Through Bosko Amidzic, Ratko Mladic’s defense wants to prove that the conditions in the Manjaca military prison camp were good. The prosecutor contests the claim with documents from two humanitarian organizations, Merhamet and the International Red Cross, which speak about prisoners being beaten. The 1st Krajina Corps command knew about the crimes, including murders, the prosecutor argues

Bosko Amidzic, defence witness at Rako Mladic trialBosko Amidzic, defence witness at Rako Mladic trial

In a bid to describe the situation in the Manjaca military prison camp near Banja Luka in as positive terms as possible, Colonel Bosko Amidzic noted that the Muslims and Croat prisoners were given the same food as the Serb soldiers. Also, the prisoners could prepare their own food and share it between them, Amidzic explained. According to the witness, those prisoners who were waiters in their civilian lives were tasked with distributing food for the most part. The informationabout the pre-war jobs held by the prisoners was obtainedduring the ‘detailed interrogations’ carried out when they first came to Manjaca, Amidzic explained. The witness claimed that the prosecutor’s evidence showing that those detailed interrogations included heavy beating were ‘lies’.

In his statement to the defense, Amidzic claimed that in the second half of 1992, while the Manjaca military prison camp was operational, he was in charge providing for the prisoners’ day-to-day needs. Amidzic was the chief of the quartermaster service in the 1st Krajina Corps.

Before his arrival in The Hague, Colonel Amidzic was told about the statement made by Osman Selak to the OTP prosecutors and his testimony before the Tribunal. Selak is a retired JNA officer who served for some time in the VRS 1st Krajina Corps. Selak claimed that in June 1992 he visited the Manjaca prison camp; there he saw prisoners who had been beaten. Members of the Merhamet humanitarian organization told him that they had received about 40 bodies of Muslims who had been killed in the camp. Amidzic was adamant that the allegations were untrue. He wondered why Selak failed to provide the exact figure although he claimed he had 'reliable information'.

In the cross-examination, prosecutor Traldi noted that Selak's evidence about bad conditions in Manjaca and crimes against the prisoners was not the only source available to the prosecution. The staff working for Merhamet and the International Red Cross visited the prison camp and reported about those incidents. So did the Bosnians Serb military officers in their reports. Prosecutor Traldi showed a daily report sent from the Manjaca prison camp staff to the 1st Krajina Corps command in 18 June 1992. The report notes that when the Merhamet staff visited the prison camp, prisoners complained about the food and bad living conditions. More specifically, the prisoners complained about leaking roofs on the buildings where they were accommodated. The witness replied that he never saw any roofs leaking anywhere. From time to time the food was bad, but the humanitarian organizations were allowed to provide aid, the witness explained.

A report drafted by Merhamet on 22 June 1992 notes that the members of the delegation thanked General Talic, the Corps commander, for granting them permission to visit. According to the report, at a meeting, the delegation informed General Talic about what they had seen in the camp. Most of the prisoners weren’t soldiers but peaceful citizens who had been brought there under false pretenses or arrested in their homes. They were ‘treated horribly’ during their detention: they were starved and beaten. About a third of the prisoners had seriously injuries: broken ribs, jaws or arms. The witness replied that he didn’t know anything about that, suggesting that the prisoners had been abused before their arrival in Manjaca. Also, Amidzic claimed that in military reports he read that the Merhamet staff were satisfied with the conditions in Manjaca. According to the witness, the Merhamet delegation complained to Talic about the conditions in other prison camps under the control of the Bosnian Serb civil police. Asked to identify those prison camps, Amidzic was not able to do it.

In a letter sent on 7 August 1992 to President Karadzic, the International Red Cross stressed that on their visit in Manjaca they noticed ‘signs of recent and often brutal beatings’ – such as ‘fresh bruises’ – on prisoners. The witness replied that he had never seen any prisoner with bruises. Confronted with the claim that even the 1st Krajina Corps Command had received reports about prisoners being beaten and killed, Amidzic replied that he didn’t know anything about it. The reports were sent through the security service chain of command and he was not part of it, the witness claimed.

Today General Mladic was cautioned only once for standing up in the dock. His trial continues tomorrow.