Mladic’s defense has called a former military police officer in the VRS Bratunac Brigade to the witness stand in a bid to contest Momir Nikolic’s testimony. Nikolic testified that on 13 July 1995 he saw the Main Staff commander make a hand gesture that implied the captured Muslims would be executed. Why the witness was deported from the USA and convicted in Sarajevo of crimes against humanity

Mladen Blagojevic, defence witness at Rako Mladic trialMladen Blagojevic, defence witness at Rako Mladic trial

Mladen Blagojevic testified today in Ratko Mladic’s defense. On 13 July 1995 Blagojevic, a military police officer in the Bratunac Brigade, accompanied General Mladic from Bratunac to the VRS Main Staff in Han Pijesak. According to the prosecution witnesses, Mladic stopped en route at several locations where the VRS troops held the Muslims they had captured in and around Srebrenica.

In his statement to the defense, Blagojevic contested the testimony of Momir Nikolic, former chief of security in the Bratunac Brigade. Nikolic, who pleaded guilty to the Srebrenica crimes, was sentenced to 20 years in prison. According to Nikolic, he spoke to the VRS Main Staff commander on 13 July 1995 in Konjevic Polje. Asked about what would happen with the prisoners gathered by the side of the road, Mladic replied with a hand gesture which meant that the prisoners would be executed.

Blagojevic denied that he had seen Momir Nikolic that day. Also, according to Blagojevic, Mladic didn’t talk to the prisoners in Konjevic Polje as Nikolic had alleged. Mladic only told the RS soldiers manning the check point ‘not to laze about’, in passing.

In the examination-in-chief, Blagojevic confirmed to the defense that he had lived eight years in the USA. In 2006, Blagojevic was deported to Bosnia and Herzegovina when it turned out that he had failed to declare his participation in the war. The witness claimed that the people from the International Organization for Migration had suggested to him to leave out the fact that he had fought in the war to speed up the immigration procedure.

In the cross-examination, the prosecutor played a video recording of Blagojevic’s interview with American investigators. In the interview Blagojevic said that he didn’t mention his war years at the suggestion of his friends and relatives who had already moved to the US. In the same interview Blagojevic told the US authorities that on 14 July 1995, as he stood guard in front of the Vuk Karadzic school in Bratunac, where the prisoners from Srebrenica were held, he saw several Muslims taken off a bus and killed. Replying to the prosecutor today, Blagojevic insisted that he ‘didn’t see the murders’ but only ‘heard shots from behind the school’ where the prisoners had been taken.

The judges repeatedly intervened in the cross-examination to clarify the discrepancies in the witness’s testimony about the same events. However, Blagojevic was not able to explain how that occurred.

Upon his return to BH, Blagojevic was arrested and indicted. Blagojevic was tried for opening fire from a heavy machine gun at the detainees in the Vuk Karadzic school in Bratunac in the night of 13 July 1995. Blagojevic was found guilty by a BH court and sentenced to seven years. After serving five years and 11 months, Blagojevic was granted early release. Blagojevic was adamant that he didn’t commit the crime and that he was not guilty.

Mladic’s trial continued with the evidence of new defense witness, Branko Volas from Kljuc.