Having examined the voluminous evidence, prosecution expert Richard Butler concluded that Ratko Mladic actively participated in the Srebrenica operation in July 1995. Mladic planned actions, monitored their implementation, attended combat operations in the field and decided on the fate of civilians that took shelter in Potocari, Butler explained

Richard Butler, witness at the Ratko Mladic trialRichard Butler, witness at the Ratko Mladic trial

Because the Bosnian Serb army had inherited a meticulous system of reporting and archiving documents from the former JNA, American intelligence officer Richard Butler was able to reconstruct in detail the course of the Srebrenica operation in July 1995. Intercepted conversations and witness statements helped Butler in his endeavor. In his expert reports, the witness focused on the command structure of the units involved in the attack. In his seventh testimony before the Tribunal, Butler focused in particular on the role of the accused Ratko Mladic.

The enclaves of Srebrenica and Zepa were captured as part of Operation Krivaja ’95, Butler explained; this operation was based on Directives 7 and 7.1. The first directive was issued in March 1995 and was signed by Radovan Karadzic. Ratko Mladic signed Directive 7.1. The initial goal was not to capture the enclaves but to separate them and create the conditions of ‘no hope of further survival’ for the civilian population, as envisaged in Directive 7. The Bosnian Serb military leadership expected a stronger resistance of the BH Army 28th Division, the witness noted. They also expected a stronger involvement of UNPROFOR in the effort to protect Srebrenica and Zepa. Because they did not materialize, the Serb army could advance unhindered, and Karadzic, as the supreme commander, gave the army permission to enter Srebrenica at the request of the Main Staff on 9 July 1995.

Butler said that the documents and the intercepts showed that on 11 July 1995, just before Srebrenica was captured and in the immediate aftermath of its fall, confusion reigned among the Bosnian Serb military officers. Some of them were not aware of the plan to expel civilians from the town and to kill all men of military age. As an illustration, the prosecutor showed two conversations intercepted on 12 July 1995, in the space of just 10 minutes. In the first intercept, an unknown officer says that the civilians gathered in Potocari could choose if they wanted to stay or to leave. In the second intercept, Mladic says ‘we will evacuate everyone, including those who want to leave and those who don’t want to go’.

A Drina Corps document of 12 July 1995 states that the order to send buses and trucks to the transport the people came from Mladic. Most of the vehicles were provided by the Defense Ministry. A report from the Main Staff sent on the same day to Radovan Karadzic speaks about the transportation of 10,000 civilians from Potocari. Based on the documents, the witness concluded that in addition to his role in the deportation of the people from Potocari, Mladic played an active part in each stage of the Srebrenica operation: from planning and implementing its military part to the crimes against the local population.

Mladic signed one of the two directives ordering the attack on Srebrenica and Zepa. Also, Mladic regularly received reports on the situation in the field. On 10 July 1995, Mladic observed the developments in the field from the forward command post. The next day Mladic, was already in Srebrenica with the army. Then, Mladic participated in several meetings in the Fontana Hotel in Bratunac where the fate of the civilians from Potocari was discussed. Butler concluded that the decision to kill the captured men and boys was reached between the second and the third meeting in the Fontana Hotel, in the evening of 11 July and the morning of 12 July 1995. Prosecutor Peter McCloskey will continue examining the prosecution expert tomorrow, and is expected to ask him about the executions of the Srebrenica detainees in more detail.