Mladic’s defense witness claims that the ‘Serb guards’ in the villages around Rogatica were ‘self-organized’. Up until mid-1992 the guards had no contacts with the VRS. The prosecution evidence paints a completely different picture

Zoran Djeric, defence witness at Rako Mladic trialZoran Djeric, defence witness at Rako Mladic trial

Today, Ratko Mladics defense called Zoran Djeric, former soldier in the VRS Rogatica Brigade. In his written statement Djeric said that in April 1992 he left Rogatica with his family and went to the nearby village where he was born. There Djeric joined theself-organized Serb guards. Until mid-1992 the guards didnt have any contactwith the VRS, the witness explained in his statement.

Responding to defense counsel Miodrag Stojanovic the witness noted that he left Rogatica for preventive reasons. The witness lived in the part of town which was mostly inhabited by Muslims. As Djeric explained, he felt that if the fighting broke out, and it was 'in the air', he would not have been able to evacuate his family. His decision to leave the town was good, correct and useful.

Prosecutor Jonathan MacDonald noted in the cross-examination that the Serb guardsfunctioned as part of a Territorial Defense battalion under the command of Rajko Kusic. Also, the prosecutor stressed that by April 1992, Kusic was regularly sending reports to his superior command about the combat readiness of the Territorial Defense. On 30 April 1992, the witness was transferred to the Borik forward command post, prosecutor MacDonald said.

Confronted with the prosecutors evidence Djeric said that when he gave his statement to the defense he had skipped bits, and obviously he did not put everything togetherwell. Presiding judge Orie noted that the fact that the witness forgot to mention some facts made the judges get a wrong picture of the real situation. The fact that the forward command post existed at all, and that the witness was sent there to secure it, pointed to the conclusion that the guards were not a self-organized unit but part of a wider and organized force.

The prosecutor then played a video showing Rajko Kusic who spoke about the formation of the VRS Rogatica Brigade. In the footage, Kusic says that the brigades corewas put together on 6 March 1992. He and 50 volunteers expressed their wish to join the defense of the stateand placed themselves under the command of the JNA 216th Brigade, the witness explained. Djeric said that he was in Rogatica at the time, and that he had only partial knowledge of some sort of a unit that had been established. Djeric confirmed that his unit was under the JNA command until 19 May 1992 when the VRS was formed.