The prosecutor put it to Mladic's defense witness Milenko Jankovic that non-Serbs from Rogatica were expelled, detained and made to perform forced labor at the front lines. Jankovic claimed Muslims left the municipality of their own free will, came to collection centers and even volunteered to help the Serb units, right at the demarcation line

Milenko Jankovic, defence witness at Rako Mladic trialMilenko Jankovic, defence witness at Rako Mladic trial

The working week at the trial of Ratko Mladic began with the evidence of defense witness Miladin Gagovic. The witness was a unit commander in theFoca Brigade, which was part of the Bosnian Serb army. In his statement to the defense, Gagovic said that the brigade was established only in late June 1992. Until that time, Serbs had been ‘organizing themselves’, by setting up Territorial Defense units.

The Territorial Defense was under the command of the Foca Crisis Staff, not the VRS, Gagovic explained. That, in the defense’s view, should exonerate Mladic of the responsibility for the crimes in Foca, at least for the period until late June 1992. In the brief examination-in-chief, the witness confirmedanother defense’s argument: that the Muslim population left Foca voluntarily. Some Muslims left before and during the fighting in the town in mid-April 1992,and others fled afterwards.

When the defense completed the examination of their witness, the prosecutor announced that he didn’t intend to question the witness. The defense had indicated that in his statement and in the examination-in chief the witness would speak in more detail about the military structure in the Foca area, the prosecutor noted. Since the witness didn’t do it, the prosecutor too decided not to cross-examine him.

Thus, Milenko Jankovic was called as a witness earlier than expected. Jankovic was a unit commander in the Rogatica Brigade. Like Gagovic, in his statement to the defense team Jankovicsaid that at the beginning of the conflict Serbs in Rogatica ‘organized themselves’. According to the witness, Serbs later joined the Bosnian Serb army. Also, Jankovic claimed that non-Serbs left the municipality ‘voluntarily’, just as they voluntarily came to the ‘collection centers’ in the Veljko Vlahovic high school and the Rasadnik farm.

It is the prosecution case, corroborated by many of its witnesses, that these two locations were prison facilities where non-Serb prisoners and civilians were held in inhumane conditions, beaten up and raped. The indictment alleges that 15 prisoners were taken out of Rasadnik on 15 August 1992 and killed. The same fate befell a number of people taken out of the high school. According to Jankovic, Muslims and Serb civilians alike went to those two places to seek shelter during the fighting in the Rogatica area. Many of them could go out freely but didn’t want to do it because they knew it was not safe for them to be outside of the centers, Jankovic explained. In the centers, the civilians were given the same food as the Serb army, and there was tap water.

In the cross-examination prosecutor Jonathan MacDonald asked the witness if he ever had gone to those locations. Jankovic never visited the Veljko Vlahovic high school, but he did visit the Rasadnik center from time to time, but only to go to the manager’s office. Jankovic contradicted the prosecution's claim that prisoners were taken out to do forced labor, sometimes even at the front line. He claimed they did this kind of work ‘voluntary’. The witness agreed that the prisoners cut trees next to his unit’s positions, 200 meters from the demarcation line. The prisoners volunteered for the job because they would say ‘time goes by faster if you work’, the witness noted, adding that prisoners did other jobs gladly too, especially if they worked for 'Serb hosts’ because the food there was better than in the collection centers.

In his evidence Jankovic confirmed the allegation in the indictment that both mosques in Rogatica were destroyed in the war. Jankovic didn’t know who was responsible for that. He denied the claims made by a prosecution witness that the Serb authorities in Rogatica had planned to kill a third of the local Muslims, to expel a third, and to convert the remainingthird to Christianity.

Milenko Jankovic, defence witness at Rako Mladic trial
Miladin Gagovic, defence witness at Rako Mladic trial