Mladic’s defense witness has claimed he was unaware of any crimes against Muslims in Foca apart from the looting and burning of houses. He blamed the ‘dogs of war’ from Serbia and Montenegro for those crimes. After the Serb Territorial Defense soldiers entered the town, Muslims were allowed to live a ‘normal life’. This claim prompted the prosecutor to quote the Foca Crisis Staff president who said that the number of Muslim citizens in the municipality had fallen from pre-war 51 percent to just one percent by September 1992

Dragan Milanovic, defence witness at Rako Mladic trialDragan Milanovic, defence witness at Rako Mladic trial

As alleged in the indictment against Ratko Mladic, Foca is one of the municipalities where crimes against non-Serbs reached the scale of genocide. The evidence of Dragan Milanovic painted a different picture. Before the war, Milanovic owned a liquor store. He became the commander of a Territorial Defense platoon when the war started. He didn’t deny that crimes had been committed against Muslims in Foca. According to Milanovic, the crimes were limited in scope and were committed by ‘out-of-control groups’ from Serbia and Montenegro. Milanovic is one of the few defense witnesses who have not testified in other cases. This is his first time before the Tribunal. Milanovic testified viva voce unlike most of his predecessors in the witness stand.

As he answered questions posed by Mladic’s defense counsel Lukic, the witness claimed that in the spring of 1992 ‘there was a feeling in the air that something would happen’. Village guards were soon established in the municipality. In late March 1992, his platoon was established too, ‘spontaneously’, as he put it. The platoon soon joined the Serb Territorial Defense. In July 1992, the platoon joined the Foca Brigade of the Bosnian Serb Army. At that time, the witness was no longer in the unit because he was seriously wounded in late May 1992.

According to Milanovic, the situation in Foca unfolded like this: the Muslim units attacked the town on 8 April and seized its central part. The Serb ‘Territorial Defense’ responded to the attack and captured the municipality on 12 April 1992. Muslim fighters then withdrew and non-Serb civilians were allowed to live a ‘normal life’ given the war conditions. The witness claimed that during the four days the Muslims had controlled the town, Serbs had been detained in the Correctional and Penal Facility (KPD). However, the witness wasn’t able to name a single prisoner or to specify the source of that information. Milanovic didn’t deny that later Muslims were detained in the KPD but did not provide any details. The witness was on the frontline until late May 1992. He was then sent for medical treatment out of town.

Several Serb houses were burned in Foca on 11 April 1992, the witness noted. Muslim buildings subsequently suffered the same fate. According to the witness, the ‘dogs of war’ from Serbia and Montenegro were responsible for that. Those ‘dogs of war’ first looted non-Serb houses and then burned them down ‘probably to cover up the evidence’.

Milanovic laid the blame for the events in Foca on the civil authorities, i.e. the local Crisis Staff. Prosecutor Bibles didn’t challenge the claim. It is the prosecution’s case that the Crisis Staff was part of a broader military and political structure which implemented the leadership policy. The prosecution did contest Milanovic’s allegation that the conflict broke out spontaneously and that Serb units ‘formed spontaneously’. Prosecutor Bibles first presented a document showing that by 20 March 1992 the JNA had armed 3,000 Serb volunteers. She then proceeded to show a recording of a TV appearance by Miroslav Stanic, president of the Foca Crisis Staff. Stanic said that an ‘illegal parade’ of eight Serb battalions was held in Foca in June 1991. The witness knew nothings about the effort to arm the Serbs by the JNA. In Milanovic’s view, Stanic probably wanted to ‘impress the viewers’ by telling lies.

Invoking the witness’s claim that Muslims led ‘a normal life’, the prosecutor quoted an entry from Ratko Mladic’s diary. At a meeting on 17 September 1992, Miroslav Stanic explained to Mladic how he was able to prevent Muslims from turning Foca into ‘another Islamic center in Europe’. ‘Before the war, the Muslim population in Foca stood at 51 per cent, and now the Serbs make up 99 per cent’, Stanic boasted. Milanovic said he didn’t know anything about that.

Ratko Mladic’s trial continues tomorrow with the evidence of a new defense witness.