HOW CAPTURED SREBRENICA MEN WERE PROTECTED AGAINST NATO STRIKES
Milomir Savcic, former commander of the VRS 65th Motorized Protection Regiment, gave evidence in Ratko Mladic’s defense. The order to take about 1,200 detainees from the football stadium in Nova Kasaba and to put them up in roofed buildings to protect them from being ‘recorded and photographed from the ground and air’ was logical, Savcic claimed. There was a danger that NATO might strike the detainees by mistake
Milomir Savcic, former commander of the 65th Motorized Protection Regiment, spoke in his statement to Ratko Mladic’s defense about the Procedure for the treatment of prisoners of war. The document was sent to Zoran Malinic, the commander of the military police battalion in Nova Kasaba, on 13 July 1995 from the Forward Command Post in Borike. Mladic’s assistant for security Zdravko Tolimir instructs the subordinate command to provide accommodation for about 1,200 prisoners who were at the time held in the Nova Kasaba football stadium in roofed buildings to protect them from ‘being recorded and photographed from the ground and air’. According to the prosecution, the order showed the intent to hide and then execute the prisoners.
In his statement to the defense Savcic expressed his doubts about the authenticity of the document. Savcic stressed that the document was ‘unacceptable’ because it was not signed. Furthermore, there was no forward command post in Borike. This allegation prompted the prosecutor to confront the witness with his statement to the OTP in 2005, when he told the investigators that it was ‘closer to the truth’ to say that the document was authentic after all. Today, however, the witness said that the ‘first answers isn’t necessarily the most felicitous’. Savcic implied that in 2005 he was under pressure because he was being interviewed as a suspect. Now, it appeared to Savcic that the phrase ‘closer to the truth’ meant that he couldn’t state if the document was authentic or a forgery.
Savcic confirmed that on 13 July 1995 he had spoken with Malinic several times. In one of the intercepts Savcic advised Malinic not to do anything with the prisoners in Nova Kasaba before he received a ‘cable’ with all the clarifications. Immediately after that conversation, Malinic received Tolimir’s order on the treatment of prisoners with a note saying that detailed instructions would follow from Radivoje Miletic from the Main Staff. The order was forwarded to Ratko Mladic and Milan Gvero for their information, the prosecutor stressed, adding that the entire military leadership was kept well informed about everything.
In the statement, Savcic explained that the order was ‘logical’ because at the time there was a threat of NATO air strikes. It was possible that NATO pilots might mistake a large group of prisoners in the open with the Serb troops and to attack them. Something like that happened in Kosovo in 2009, when NATO airplanes fired on a refugee column by mistake. Also, Savcic noted, it was not easy to control so many prisoners out in the open. In addition to that, there was a danger that local civilians would seek ‘revenge’ because ‘blood ran knee-deep’ in those areas.
The prosecutor argued that all prisoners from Nova Kasaba save for a few lucky survivors were executed summarily by the end of 16 July 1995 together with thousands of other detainees. Savcic noted that he hadn’t known about it for many years. When Judge Orie asked him if knew about it now, the witness said, ‘I can’t contest it because unfortunately it did happen’.