At Ratko Mladic's trial, Milenko Stanic from Vlasenica persisted that the Birac SAO was not there to protect Serb interests only, as the prosecution alleges. The term 'Serb' in the name of the region was put in the documents he was shown by the prosecution by 'ignorant recording clerks with three years of secondary education'

Milenko Stanic, defence witness at Rako Mladic trialMilenko Stanic, defence witness at Rako Mladic trial

Milenko Stanic was the president of the Vlasenica municipality and crisis staff. Later he was appointed the president of the SAO Birac Assembly. In his statement to Ratko Mladic's defense, he said that the problems in the municipality in eastern Bosnia were caused by the efforts of the SDA to break up Yugoslavia and declare an independent BH. In April 1992, the non-Serbs started leaving the municipality en masse, and there was an influx of Serb refugees into Vlasenica. As the authorities were unable to find accommodation for the refugees, Stanic said, some of them evicted Muslims from their homes to move in.

The statement describes the two meetings Stanic had with the accused Mladic, in Vlasenica and Zvornik in 1992. In line with the Tribunal's Rules, defense counsel Stojanovic had to examine the witness about those meetings in court. Stanic first mentioned those meetings when he was proofed by Radovan Karadzic's defense ahead of his testimony at Karadzic's trial in February 2013.According to Stanic, at both meetings Mladic insisted on the problems caused by the Serb paramilitaries in Zvornik, indicating that the VRS would deal with them. The witness claims he had never heard Mladic issue orders for Muslims to be expelled or for crimes against them to be committed.

Prosecutor Alan Tieger used documents to show that Serbs seized power in Vlasenica in line with the conclusions adopted by the SDS Main Board in December 1991, known as Variants A and B. This is what led to the establishment of the Serb Autonomous Region (SAO) of Birac, whose purpose was to foster Serb interests and Serb interests alone. Stanic insisted that it was not 'a Serb region'. He refused to comment on the suggestion that some people obviously considered it to be Serb. As he said, he could not make any assumptions to that effect because he felt it was a philosophical issue, and 'as a economist, I always act in a rational manner in any given situation'. According to him, the term 'Serb' was put into official documents by 'ignorant recording clerks with three years of secondary education'.

The prosecutor showed an article published in the SDS bulletin Javnost which refers to 'moving Muslims safely elsewhere' in line with the decision of the SAO Birac government. He also brought up an order issued by Major Svetozar Andric, in which the major demands that 'the head of the SAO Birac government' be contacted urgently regarding a prisoner exchange. According to the prosecutor, the witness was the head of the government at that time. Stanic persisted in denying that this was a reference to him. As he explained, the SAO Birac ceased to exist at one point. After repeated attempts to elicit an answer to the question who headed the SAO Birac government, if he did not, the judges decided that the witness was refusing to answer.

As prosecutor Tieger said, on 25 June 1992, Stanic informed Mladic about an increase in the number of non-Serb civilians in detention in Vlasenica. According to the prosecutor, the situation was the result of the decision of the SAO Birac and Major Andric's order in late May 1992 to 'safely move' Muslims from the villages around the town elsewhere. 'This was just one of the reasons', Stanic said. A while later he added that it 'probably' was the result of Andric's orders. Eventually he claimed that the departure of Muslims from Birac 'transpired in completely different circumstances'.

Ratko Mladic's trial continues on Monday, 2 February.