PROSECUTION CALLS FOR OPPORTUNITY TO PRESENT TOMASICA EVIDENCE
The prosecution in the case against Ratko Mladic wants to re-open the case to call evidence on the Tomasica mass grave. The prosecution intends to call 13 witnesses: seven survivors and former employees of the Ljubija mine and six experts, as well as to present 43 yet confidential documents. The three of six experts have already testified.
At Ratko Mladic’s trial, the prosecution has asked the Trial Chamber for leave to re-open its case in order to call evidence on the Tomasica mass grave, near Prijedor. The ‘new evidence’, previously unavailable to the prosecution, is ‘directly relevant’ to the allegations in the indictment. Mladic is charged with taking part in a joint criminal enterprise aimed at the permanent elimination of Muslims and Croats from the BH territory which was claimed by the Serbs. This was to be achieved by the commission of crimes, including genocide.
The prosecution learned about the mass grave in Tomasica in September 2013 after the local BH authorities began exhumations at the site. By late November 2013, as its case drew to a close, the prosecution informed the Trial Chamber about its intention to re-open the case to present the evidence pertaining to the grave. At that time, the prosecution expected that the first evidence would be available in the first half of 2014.
The prosecution plans to call 13 witnesses – seven survivors and former employees of the Ljubija mine, as well as six experts. Three of the experts have already testified in Mladic’s case. Also, the prosecution intends to present 43 documents, which remain classified at the moment. The prosecutor has asked the Trial Chamber for nine hours for the presentation of this evidence. This, the prosecution has stressed, would not cause any unnecessary delays in the proceeding or violate the right of the accused to a fair trial.
The first examinations and DNA analyses of the remains recovered from Tomasica in 2002, 2004 and 2006 link the grave with the secondary grave Jakarina Kosa, discovered in 2001. In late 2013, the exhumations yielded 275 complete bodies, as well as about a hundred of body parts and 24 bags of remains. The Tomasica grave has a surface area of 70 by 120 meters and is approximately the size of a football field. In some places the grave is up to nine meters deep.
The size of the Tomasica mass grave and the OTP’s investigation into its origins conducted from January to July 2014 have both showed that the VRS played a major part in the killing, burial and transfer of the victims into new graves in the Prijedor municipality. Entries from Mladic’s wartime notebooks corroborate the findings. The number of recovered bodies, the size of the grave and the way in which the victims were buried indicate that the killing in the Prijedor area were ‘planned, systematic and carried out on a massive scale’.
The prosecution notes that people were buried in Tomasica in the course of the major operation to forcibly remove the non-Serbs from the Prijedor area, before the local prison camps were closed down. The OTP experts have linked the exhumed bodies with the following incidents listed in the indictment against Mladic: the killing of a large number of persons in Kozarac, in the Hambarine and Ljubija regions, in the villages of Kamicani and Jaskici, in the Brda and Biscani area, in the nearby hamlets of Hegici, Mrkalji, Ravine, Duratovici, Kadici, Lagici and Cemernica, the killing of men in the football field in Ljubija and around it. The remains of the victims of several other incidents listed in the indictment – the killing of 150 persons in the Room 3 in the Keraterm prison camp, the murders of the Omarska prisoners in Omarska and in Hrastova Glavica – were also recovered from the grave.
In its motion, the prosecution notes that the remains of at least 293 persons aged from 15 to 60 have been exhumed so far. Almost all of them were killed by bullets. Some bodies were wrapped in blankets, which tallies with the witness statements. Also, protective rubber gloves, other items used when the bodies were buried and transferred and gas masks provided to the VRS by the JNA were also recovered from the grave. The evidence the prosecution intends to call also shows that in April and May 1992 the Prijedor Crisis Staff took control of the Ljubija mine, including Tomasica, and that the VRS strictly controlled the access to the area.
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