In his evidence in Mladic’s defense Milenko Jevdjevic, a lieutenant colonel in the signals service, described how in 1994 and 1995 the Drina Corps was under constant commando attacks from the Podrinje enclaves. This is why Serb soldiers couldn’t be redeployed to other parts of the front

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

Lieutenant colonel Milenko Jevdjevic began his evidence in Ratko Mladic’s defense. The witness spent most of the war as the commander of the signals battalion in the VRS Drina Corps. In the examination-in-chief today, which has yet to be completed, Jevdjevic talked about the situation in the Drina Corps area of responsibility in Eastern BH in the summer of 1995, on the eve the attacks on Srebrenica and Zepa. Unlike previous defense witnesses whose written statements have been admitted into evidence, Jevdjevic is testifying live in the courtroom.

According to the assessments of the Drina Corps, the strength of the BH Army in Srebrenica and Zepa was equivalent to one division and five brigades: approximately 12,000 to 15,000 men. The command of the 28th Division headed by Naser Oric was located in Srebrenica. The brigade was subordinated to the BH Army’s 2nd Tuzla Corps. Muslim fighters from Srebrenica and Zepa would set up ambushes and incursions, the witness explained, and many Serb soldiers and civilians were killed in those attacks.

The situation didn’t change after Srebrenica, Zepa and Gorazde were declared UN protected zones in the spring of 1993. As a consequence, the Drina Corps was on constant alert and its units couldn’t be redeployed to fronts.

The prosecutor didn’t contest those allegations, as it transpired today. However, defense counsel Ivetic insisted on Jevdjevic’s evidence because the defense wants the judges to know about the ‘timeline and picture of the events’ in Podrinje before the Bosnian Serb army attacked Srebrenica and Zepa. The defense counsel showed several documents drafted by the Drina Corps in 1994 which describe the movements of the enemy commando groups and the BH Army’s intent to launch an attack from the direction of Tuzla and to link up with the 28th Division in Srebrenica. An order of the Drina Corps refers to the BH Army troops as ‘Turks’, but according to the witness, there was nothing controversial about that. ‘They called us Chetniks, we called them Turks and no one got particularly angry’, the witness explained.

A Drina Corps document of 3 June 1995 reports that Serb soldiers ‘forced back’ the UNPROFOR personnel from the check point in Zeleni Jadar. That caused the Muslim population to ‘withdraw in panic’ from that village. The witness’s name was typed at the bottom of the document but he claimed that he wasn’t the author. Someone else wrote it, in a bid to fascinate other officers. To this end, this person used ‘hyperbole and exaggerations’. The implication is that the content of the document is inaccurate. Jevdjevic’s main suspect is Milenko Zivanovic, Drina Corps commander, who purportedly wanted to fascinate his chief of staff. For ‘moral reasons’, as a senior officer Zivanovic couldn’t sign his name on the report and decided to type Jevdjevic’s name, the witness said. In fact, Jevdjevic recounted, the corps units had merely made a minor move, without firing a single round, in order to secure the rear of the road at Zeleni Jadar. There was no panicked evacuation of the people because there were no civilians living in the village.

The witness was asked questions about his specialty – the communications systems in the Drina Corps. Jevdjevic explained that the Corps used mostly radio relays and directional radio relay communications. The witness was shown a BH Army map with marks showing Drina Corps radio relay communications with the Main Staff, the Republika Srpska Presidency and subordinated units. The map was based on intercepted conversations of the VRS officers. Jevdjevic claimed that most of the information on the map was incorrect. The witness will speak about it tomorrow as his examination-in-chief continues.