Ratko Nikolic has testified about the BH Army attack on the village of Kravica on 7 January 1993. The witness was captured in the attack and was detained first in the police station, and then in the boiler room in a building which housed the municipal services and the court in Srebrenica. Nikolic claims that the Serbs wanted to avenge the suffering and the deaths of 48 civilian victims in the village. The prosecutor didn’t deny the crimes against Serbs, but he used VRS documents to contest the number and status of the Kravica victims

Ratko Nikolic, defence witness at Rako Mladic trialRatko Nikolic, defence witness at Rako Mladic trial

With the evidence of Ratko Nikolic from Kravica, Ratko Mladic’s defense wants to prove that the local Serbs sought revenge for the BH Army attack which occurred on 7 January 1993, the Orthodox Christmas.

During the attack on Kravica, Nikolic was in his family house. As he recounted, he saw ‘fires burning’ outside and heard people shouting, ‘kill all those who are alive, catch all those who are alive’. The bullets ‘flew everywhere’, and Nikolic was hit by one in his left leg. The witness told his wife to flee towards the Drina river. He remained in the empty village to ‘die alone’.

Nikolic spent the following five days hiding in a hollow tree in a nearby forest. He ate potatoes he roasted in ‘the embers left after the houses had been burned down’, until he was captured. The witness was then taken to the old police station in Srebrenica where he was detained until the attack on the village of Skelani, on 16 January 1993. After the attack, Nikolic was transferred to the boiler room of the court and municipality building. There, the witness recounted, they were given a blanket to ‘cover their heads’. As for food, they were given ‘oats and some cooked stuff that did not contain any fat or salt and was not even cooked properly’.

In Nikolic’s words, ‘every day’ he was beaten by all those who felt like it, particularly by two persons with ‘beards and big spectacles similar to welding glasses’. When the prisoners fainted, they were ‘taken out and put on a pile’. Cold water was then poured over the prisoners. Because of his name, the witness was given a special task, to sit at the front door. When someone would come in, Nikolic was to stand up and salute them, saying he was Ratko Mladic. Because the witness could stand up with great difficulty because of his injuries, he was ‘slapped and hit’. In February 1993, Nikolic was finally exchanged after two failed attempts.

The judges have so far always interrupted the witnesses who testified about the crimes committed by the other side. This time however the Trial Chamber allowed Nikolic to continue and recount his sufferings. Yet, when the witness took his first break, the judges reprimanded defense counsel Stojanovic after the prosecutor informed them that the prosecution did not contest the fact that Muslims had ‘brutally mistreated’ Serbs. Instead of ‘calling unnecessary evidence on various details’, Judge Orie noted, the defense should have focused on controversial issues such as the number and status of victims.

In the cross-examination, prosecutor Sarah Melikian showed a document seized in the Bratunac Brigade headquarters in 1998. The document speaks about the ‘tragic toll’ of the attack on Kravica on Christmas of 1993. According to the document, a total of 35 fighters were killed, 36 injured, and there were 11 civilians among the casualties. The witness nevertheless remained adamant that 48 civilians had been killed in Kravica. Responding to judge Moloto, Nikolic confirmed that the only source for his knowledge about the number of the victims of the Christmas attack on the Serb village was the monument in Kravica. The memorial states that 48 civilians were killed on that occasion.

Mladic’s trial continued with the evidence of Drasko Vujic, a VRS soldier from Prijedor.