In his evidence at the trial of his former commander, General Savo Sokanovic covered a wide range of issues. Sokanovic spoke about the treatment of foreign journalists, civilians and prison-ers of war, but he also said something about the VRS objectives in the war. According to Soka-novic, 'at all times' the army's goal was to 'protect the population and the territory, to establish freedom and set up a permanent and fair peace'

Savo Sokanovic, defence witness at Rako Mladic trialSavo Sokanovic, defence witness at Rako Mladic trial

The trial of Ratko Mladic continued with the evidence of General Savo Sokanovic. From December 1992 to the end of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina Sokanovic headed the department for morale and religious affairs in the Republika Srpska Army Main Staff. Milan Gvero, Mladic's assistant for morale, legal and religious affairs and Sokanovic's superior officer, was sentenced to five years before the Tribunal for his involvement in the crimes in Srebrenica in 1995.Gvero passed away while his case was under appeal.

At the beginning of the examination-in-chief, Sokanovic talked about the frequency of reporting, the importance of military secrets and the treatment of foreign journalists. After 45 minutes, presiding judge Orie was prompted to intervene. He wanted to establish why those issues were relevant for the charges against Mladic, which include double genocide and other crimes in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the war.

Sokanovic continued his testimony, claiming that the Main Staff 'issued warnings' and 'instructions' establishing procedure for arson, retaliation or 'any actions targeting civilians'. According to Sokanovic, the Main Staff warned that there would be consequences if the troops were involved in any such acts. Sokanovic noted that his section only 'issued warnings about the consequences of wrongful acts' but did not conduct criminal investigations or press charges. Other bodies were responsible for that, Sokanovic explained.

Testifying about the treatment of prisoners of war, Sokanovic stressed that his section acted 'pre-emptively', warning at all times that the prisoners' rights had to be respected. It also facilitated visits of the International Red Cross. Sokanovic gave an example: on 28 May 1993, General Gvero issued instructions on the procedure to be observed during visits to prison camps and prisons. Sokanovic insisted that his section couldn't verify the actual implementation of the instructions. Prisons were set up in the corps and were under jurisdiction of the corps commanders, Sokanovic said.

The Republika Srpska Army considered that the 'paramilitary units must be subordinated' to the army. The witness admitted that the process was slow and long. Some military units acted as if they were paramilitary units and it was difficult to exercise command over them, Sokanovic recounted. Mladic personally demanded the removal of the paramilitary units from the Republika Srpska territory, Sokanovic recalled. For instance, in October 1995, a request was issued for the withdrawal of Arkan's unit.

At the end of the examination-in-chief, the witness said that he 'was not aware of the strategic goals of Republika Srpska'. As far as Sokanovic knew, the army's goal 'at all times' was to 'protect the population and the territory, to establish freedom and a permanent and fair peace' and to secure 'the peaceful co-existence'. When Mladic reacted to this part of the testimony, he was first warned to speak more quietly and then not to show the thumbs-up gesture in agreement with what the witness was saying.

The prosecutor will cross-examine Sokanovic tomorrow.