In his evidence in Ratko Mladic’s defense, VRS officer Velimir Kevac claims that the Serb army and police protected the Muslim civilians in Kljuc. The prosecutor put it to him that the ‘protection’ in fact consisted of people being killed, arrested and expelled, houses being burned and other crimes that reached the scale of genocide

Velimir Kevac, defence witness at Rako Mladic trialVelimir Kevac, defence witness at Rako Mladic trial

In his examination-in-chief yesterday, Bosnian Serb military officer Velimir Kevac admitted that a few Serb soldiers had killed at least 77 Muslim men in early June 1992. The Muslims were detained in the primary school in the village of Velagici near Kljuc. Kevac claimed that the military police investigated the incident and arrested the suspects. As the cross-examination continued, the prosecutor put it to the witness that no one was prosecuted for that or for any other crimes in Kljuc. The witness replied that he didn’t know anything about that because trials ‘were not under my jurisdiction’.

As alleged in the indictment against Ratko Mladic, the crimes in the territory of Kljuc municipality reached the scale of genocide. The witness claimed that the Serb authorities targeted only the armed Muslims. During the war, non-Serbs were fully protected, Kevac noted. According to him, the only incident happened on 27 May 1992 when a JNA column was attacked as it was pulling out. The Muslim members of the Territorial Defense were issued an ultimatum to surrender. They first refused to do so, but when Serbs fired a ‘warning volley’, the Muslims changed their mind and laid down their arms. Some of them fled into the woods, Kevac said.

Prosecutor Edgerton didn’t accept this scenario and put it to Kevac that it had in fact been a well-organized ethnic cleansing operation implemented jointly by the Serb police and the army. One of the units that took part was the VRS 30th Division where the witness was the assistant to the commander, Colonel Stanislav Galic. Galic was later promoted to the rank of general and appointed the commander of the Sarajevo Romanija Corps. He was finally convicted in The Hague of the terror campaign against the citizens of Sarajevo and was sentenced to life in prison.

The prosecutor put it to the witness that Pudin Han, Velagici and other villages near Kljuc were shelled in late May 1992. In those attacks, a number of civilians were killed, houses were burned and looted, while the Muslim population was arrested en masse. In the beginning Kevac claimed that he didn’t know anything about it, but eventually he confirmed that ‘probably’ there were some murders. He also agreed that he heard about ‘isolated incidents’ in which houses were burned down. There were mass arrests, he admitted. The witness blamed the Serb MUP for the fate of the Muslim detainees from the Kljuc area. According to Kevac, the police officers ‘took over the detainees and transported them according to the schedule’.

The prosecutor noted that instead of protecting Muslim civilians, the Serb army and police pursued a campaign of crimes against them. The situation was in fact the exact opposite of the picture painted by the witness, who claimed that the non-Serbs in Kljuc enjoyed protection and were able to live in peace. Kevac repeated that he was aware only ‘of isolated crimes’ that were not part of a plan implemented by the military and police.

According to the prosecution, the events in May and June 1992 resulted in the exodus of non-Serbs from Kljuc. ‘More than 50 per cent’ of Muslims left, Kevac admitted. When the presiding judge asked him if ‘more than 50 could mean that 95 per cent of them left’, the witness replied that he ‘could not be sure’, but he believed the percentage was ‘probably much lower’. Since Kevac claimed that they had left because they were afraid of war, which was a widespread phenomenon, he was asked whether more than 50 per cent of Serbs had also fled from Kljuc. Kevac said that the Serbs also left the municipality, but the percentage was lower.