MLADIC’S WITNESS: ‘NO ONE STARVED TO DEATH IN WAR IN BH’
The prosecutor showed evidence of the critical humanitarian situation in Srebrenica in the first half of 1995. There were reports that people were starving to death in the enclave because humanitarian convoys were denied passage through the Bosnian Serb territory. Mladic’s defense witness Slavko Kralj replied that it was all ‘propaganda’
Slavko Kralj, former liaison officer with UNPROFOR in the VRS Main Staff , claimed that during the war a large number of humanitarian convoys entered the Muslim enclaves in BH with the permission of the Serb side. In a bid to contest the allegation in the cross-examination, the prosecutor highlighted the critical situation in Srebrenica in the first half of 1995. The prosecutor suggested that there was famine in the enclave primarily because the Bosnian Serb army was preventing the international humanitarian convoys from reaching Srebrenica.
To corroborate the claim, prosecutor McCloskey noted that there was an audio recording of General Mladic saying, ‘I did not let anything through. I would not have captured Srebrenica and Zepa if I had not starved them throughout winter, I only let one or two convoys through from February onward’. Asked it that was indeed General Mladic’s attitude, the witness explained that he didn’t know. He added that he had never heard Mladic make any such statements.The prosecutor then showed a report sent in June 1995 by the UN special envoy Yasushi Akashi to the UN headquarters in New York. In the report, Akashi says that the Bosnian Serb army was preventing the aid from entering to the enclaves, demanding that half the goods be handed over to them. Once again the witness pleaded ignorance.
A photo taken in early 1995 in Srebrenica by Dutch officer Johannes Rutten shows a group of Muslim civilians from Srebrenica rummaging through the trash dumped by UNPROFOR garbage trucks. The prosecutor suggested that it was an indication of the desperate situation in the enclave. Kralj replied that ‘maybe the photo was faked’.
The prosecutor then highlightedtwo documents produced on 6 July 1995 – another letter from Akashiand a report from the BH Army 28th Division from Srebrenica. In his letter, Akashi states that 13 persons died of hunger in Srebrenica. The Bosnian Army report speaks aboutthe first victims of hunger. The witness replied that during the war ‘no one starved to death’ during the war in BH. According to the witness, those reports were ‘propaganda’.
In the re-examination, defense counsel Lukic noted that 13 persons died of hunger during the week preceding 6 July 1995. The BH Army stated that the ‘first deaths’ occurred on that very day (6 July 1995). The defense counsel asked the witness if the two pieces of information were contradictory. Presiding judge Orie stopped the witness from answering, saying that it was not up to the witness to speculate. According to Judge Orie, only the Trial Chamber could evaluate evidence. Asked if he knew that people died of hunger in Srebrenica in the first weeks of July 1995, Kralj replied that he didn’t have such information. In Kralj’s view, it was the ‘usual propaganda’ disseminated by the Muslims to ‘get as much humanitarian aid as possible’.
In the re-examination, the defense counsel referred to the suggestion put forth yesterday by the prosecutor that Mladic had been in charge of implementing Karadzic’s Directive 7, issued in March 1995. The witness confirmed it. The document called for a ‘planned and unobtrusive’ restriction of relief supplies deliveries to the enclaves in Srebrenica and Zepa to make the ‘Muslim population dependent on our goodwill’. The defense stressed that a little bit later Mladic wrote Directive 7.1, which did not refer to any restrictions of humanitarian aid. The witness said that the army had acted in line with Mladic’s order,not Karadzic’s document.
Veljko Maric, a doctor from Foca, began his evidence as today’s hearing drew to a close.
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