American intelligence officer Richard Butler, former analyst with the OTP in The Hague, described in detail the detention, transport and execution of the Srebrenica Muslims in July 1995. Butler used the documents that show the entire process went on with the knowledge and on the orders of the accused Mladic and officers from his staff

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

On the third day of his testimony at the trial of Ratko Mladic, the prosecution’s military expert Richard Butler presented his conclusions about the killings of the Srebrenica Muslims in July 1995. Butler drew his conclusions on the vast amount of documents he had inspected. Yesterday he said that the decision to execute the captives en masse was most likely reached in the night of 11 July 1995, between the two meetings Mladic and his officers had had with the representatives of UNPROFOR and Muslim civilians from Srebrenica.

The first mass killing of about 1,000 detainees happened on 13 July 1995 in the farm warehouse in Kravica. Based on the intercepted conversations and military documents, Butler concluded that thousands of Muslims had been captured at three locations along the road towards Bratunac that day. The Muslims were trying to reach Tuzla. According to an intercepted conversation between two unidentified VRS officers, about 6,000 detainees were gathered in the football stadium in Nova Kasaba, at the cross-roads in Konjevic Polje and in a field in Sandici. Butler couldn’t confirm the number but said that in any case there were ‘thousands, not hundreds’.

That same day the detainees were transferred to Bratunac. Later that evening, the detainees were taken to various buildings, mostly schools in the territory under the control of the Zvornik Brigade. That was done on Ratko Mladic’s orders; the suggestion came from Zdravko Tolimir, security chief in the Main Staff. Tolimir wanted to ‘put the prisoners somewhere indoors or in an area that could not be observed from the ground or the air’. In the order of 13 July 1995 Mladic prohibited any release of information to the media ‘particularly about the prisoners of war and evacuated civilians’. That same day, Radovan Karadzic gave a coded order to his commissioner for Srebrenica, Miroslav Deronjic, instructing him that the ‘goods must be put in the warehouses’. In other words, prisoners were to be placed in enclosed facilities.

The killings of thousands of prisoners in the Zvornik Brigade area of responsibility went on from 14 to 17 July 1995, Butler explained. There is no mention of the executions in the VRS documents, not surprisingly, but a number of orders and reports admitted into evidence show that Mladic and officers from his staff, Tolimir, Gvero, Miletic and others, made the decisions to transport and detain the captured men and boys. At any given point, Mladic and his officers knew where the detainees were, the documents proved.

Yesterday the witness said that Mladic was in the field on 10 July 1995 when he observed the operation from the Drina Corps forward command post. On 11 July 1995, Mladic and his troops entered Srebrenica. Today Butler noted that in the days that followed the accused was in the area of Srebrenica and Bratunac. He then briefly returned to the Main Staff on 14 July 1995. From there, Mladic travelled to Belgrade that same day, to meet Slobodan Milosevic and several international officials. Mladic was back in the Main Staff on 16 July 1995. He was in Belgrade when the executions of the captured inhabitants of Srebrenica were in full swing. The prosecution expert contends that this cannot be used as an alibi, as he found several documents that indicate Mladic duly ‘exercised command’ in that period.

Today, the trial of Ratko Mladic ended earlier when an alarm sounded around 1pm. On his way out of the courtroom the accused asked out loud: ‘Has Obama’s attack on Syria started?’Expert Richard Butler continues his evidence tomorrow.