Former member of the Rogatica Crisis Staff Sveto Veselinovic described the period when Muslims had military control over the municipality. Asked about the crimes perpetrated by Serbs while he was a local official, Veselinovic either denied any knowledge or claimed that he learned about those incidents only after the war. The witness however did remember that there were ‘almost no Muslims left’ in the town by the end of the war

Sveto Veselinovic, defence witness at Rako Mladic trialSveto Veselinovic, defence witness at Rako Mladic trial

Sveto Veselinovic, war-time member of the Crisis Staff in the Serb municipality of Rogatica gave evidence in Ratko Mladic’s defense. Veselinovic blamed the Rogatica Muslims for starting the conflict and denied that he knew about the crimes committed by the Serbs.

In his statement, admitted into evidence, the witness said that the local crisis staff was established to divide the municipality on ethnic lines to ‘avoid conflict’. The negotiations failed when Serb police officer Drazenko Mihajlovic was killed in Rogatica. As Veselinovic explained, in the fighting that ensued the Muslims first took over the center of the town, but they soon retreated in the face of the Serb attacks. According to Veselinovic, the Muslims left the town in ruins.

A video recording the witness took with his own camera was admitted into evidence. Veselinovic made the footage when he arrived in Rogatica after the Muslim units withdrew. The footage shows destroyed shops with shattered windows, burned houses and buildings in the center of the town. He recorded the ruins of a mosque and a nearby machine gun nest, which 'might indicate' why the mosque was shelled, the witness explained.

In the cross-examination, the prosecutor noted that from the time the Serb administration was established in Rogatica a number of crimes were committed against Muslims. For example, according to the prosecution evidence, people were tortured, sexually abused, taken away and killed in the Rasadnik prison camp. The witness admitted that the prison camp was located next to the road running from his home to the Crisis Staff. Despite that, he never went there, Veselinovic insisted. When the prosecutor suggested that Veselinovic avoided Rasadnik in order not to see the crimes against the detainees, Veselinovic smiled and said that it was not true. Veselinovic claimed that at the time he didn’t know about the crimes. Veselinovic’s brother, a soldier, told him that Serb deserters and Muslim prisoners of war were detained there.

The witness likewise had no knowledge of the crimes against the people detained in the Veljko Vlahovic high school. The only thing that Veselinovic heard was that ‘loyal Muslim civilians’ were invited to go there in order to be sheltered from the war operations. The witness did know that a group of Muslims had been taken out of Rogatica and executed on the border between the Sokolac and Han Pijesak municipalities. The witness explained that he heard about the incident after the war. Veselinovic also heard that some Serbs were convicted of that crime.

Finally, the prosecutor asked Veselinovic if it was true that after the war there were ‘almost no Muslims’ left in Rogatica. ‘That is true’, the witness replied briefly.

A good part of today’s examination-in-chief went on in closed session. Before Veselinovic took the stand, Trifko Komad completed his evidence in Ratko Mladic’s defense. Komad is aformer member of the Serbian Democratic Party Main Board.