In a bid to explain why the call to surrender was issued to all Muslims in Gorazde, not just the enemy soldiers, in June 1993, VRS officer Spiro Pereula blamed it on an ‘ignorant typist’ who made a mistake as they typed the document. The document bore his signature because of the urgency of the situation, typical for war

Spiro Pereula, defence witness at Rako Mladic trialSpiro Pereula, defence witness at Rako Mladic trial

Spiro Pereula, an officer in the Bosnian Serb army, appeared as Ratko Mladic’s defense witness. In his military career Pereula held various posts. Before the war, he served in the BH Territorial Defense. After the war began, the witness was appointed security officer in the VRS Main Staff and later worked in the RS Defense Ministry. In his statement to Mladic’s defense, Pereula said that inter-ethnic tensions in BH escalated after the 1990 multi-party elections. In April 1992, the witness left Sarajevo and first joined the JNA and then the Serb Territorial Defense in Dobrinja. Pereula’s brother remained in Sarajevo. Sometime afterwards, the witness’s brother was arrested and tortured in the basement of the Sunce coffee bar. Pereula claimed that there was a prison camp for Serbs in the bar.

While he worked in the Main Staff the witness had an opportunity to get to know Mladic’s character and actions. Pereula had nothing but praise for Mladic. The witness stressed that Mladic was a ‘capable officer’ and his ‘humanism, fairness, discipline and work ethic’ were exceptional. Mladic ordered all his superior officers to act professionally in combat and to treat prisoners in line with international conventions, the witness said.

After the summary of the witness’s statement was read out in court, the defense lawyers did not have any additional questions for Pereula. The witness was handed over to the prosecution for cross-examination. The prosecutor reminded the witness that during the war he was a member of the Republika Srpska Government’s Commission for Exchange. The documents the prosecutor presented show that civilians were detained in Serb prisoner centers – such as the Kula prison in Sarajevo. According to those documents, some detainees died in the prison.

The witness said that as a soldier he was sidelined in the Commission. As far as he could remember, Pereula didn’t attend any meetings and no one was exchanged during his tenure. Pereula didn’t receive any information at all and didn’t convey any to anybody else. In other words, Pereula was a member of the Commission ‘for no reason’, as the presiding judge put it.

Stressing that Mladic’s army targeted civilians, the prosecutor showed an order issued by the witness, who was at the Drina Corps forward command post in Cajnice, in June 1993. The troops were instructed to call on ‘the Gorazde Muslims’ to surrender to the Serb army. The call was to be made using megaphones from armored vehicles and broadcast by Serb radio stations. After surrendering, they would be granted permission to ‘go wherever they want’.

The prosecutor noted that the call ‘seems not to make any difference’ between civilians and soldiers. In other words, everyone was urged to leave Gorazde, the prosecutor explained. According to the prosecutor, the objective of the exercise was to expel Muslims from the town. The witness begged to differ. When the witness was putting together the document, he specified that the enemy soldiers were to be called to surrender. However, due to a ‘mistake made by an ignorant typist’, his words were not recorded correctly and all Muslims were urged to surrender. Pereula said that the document bore his signature because of the urgency of the situation, typical for war.

At the beginning of hearing it was announced that the prosecution team would be reinforced by a new member, who is an old hand. Alan Tieger has completed his work in the case against Radovan Karadzic and is now free to focus on Mladic.