Slobodan Zupljanin, a VRS officer from Kotor Varos, gave evidence in Ratko Mladic’s defense. The witness admitted that in early November 1992 the Bosnian Serb army was responsible for the safety of 150 Muslim men who were detained in a school in Grabovica but was not able to protect them from vengeful Serb civilians

Slobodan Zupljanin, defence witness at Rako Mladic trialSlobodan Zupljanin, defence witness at Rako Mladic trial

Ratko Mladics defense continued its case with the evidence of Slobodan Zupljanin, former commander of the 2nd Battalion in the 22nd Infantry Brigade. During the war Zupljanins unit was deployed in the Kotor Varos area. In his statement to the defense the witness insisted on the humanitarian efforts undertaken by his brigade and didnt say anything about the crimes. The indictment alleges that the crimes in Kotor Varos reached the scale of genocide.

Zupljanin claims that the brigade soldiers played a positive rolewhen they helped several Muslim civilians from Prijedor survivors of the Koricanske Stijene massacre in August 1992. The positive approach was also evident when an entire Muslim-Croat brigade from Kotor Varos surrendered. The soldiers were escorted safely from the municipality and no one harmed a hair on anyone's head. Furthermore, when5,000 Croat civilians and 1,500 Croat soldiers withdrawing after clashes with the Muslim forces came to the Kotor Varos area, the brigade helped provide them with accommodation and food. Later, they were taken to Kiseljak and Split, the witness explained.

One of the gravest crimes in the Kotor Varos area happened in early November 1992: about 150 detained Muslim men were taken to a school in Grabovica and executed. In the statement to the defense the witness didnt mention the crime. In the cross-examination, this was practically the only topic the prosecutor probed.

The prosecutor presented excerpts from the minutes of the Kotor Varos war presidency meetings. The documents showed that the municipal leaders talked about the detention of 150 Muslims from the village of Vecici in the presence of the witness and other army personnel in early November 1992. At one of the meetings it was noted that four VRS officers Zupljanin, Pejic, Balaban and Novakovic would decide the fate of the detainees. The witness admitted that this conclusionfollows from the sentence structure. However, Zupljanin claimed that it didnt actually happen. Zupljanin claimed that he didnt have anything to do with the prisoners and shifted the blame on the 1st Kotor Varos Brigade and its commander, Colonel Novakovic. The Muslim detainees from the Grabovica school were under the jurisdiction of Novakovics unit.

After 4 November 1992, the Vecici prisoners were no longer mentioned at the War Presidency meetings. The prosecutor put it to the witness that it was because they were executed the day before. According to the minutes, the War Presidency considered establishing a commission to deal with the war booty: collecting the money and valuables taken from the victims. The document also speaks about the 'clean-up' of the terrain and the school in Grabovica. The witness admitted that he learned about the crime immediately after it happened. He informed the brigade commander about everything, Zupljanin explained.I told him that the idiots from up there had committed a massacre, and that the army was not able to prevent it. Zupljanin didnt know if the army had launched any kind of investigation. Asked if he could say what happened with the bodies of the victims, the witness replied that there were rumors that they were buried somewhere near the village of Plitska. The bodies have never been found.

An interview Zupljanin gave on 5 November 1992 was also shown in court today. In the interview Zupljanin said that Muslim extremists from Vecici met the fate they deserved. Judge Moloto asked the witness if he had wanted to say that the prisoners deserved to be executed. Zupljanin told him that the extremists deserved to be detained, and the only killing he condoned was that done in combat.