Mladic’s defense witness Zoran Nikolic denies that he was the person identified in the judgment delivered in the case against Dragoljub Kunarac and others. According to the witness, there were two other men called Zoran Nikolic in Foca. One of them had lived there before the war, and the other was a soldier from Montenegro

Zoran Nikolic, defence witness at Rako Mladic trialZoran Nikolic, defence witness at Rako Mladic trial

Today Ratko Mladic’s defense continued contesting the prosecution’s evidence on the crimes in Foca with the evidence of Zoran Nikolic. At the beginning of the war, the witness, who was the head of the local employment office, joined the Territorial Defense. From early April 1992, Nikolic served in an intervention platoon. By mid-June, Nikolic returned to his work in the employment office. After that Nikolic was periodically called up to the Bosnian Serb Army as a reservist.

In the statement to Mladic’s defense, the witness recounted that Serbs and Muslims started fighting for Foca on 8 April 1992. The conflict ended on 12 April 1992 with the victory of the Serb Territorial Defense, which was under the command of the local Crisis Staff. The Muslim fighters withdrew, and a large number of civilians left with the soldiers, in fear for their safety, Nikolic said, although the Serb authorities didn’t issue any orders to that effect. The witness’s brother Dragan was killed in the fighting in Foca.

As he was questioned by Mladic’s defense counsel Stojanovic, the witness said that at the very beginning of the conflict Muslim and Serb paramilitary groups arrived in the area ‘from other places’. When the Serb Territorial Defense soldiers took control of the municipality, other such units from Serbia and Montenegro arrived. As Nikolic said, it was his impression that the military and political authorities in Foca didn’t have any control over them. Nikolic’s evidence tallies with what Dragan Milanovic, a platoon commander in the Foca Territorial Defense, said in his testimony two days ago. Neither Nikolic nor Milanovic have testified before the Tribunal.

At the beginning of the cross-examination prosecutor MacGregor asked the witness if he was ever politically active. Nikolic explained that he had been in the League of Communists before the war in BH, and after the war he served as the Serbian Radical Party commissioner in Foca.

As Nikolic continued his evidence, he said that during the war Gojko Jankovic and Dragoljub Kunarac, who have both been convicted of rape in Foca, commanded the units which were operating as part of the Bosnian Serb Army. The prosecutor brought up the Tribunal’s judgment in the case against Kunarac where a protected witness claimed she had been raped twice in August or September 1992 by a soldier called Zoran Nikolic. The witness denied it was him. He explained that there was another man by the name of Zoran Nikolic in Foca that had lived there before the war. When the conflict broke out, a man with the same name and surname came to Foca from Montenegro. Either of them could be the rapist, Nikolic concluded.

Interestingly enough, the issue of the Correctional and Penal Facility (KP Dom) in Foca, one of the prison facilities mentioned in the indictment against Mladic, was raised only after the end of the regular working hours. Neither the defense nor the prosecution brought up the topic. The presiding judge asked the witness about it, and the witness said that in 1993 he hitched a ride to his parents’ home outside Foca in a police vehicle transporting KP Dom prisoners. The prisoners were taken to work in the Miljevina mine and the witness was ‘unpleasantly surprised’ when he heard it. One of the prisoners was the brother of Nikolic’s pre-war ‘colleague’ Ekrem Cemo. Nikolic learned that Ekrem Cemo was also held in the KP Dom. The prisoners did not complain, apart from saying they didn’t have enough cigarettes. As far as the witness knows, Cemo and his brother were later exchanged.

Ratko Mladic’s trial continues on Monday.