Former local official Mile Ujic denied there was intent to expel Muslims from Rogatica through the systematic commission of crimes. Ujic also claimed that the Serb authorities protected Muslim civilians by putting them up in ‘safe houses’, which are labelled prison centers by the prosecution. Ujic admitted that 25 persons were taken out from one of the ‘safe houses’ and killed. In Ujic’s opinion, this was an act of a ‘deranged person, who was not acting on anyone’s orders, and was not under anyone’s command’

Mile Ujic, defence witness at Rako Mladic trialMile Ujic, defence witness at Rako Mladic trial

Ratko Mladic’s defense is trying to contest the prosecution’s allegation that the Bosnian Serb political and military leadership intended to cause conflict in which a territory the Serbs wanted for themselves would be ethnically cleansed. To that end, they argue that the war broke out spontaneously and that the ‘other side’ was more responsible for that. Former president of the Rogatica Executive Board Mile Ujic argued that in the spring of 1992 there was an agreement to split the municipality into Serb and Muslim part. The agreement wasn’t implemented because of constant Muslim provocations, Ujic explained.

In the second half of May 1992, the two sides clashed. The Muslim units captured the town center. In July 1992, the Muslims were expelled and the municipality has been in the Serb hands ever since. The witness contested the allegation in the indictment that systematic crimes were committed against local Muslims with a view to ethnically cleansing the municipality.

The witness denied that the Veljko Vlahovic high school and the Rasadnik farm were prison camps. He called them ‘safe houses’ for civilians. This was not the first time that the term has been used in Mladic’s defense case. The presiding judge Orie asked the witness if the visitors left the ‘safe houses’ alive and in good health. The witness recalled that 25 Muslims were taken out of the school and brought to Rasadnik, and then ‘met their fate’: they were killed. A Bosnian Serb soldier was indicted and convicted by a BH court for the killing. In the witness’s view, a ‘deranged person who was not acting on anyone’s orders, and was not under anyone’s command’ did this.

Proving that the Serb conquest of Rogatica wasn’t spontaneous at all, in the cross-examination the prosecutor quoted from the witness’s letter to Radovan Karadzic, where Ujic informed Karadzic that the municipality had been captured ‘as per your instructions’. The witness confirmed the prosecutor’s suggestion that the Serbian Democratic Party Main Board had issued the instructions. The document is known as the Variant A and B and contains instructions for the take-over of power in the municipalities. The document specified two different ways of achieving that, depending on whether the Serbs had the majority. The party’s top body adopted the document in December 1991.

The prosecutor confronted the witness with documents showing that even before the conflict in Rogatica the Serb side had been gearing up for the attack. According to the documents, the goal was to capture the whole municipality and not to divide it fairly with Muslims. The division was an option in peacetime, but when Muslims began with provocations, the agreement fell through and Serbs decided to ‘try and take the whole municipality’, the witness explained.

According to the prosecutor, an entry in Mladic’s war diary for 17 May 1992 is yet another indicator that the Bosnian Serbs prepared in advance to capture Rogatica by military means, regardless of the purported agreement to carve the municipality up. According to his diary, Mladic issued tasks to the municipality representatives – including Ujic – to ‘collect as much information as possible about the enemy’ and to ‘carry out the mobilization’ in preparation for the attack. The witness denied that he had received those instructions in writing. On the other hand, Ujic admitted that the Muslim villages around Rogatica had been reconnoitered. Also, the witness confirmed that several days after Mladic’s instruction, mobilization was indeed carried out. Ujic continues his evidence on Monday.