WAR CRIMINAL OR ‘INNOCENT OBSERVER’
In his evidence in Radovan Karadzic’s defense, Vujadin Popovic confirmed that he knew about the killings of prisoners after the fall of the enclave. Popovic, former security chief in the Drina Corps, said he never informed the RS president about them. The Trial Chamber found Popovic guilty of the genocide in Srebrenica
In a bid to defend himself against the charges of genocide in Srebrenica, Radovan Karadzic called Vujadin Popovic, former chief of security in the VRS Drina Corps. Popovic was sentenced by the Tribunal to life for his role in the Srebrenica crimes. Popovic, who has appealed against the trial judgment, is currently in the UN Detention Unit, awaiting the appellate hearing, slated for the beginning of December 2013.
In the statement to Karadzic’s defense, Popovic said that he never ‘notified President Karadzic about the executions of the prisoners from Srebrenica’. As Popovic said, he didn’t know if there were ‘any written reports with the data about the executions’. He never heard ‘that President Karadzic knew about the executions of prisoners or that he authorized them’, Popovic explained.
Popovic confirmed that he did know that the prisoners were killed but argued that he didn’t plan or participate personally in the executions. Popovic noted in his statement that three days after the fall of Srebrenica, on 14 July 1995, he escorted a convoy of buses and trucks with captured Muslims to the Zvornik area. Popovic saw that the prisoners were detained in the schools in Orahovac and Rocevic but didn’t see any of prisoners of war being killed. At the time, Popovic stressed, he didn’t know that there was a plan to execute the prisoners. Popovic said that he only learned about that later.
The prosecution didn’t accept the version of the events presented in Popovic’s statement. Prosecutor Julian Nichols suggested in the cross-examination that through his testimony in Karadzic’s defense, Popovic was trying to paint a new picture of his role in the events in Srebrenica in a bid to improve his position before the appellate hearing. Popovic described himself as an ‘innocent observer’ who just happened to be there when thousands of detained Muslims from Srebrenica were executed, but didn’t know and couldn’t do anything about it.
Popovic contends that he learned about the execution of about 2,500 prisoners in Orahovac, Petkovci and Rocevic on 14 July 1995 the next day. On 16 July 1995, he ‘happened to be’ in Pilica. 500 detainees were massacred in the Cultural Center in Pilica that day. In a bar right across the Cultural Center, Popovic met Colonel Ljubisa Beara, chief of security in the Main Staff, and other VRS officers. They told Popovic that ‘drunken fools’ from the VRS ranks had killed the prisoners. When the prosecutor asked Popovic what he had done to verify the claim or to help the people that were targeted, Popovic explained that he ‘couldn’t do anything’ in the presence of a superior officer.
The prosecutor claimed that Popovic organized the executions and burial of the prisoners, and removed their remains later to eliminate the evidence of the crime. Popovic replied that he had been ‘framed’. According to him, his name was falsely used in an order issued on 16 July 1995, demanding the buses and 500 liters of diesel fuel. The prosecution used the order to prove that Popovic was involved in the operation to bury the prisoners executed that day at the Branjevo farm and in the Pilica Cultural Center.
At the end, the prosecutor played a video recording from August 1995, which shows Popovic in a good mood calling himself and other VRS officers in his company ‘war criminals’. ‘You in fact said the truth here, you are a war criminal, and the one that jokes about it’, the prosecutor said. Popovic admitted that it was a joke, based on the fact that the VRS members had been labeled criminals ‘since the very beginning of the war’. The fact that he was sentenced for genocide in the prosecutor’s view confirmed that Popovic told the truth at the time.
Karadzic didn’t have any additional questions for Vujadin Popovic. The trial continues with the evidence of Momcilo Krajisnik.
- Case : Karadzic
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