Mladic’s defense tried to exonerate the army for the conditions and treatment of prisoners in the prison camps in Bosnian Krajina. According to Mladic’s defense, the prisoners were malnourished because of a general food shortage, even though the Manjaca prison camp command had even hired a nutritionist. ‘If he existed, the nutritionist obviously didn’t do his job’, the prosecution military expert replied

Ewan Brown, witness at the Ratko Mladic trialEwan Brown, witness at the Ratko Mladic trial

The prosecution military expert Ewan Brown completed his four-day testimony at the trial of Ratko Mladic. For the purpose of the trial, Brown wrote a report, Military situation in the Bosnian Krajina in 1992.

In a bid to refute the report’s findings, the defense counsel insisted that the army punished those who committed crimes against non-Serbs. Stressing that the VRS followed the same strict disciplinary measures as the JNA had, the defense counsel showed an order issued in June 1992. The troops were ordered to prevent looting ‘at any price’, to observe international standards in the treatment of the enemy, and to punish perpetrators, which included their ‘physical elimination’. This prompted Brown to ask if such ‘ultimate sanctions’ had ever been used. The documents Brown examined did not contain any evidence that ‘rigorous, robust and efficient measures’ were taken. Brown did not see any evidence that investigations were launched against any high-ranking officers. There were only a couple of motions filed by military prosecutors; investigations were half-hearted and the cases were dropped.

Lawyer Branko Lukic tried to contest Brown’s conclusion that the VRS supported organized looting of non-Serbs’ property. To corroborate this claim, Lukic presented a document signed by General Talic in May 1995. The document ordered that the supplies should be brought in ‘as usual’. In Brown’s words, Talic issued double orders. On the one hand, Talic strove to prevent looting and disciplinary infractions, but only on a case-to-case basis. On the other, Talic ‘gladly condoned’ the policy of the authorities to seize the movable and immovable property of those who had left. According to the instructions of the RS authorities in July 1992, that property was to be centralized and placed at the disposal of the state. ‘It seems that the authorities didn’t want individuals to profit from the exercise’, Brown concluded. The fact that few cases were ever investigated created an atmosphere in which soldiers knew they could loot with impunity. This rendered the initial orders to prevent crimes ‘pointless and useless’.

Commenting on the parts in the report about the bad conditions in prison camps in Bosnian Krajina, the defense counsel put it to the witness that the ‘general shortage of food’ caused malnutrition in the Manjaca prison camp despite the prison camp command efforts. The command even employed a full-time nutritionist. ‘If he was indeed there, the nutritionist obviously didn’t do his job’, Brown said.

In a bid to exonerate the army for the events in Manjaca and in Omarska, Keraterm, Trnopolje prison camps in Prijedor, Lukic insisted that the police brought the prisoners to the prison camps, that the prison camp command didn’t have full control and that the army wasn’t responsible for what happened outside the prison gates. According to the defense counsel, the army was not responsible for the deaths of several prisoners who were killed by the police in early August 1992 in front of the Manjaca gates. Brown reminded the defense counsel that the prison camp command didn’t even try to take the perpetrators into custody immediately, to secure the crime scene and to inform the military police about the crime.