NO CRIMES IN FOCA…ONLY CRIMINAL OFFENSES
Veselinko Simovic, former member of the Foca Intervention Platoon, contends that the crimes in Foca Ratko Mladic is charged with didn’t happen. Later, Simovic clarified that when he said there were no crimes he didn’t mean that there were no ‘criminal offenses’ such as mistreatment of civilians, looting, and torching of houses. According to Simovic, members of uncontrolled paramilitary groups committed such acts. How ‘men with poetic souls’ turned Foca into Srbinje
In his statement to Ratko Mladic’s defense and in his examination-in-chief today, Veselinko Simovic claimed that the conflict broke out in Foca after a Muslim attack. The claims of the former member of the Foca Intervention Platoon were similar to those made by the previous witnesses from the same municipality. The attack prompted the Serbs to set up their military units. As part of their effort to defend themselves, the Serbs captured Foca on 12 April 1992. As alleged in the indictment, numerous crimes against the local Muslims ensued: detention, abuse, rape and murder. The witness didn’t know anything about that. ‘In my opinion, there were no such acts,' the witness said when he was asked what he knew about the crimes listed in the indictment against Mladic.
Simovic contended that paramilitary groups from Serbia and Montenegro arrived in Foca in the spring of 1992. They ‘disgraced the honest Serb fighters’. According to Simovic, he personally participated in a military action when ‘criminals from Belgrade’ were expelled from the town. As Simovic recounted, he and his soldiers had been given orders to kill the paramilitaries if they refused to leave. This, as the witness explained, is indicative of the determination of the local authorities to deal with the issue.
At the beginning of the cross-examination the prosecutor asked Simovic to explain how the paramilitary members disgraced the honest Foca fighters. The witness said that they mistreated the people, set houses on fire and looted them. This prompted the prosecution to note that there had been crimes in Foca after all, contrary to what the witness had said, No, the witness replied, it was a misunderstanding. ‘There were no crimes, only criminal offenses’ such as looting, arson and ‘slapping’, the witness explained. He was adamant that the paramilitary groups were to blame for that.
The prosecution nevertheless noted that several members of the Bosnian Serb Army received long-term prison sentences for those crimes, such as the rapes of Muslim girls and women in Foca. Radovan Stankovic and Dragoljub Kunarac were among them, as was Radomir Kovac, member of the witness’s intervention unit. Simovic said that the rapes were committed ‘in secret’ and therefore had not been prosecuted before the indictments were issued against the perpetrators in The Hague. The witness allegedly told Kovac, who has come back to Foca recently, that he 'would never have released him’ because he had disgraced the entire Serb army. ‘You fared well, if I had been your judge, I would have put you to electric chair and pressed the button three times, not once’, the witness purportedly told Kovac ‘to his face’.
Speaking about illegal detention, torture and murder of Muslims in the Correctional and Penal Facility (KP Dom) in Foca, Simovic said that he didn’t know anything about that. Simovic only knew that captured enemy soldiers were held there. The prosecutor then showed Simovic a Bosnian Serb Army document with a list of prisoner sent for exchange. All of the prisoners in the list were older than 50. Simovic replied that he didn’t know anyone from the list. According to the witness, some soldiers were older than 70.
The witness claimed that nobody forced Muslims out of Foca. The Muslims ‘themselves expressed their desire to leave’ and the Serb authorities ‘met their request’ providing buses and ‘escorting them’ without any mistreatment, Simovic explained. ‘We didn’t pursue them, I swear by God, nobody touched them, except that group of convicted individuals’, said Simovic.
And yet, according to the prosecution evidence, Foca has been almost completely ethnically cleansed of Muslims. Even the name of the town was changed to Srbinje. The witness said that the change of the name was irrelevant. The name was changed by ‘men with poetic souls': they wanted to coordinate linguistically the new name with the names of the neighboring municipalities of Trebinje, Ljubinje and Nevesinje.
Former police officer from Bratunac Nenad Deronjic began his evidence as the hearing drew to a close.
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