Former chief of the Bosnian Serb secret service Dragan Kijac claims that he was at a wedding in Montenegro during the mass executions of prisoners from Srebrenica. According to Kijac, he only heard about the crime in 2000. Later Kijac admitted that as early as in 1996 he heard ‘rumors’ about Muslim men and boys being executed. The indictment against Ratko Mladic qualified the crime as genocide

Dragan Kijac, defence witness at Rako Mladic trialDragan Kijac, defence witness at Rako Mladic trial

In the first part of the hearing at Ratko Mladic’s trial a protected defense witness, who served in the British contingent in UNPROFOR in Sarajevo, completed his evidence. The witness testified with full measures of identity protection and under the pseudonym GRM 097. Most of his evidence was heard in closed session. However, the witness admitted in open session that he was not qualified to analyze shell craters and mortar firing tables. Despite that, in his examination-in-chief yesterday the witness argued that the Bosnian Serbs ‘most likely’ were not responsible for the first attack on the Markale market on 5 February 1994.

After witness GRM 097 completed his evidence, Dragan Kijac returned to the witness stand; he began his evidence on Monday. During the conflict in BH Kijac was the chief of the Republika Srpska MUP State Security Department. After the war, he was appointed interior minister. As he was questioned by the prosecutor, Kijac tried to prove that his brilliant police career didn’t necessarily mean that he was kept well-informed about everything.

According to Kijac, he did not learn about the mass executions of the Srebrenica men and boys until 2000. This prompted the prosecutor to present an article published in the British newspaper The Independent on 17 July 1995. The article, entitled Bodies Pile Up in Horror of Srebrenica, reported about the mass executions and referred to a video recording showing a large number of bodies in Kravica. The footage was taken by Belgrade journalist Zoran Petrovic Pirocanac and was broadcast by the TV network Studio B. Kijac explained how he, the head of the Bosnian Serb secret service, ended up missing the information that managed to reach London, 2,000 kilometers away from where he was. As Kijac explained, from 14 to 16 July 1995 he was at a wedding in Montenegro, and Studio B network broadcast were shown only in Belgrade. Faced with the charges of Srebrenica genocide Mladic defended himself with a similar alibi: from 14 to 17 July 1995 he was the best man at a wedding held in Belgrade.

The prosecutor put it to Kijac that he had learned about the Srebrenica massacre in early 1996, if not earlier. A document Kijac signed in that period states that two witnesses testified in The Hague about the Bosnian Serb army shooting civilians. ‘There were rumors, I don’t deny that’, the witness replied, adding that the ‘information was unverified’.

Moreover, witness claimed that he also didn’t know that the Scorpions, a police unit from Serbia, were deployed in the Trnovo region. That in turn meant that Kijac wasn’t informed about the murder of six Muslim boys by the Scorpions, who actually recorded the crime on video. The Bosnian Serb secret service did have an agent in that area but no information about the Scorpions unit was passed on to Kijac. The witness only knew that the Bosnian Serb police were active in the field, side by side with the army.

Dragan Kijac continues his evidence tomorrow.