Former deputy warden in the Batkovic collection center near Bijeljina Djordjo Krstic contends that the prisoners were never taken out of the camp to do forced labor. According to Krstic, the detainees volunteered for the work knowing that ‘time goes by faster when you work' and it would bring them certain benefits. Zoran Durmic, a police officer from Vlasenica, completed his evidence before Krstic took the stand

Djordjo Krstic, defence witness at Rako Mladic trialDjordjo Krstic, defence witness at Rako Mladic trial

Zoran Durmic, a police officer from the Serb municipality of Milici, was the first defense witness of Ratko Mladics defense to testify this week. At the beginning of the conflict, the municipality split from Vlasenica. Durmics statement from Radovan Karadzic's trial was admitted into evidence. In the statement, Durmic blames Muslims for the outbreak of the conflict in Vlasenica. Durmic listed a series of incidents in which Muslim paramilitary groups attacked Serbs. Also, in his statement Durmic described the clash in the village of Zaklopaca on 16 May 1992when, according to him, several Muslimshad been killed.

During the Srebrenica operation, Durmic and his police unit were tasked with securing the road leading through Nova Kasaba. Today Durmic said that on 13 July 1995 he saw about 100 Muslim prisoners in the local football field there. As Durmic recounted, he overheard a Serb medical crew and a wounded Muslim talking. The Muslim said that Zulfo Tursunovic, one of the Srebrenica military commanders, had shot him just because he had wanted to surrender. Oh, go to Bokcin Potok, thousands have been killed there, the wounded Muslim purportedly said; the implication is that Muslims had killed their compatriots who had wanted to surrender.

Prosecutor McDonald was obviously quite convinced that the prosecution had called enough evidence to prove that the troops under Ratko Mladics command were responsible for the death of thousands of prisoners from Srebrenica, and that far more than a hundred detainees were held in the Nova Kasaba football field, because he did not ask the witness a single question about those topics. He put it to the witness that about 80 Muslims had been killed in the village of Zaklopaca in May 1992. The survivors - thirty women, children and elderly - then surrendered to the Serb authorities, the prosecutor recounted. They were forced to sign a statement relinquishing their property and were taken towards Kladanj. Durmic replied that unfortunately I did hearthat someone did the thing in Zaklopaca. However, this was the first time the heard that civilians signed documents ceding their property.

After Durmic completed his evidence, the defense called Djordjo Krstic, former deputy warden in the Batkovic collection center near Bijeljina. The indictment alleges that a number of crimes against non-Serbs were committed there. In the statement he gave to the defense, Krstic had only praise for the conditions in the prison. Krstic claimed that the prisoners had three meals a day just like Serb soldiers, drank water from the town water supplies, had heating and beds on wooden pallets.

Contradicting the prosecution's allegations that the prisoners were made to do forced labor on the front lines, Krstic painted an idyllic picture of the events. He admitted that detainees had been taken to work outside the prison camp. When there was need for seasonal workers, Krstic explained, shift leaders would ask the prisonersrepresentative for volunteers. According to Krstic, ten times as many people than were needed would volunteer, and the problem was how to decide who would go. The prisoners volunteered because they knew that time went by fasterif they worked, but there were also perks such as cigarettes or being able to phone their relatives abroad from the houses where they worked.

In the cross-examination, prosecutor Bibles presented a report of the International Red Cross from April 1993. According to the report, 17 prisoners were killed in an ambush while being transported to the front line. Krstic replied that they had gone there to cut wood. After that, Krstic added, they were no longer taken to the front lines but worked in the town instead. When the judges asked if the prisoners also went to the town to cut wood, the witness replied that they went there to load coal.

Due to the busy schedule in the courtrooms, this week Mladics trial will begin half an hour earlier than before, at 9am instead of 9.30am. This morning, however Mladic refused to leave the Detention Unit early enough, and was warned that if he did that again in the coming days, the first session would proceed without him.

Djordjo Krstic, defence witness at Rako Mladic trial
Zoran Durmic, defence witness at Rako Mladic trial