witness was one of the four detained boys.

In his replies to Mladic’s defense, Gavric confirmed that he found a large number of bodies in the clean-up operation on 17 July 1995. The dead were the soldiers of the BH Army’s 28th Division who had ‘committed suicide’. Gavric claimed he saw people ‘who had hanged themselves’ or who had half of their body blown up, most probably, as Gavric explained, when they ‘activated a hand grenade’. Ratko Mladic’s defense contests the number of Srebrenica victims, arguing that many Bosniaks died in combat or committed suicide.

The presiding judge finally asked the witness why Bosniaks he described as civilians had in fact been arrested. Gavric replied that each and every of the prisoners could well have been a soldier, but as far as he was concerned, they were ‘all captured civilians’. The presiding judge said that Gavric’s response reminded him of a saying ‘you can’t have your cake and eat it’. Ratko Mladic’s trial continues on Monday.