PLAYING DOWN NUMBER OF VICTIMS AT BRANJEVO
Radovan Karadzic has called Franc Kos in a bid to contest the allegations in the indictment that the Serb forces executed about 1,200 men at the Branjevo farm on 16 July 1995. Karadzic claims ‘only’ 350 men were executed there. Franc Kos was convicted of the massacre at the Branjevo farm by the BH State Court
Franc Kos, former member of the 10th Sabotage Detachment, gave evidence at the trial of Radovan Karadzic. Kos is currently serving a 35-year prison sentence for his involvement in the execution of the prisoners at the Branjevo farm near Zvornik. Karadzic called Kos as a witness in a bid to contest the allegations in the indictment that the Serb forces executed about 1,200 captured Muslims in Branjevo on 16 July 1995.
In his statement to Karadzic’s defense, Kos said that he and seven other members of the 10th Sabotage Detachment participated in the execution of about 350 men at the Branjevo farm. They were told the Muslims were ‘war criminals’, Kos argued. In July 1995 he ‘didn’t think’ about the number of buses that were used to transport the prisoners to the execution site. It was only later that Kos realized there were just six to eight buses. Kos and other soldiers from his detachment executed the prisoners who had arrived in the first six buses. The men from the last two buses were executed by the soldiers who had in the meantime arrived from Bratunac.
Kos said that they used the machine gun to execute the first group of prisoners. However, many of the prisoners were merely wounded and the soldiers had to finish them off one by one with single shots, Kos explained. This is why they then proceeded to kill the prisoners ‘slowly’ in groups of ten. But, ‘someone was obviously in a hurry’ because after the sixth bus arrived, the soldiers were ordered to ‘kill faster’. The soldiers from Bratunac then ‘took over’ the executions. Even Kos considered those soldiers to be particularly cruel towards the prisoners. First they abused them, then they killed them. The soldiers chased one prisoner with a metal bar through the fields. Another prisoner was taken aside and beaten. ‘We sat down and watched’, Kos noted.
Prosecutor Christopher Mitchell noted in the cross-examination that in his statement to Karadzic’s defense Kos had drastically reduced the number of persons killed at the Branjevo farm, compared to his earlier estimates. In 2004, Kos told the Slovenian investigator that about 1,000 men had been killed at the Branjevo farm. Six years later, Kos told OTP investigator Blaszczyk that between 650 and 750 men had been executed there. Kos told the BH State Court prosecutor that about 600 men had been executed there, and he repeated the figure at his trial.
The prosecutor also noted that Kos and the others went from Branjevo to Pilica on 16 July 1995. There they went to a bar and were congratulated by a ‘visibly drunk’ Ljubisa Beara for a job well done. ‘Soldiers, you did an excellent job and the state will be grateful to you for that’, Beara said. At the same time, in the culture hall across the street from the bar, about 500 prisoners were being executed.
As Kos said, he later met his superior, Milorad Pelemis, in Bijeljina and asked him why Pelemis had put them in that situation. Pelemis told Kos that he had received orders to do it ‘from the top’ and instructed Kos never to speak of it again. Kos today said that the person at the ‘top’ was their superior, Petar Salapura, not the ‘top leadership’. Kos didn’t contest the fact that a VRS officer had issued the order to kill the prisoners at Branjevo. The officer was about 40 to 45 years old, and had graying hair and fair skin.
Radovan Karadzic’s trial continues after the Tribunal’s summer recess.
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