Ratko Mladic’s defense contests the findings from the report written by forensic expert William Haglund, who coordinated the exhumations of the Srebrenica mass graves. The defense maintains that the reports were written to fit the prosecution’s needs, as the witness was on the OTP’s payroll at the time

William Haglund, witness at the Ratko Mladic trialWilliam Haglund, witness at the Ratko Mladic trial

Ratko Mladic’s defense contests the findings of forensic anthropologist William Haglund, who established that the remains found in the Srebrenica mass graves belonged only to the victims executed en masse after the fall of the enclave in the summer of 1995. As a senior forensic consultant to the OTP in The Hague, Haglund supervised and coordinated the exhumations of several Srebrenica graves in 1996.

Branko Lukic, defense counsel of the former VRS Main Staff commander who is on trial for the Srebrenica genocide, confronted the American anthropologist in the cross-examination with the documents that, in his view, show Haglund’s data on the victims’ identity and cause of death were unreliable.

The list of victims whose remains were found in the grave in Cerska contains the name of a person who was also listed among the BH Army fighters killed in 1994, the defense counsel said. Asked how he could explain that, the witness replied that his team of pathologists, archeologists and anthropologists had nothing to do with the effort to identify the victims. This prompted the defense counsel to ask Haglund if he allowed the possibility that the graves he examined contained the ‘bodies of the victims of executions and of those who were killed in combat, in 1995 and in the previous years’. The people from the grave in Cerska ‘weren’t fighters: they were lined up by the road and killed. Full stop. They hadn’t been fighting anyone’, the witness replied emphatically.

The defense counsel tried to contest the reliability of Haglund’s findings with a series of questions pertaining to the report of the Supervisory Commission. The Commission probed the criticism levied against Haglund’s methods and reports. The defense counsel confronted the witness with some claims from the Commission’s report. There were allegations that the ‘exhumations were rushed’, that ‘security was compromised at the sites’ of the exhumations, that there were failures in the ‘work coordination’ and in the ‘system put in place to supervise the volunteers’ involved in the investigation of the graves and remains. There were allegations that sometimes ‘some of the recovered bones were mixed up’ in the field.

Dr. Haglund dismissed most of the allegations; he did admit that some mistakes were made but they did not jeopardize the validity of the procedure Haglund coordinated or the results he obtained. Haglund also dismissed the defense counsel’s suggestion that as an ‘employee in the Office of the Prosecutor’ he tried to do his job in a way best suited to contribute to the results the prosecution needed to support the indictments.

Ratko Mladic’s trial continues tomorrow with the evidence of another prosecution witness.