Radovan Karadzic has called Bosnian Serb military officers Vidoje Blagojevic and Zdravko Tolimir in a bid to convince the Trial Chamber that Karadzic didn’t know about the crimes they were convicted for

Vidoje Blagojevic, witness at the Radovan Karadzic trialVidoje Blagojevic, witness at the Radovan Karadzic trial

Two VRS officers convicted of the crimes against civilian detainees and prisoners of war after the fall of Srebrenica in July 1995 testified in Radovan Karadzic’s defense. The first witness was Vidoje Blagojevic, former commander of the Bratunac Brigade, who was sentenced to 15 years for aiding the murders, persecution and forcible transfer of civilian population. After he had served two thirds of his sentence, Blagojevic was granted early release and came to The Hague straight from home.

In a brief summary of the witness’s statement it was noted that Blagojevic never informed Radovan Karadzic about the crimes after the fall of Srebrenica for two reasons. First, at that time Blagojevic didn’t communicate with Karadzic and second, Blagojevic purportedly didn’t know about the crimes either. Blagojevic claims he didn’t know anything about the plan to execute thousands of captured Muslim men and boys. His security officer Momir Nikolic lied before the Tribunal when he said that Blagojevic had told him about that plan on 12 July 1995, Blagojevic claims.

After he read out the summary, Karadzic turned the witness over to the prosecution. Blagojevic told the prosecutor that he didn’t accept the findings of his judgment. In Blagojevic’s view, his trial was in fact a ‘joint criminal enterprise of the prosecution and the defense’ aimed at his conviction. Although the headquarters of his brigade was located near the place where thousands of Srebrenica inhabitants were detained in Bratunac, Blagojevic claimed that he didn’t know that a number of them were killed there and others were taken to the mass execution sites near Zvornik.

Blagojevic argued that ‘individuals and groups out of control’ ‘most likely’ committed the crimes against Muslims from Srebrenica. ‘Do you, as a serviceman, hold that individuals and groups out of control could arrest, detain, transport, execute and bury more than 7,000 men and boys,’ the prosecutor asked him. The witness replied that he hadn’t known about those events. His experience however told him that impossible things could ‘become possible’, Blagojevic added.

The prosecutor argued that Blagojevic and Karadzic were partners in crime: during the war, the witness implemented unlawful Directives 4 and 7 issued by the political leadership, which called for the expulsion of Muslim civilians from Podrinje. Directive 7, signed by Karadzic, ordered the troops to create conditions of ‘total insecurity with no hope of further life for the inhabitants of Srebrenica and Zepa’. One such attack on civilians occurred on 25 May 1995 when according to the witness’s combat report, the Bratunac Brigade fired ‘two plus two’ shells from a howitzer, the prosecutor claimed. The report states that two shells hit the center of Srebrenica, and for two, the army could not establish where they fell. The report of the BH Army 28th Division of the same date states that the two ‘lost’ rounds fell in the Suceska area, killing a ten-year old girl. Although an hour before, Blagojevic said ‘impossible is possible’, but now he told the prosecutor that it was ‘nothing but speculation’.

Zdravko Tolimir followed Blagojevic in the witness stand. The Trial Chamber sentenced Mladic’s former assistant for security and intelligence in the Main Staff to life for his involvement in the Srebrenica genocide. Tolimir’s testimony took only about 20 minutes. He said he never told Karadzic about the treatment of prisoners after the fall of Srebrenica. Tolimir said that the only communication between him and Karadzic took place on 9 July 1995, when there were no prisoners. The document logbook in Pale stated that Tolimir’s intelligence service sent daily reports to Karadzic throughout the killing operation, from 14 to 17 July 1995. The reports somehow got ‘lost’ and the witness claimed that he didn’t know what they were about. The prosecutor was obviously not impressed with the answers and didn’t cross-examine the witness.

Vidoje Blagojevic, witness at the Radovan Karadzic trial
Zdravko Tolimir, witness at the Radovan Karadzic trial