'TRIAGE' AT SREBRENICA EXECUTION SITES
As the prosecutor cross-examined Nedeljko Trkulja, he put it to the witness that on 16 july 1995, Trkulja personally relayed to Ljubisa Beara the order from the superior command to execute the prisoners of war. The prosecutor corroborated the allegation with an intercepted conversation in which the 'triage' of prisoners of war was discussed
Former VRS officer Nedeljko Trkulja said in his evidence that during the VRS Srebrenica operation he was in the underground shelter of the VRS Main Staff in Crna Rijeka. As Trkulja recounted, in the evening of 16 July 1995 Radivoje Miletic gave him an oral order to go to the Baljkovica sector with two other officers. There, the witness was to ‘raise the vigilance of the fighters’ on the front line.
In the examination-in-chief, Trkulja claimed that in the morning of 17 July 1995 Bogdan Sladojevic accompanied him first on the way to the Drina Corps command in Vlasenica. They then went to Srebrenica and headed towards Zvornik and Crni Vrh. According to Trkulja, Dragan Obrenovic, who was the chief of staff in the Zvornik Brigade, met them in Crni Vrh. From Obrenovic’s report on the situation on the front line, they ‘understood that the situation was not as dramatic’ as the brigade commander Vinko Pandurevic described it in his combat report of 15 July 1995, Trkulja recounted.
Obrenovic told Trkulja and Sladojevic that they had been able to stop the Muslim column from making a breakthrough. About 5,000 Muslims were penned up in a nearby ravine, Obradovic added. Obradovic explained that he had made contact with the Muslims and agreed to allow them to pass through the Serb lines and continue towards Tuzla. As Trkulja said, in the morning of 18 July 1995 he personally saw the column pass through. Prisoners of war were not discussed then at all, and Trkulja purportedly didn’t even know there were any.
Trkulja’s claims don't tally with what Vinko Pandurevic stated in his evidence before the Tribunal. Pandurevic claimed that on 16 July 1995 he let the column pass through. The previous day, Pandurevic sent a special combat report to the Drina Corps command, notifying his superiors that he was under fierce attack; a large number of prisoners ‘detained in schools in the area of responsibility of the brigade are an additional burden’.
Prosecutor Abeer Hasan confronted the Trkulja with Sladojevic’s statement from the Popovic et al. case. In his testimony, Sladojevic claimed that Trkulja told him en route to Crni Vrh that the previous day, 16 July 1995, he was in the field. The prosecutor corroborated the claim with a transcript of an intercepted conversation made on16 July 1995. In the conversation, Slobodan Cerovic tells Ljubisa Beara that Trkulja came in that morning. Trkulja had wanted to speak to Beara to tell him that the superior command had ordered him to ‘triage thr wounded and detained persons’. Beara replies that he doesn't want to talk about that over the phone.
According to the prosecution, the ‘triage’ mentioned in the intercept was in fact the ‘execution’ of about 1,500 to 2,000 prisoners who were held in the Kula school and in the Pilica culture hall. On 16 July 1995, Trkulja relayed the order for their execution to Beara and the order was implemented that same day, the prosecutor put it to the witness. Trkulja denied the allegation, saying that Sladojevic’s evidence was false. On 16 July 1995, he was in Crna Rijeka and didn’t see Cerovic and Beara, the witness insisted. According to him, those were all ‘strange stories and statements’.
The cross-examination of Nedeljko Trkulja continues tomorrow morning.