DEFENSE EXPERT: TOMASICA VICTIMS COULD HAVE DIED IN COMBAT
Dr. Zoran Stankovic, a forensic expert from Belgrade, has again been critical of the findings of the British and Bosnian pathologist who had carried out the post mortems on the victims from the Tomasica mass grave. The defense expert couldn’t understand why only ‘basic equipment’ had been used in the morgue: the staff had not used an x-ray machine or a fluoroscope and they had not consulted the victims’ medical charts. Dr. Stankovic noted that the victims exhumed from Tomasica may not have been executed but killed in combat
Through the evidence of Dr. Zoran Stankovic, forensic specialist from Belgrade, Ratko Mladic’s defense is trying to contest the findings of the local and foreign pathologists on the Tomasica mass grave, near Prijedor. In his evidence today, Dr. Stankovic referred to the report submitted by British pathologist John Clark, who noted that the conditions in which they identified and autopsied the victims had been ‘basic’. The defense expert couldn’t understand why a fluoroscope or an x-ray machine hadn’t been used in the exhumations and why the team had not consulted the victims' medical charts.
Stankovic criticized the British pathologist for failing to explain how 61 per cent of the exhumed bodies were preserved while the remaining 39 per cent were skeletonized. According to Dr. Stankovic, the reason might be that 39 per cent of the bodies had been in the open before they were buried. In other words, Dr. Stankovic implied that the victims had died in combat. The judges put to him that Clark may have left the issue of varying stages of decomposition unaddressed because he didn’t want to speculate. The defense expert agreed with the judges.
Mladic’s defense counsel Dragan Ivetic referred to Dr. Clark's statement that some of the exhumed victims had worn several layers of clothes, but that they were an exception. Stankovic focused on those exceptions: according to him, the fact that some victims had too many clothes on implied that they had not been killed in summer. Not all victims died at the same time, Dr. Stankovic concluded. Also, the clothes on six bodies were scorched, leading Dr. Stankovic to wonder where and how those victims had died.
Through Stankovic’s evidence, the defense is trying prove that the Tomasica victims died in combat, i.e. that they were not executed. The fact that the victims wore civilian clothes doesn’t mean that they were in fact civilians, Stankovic argued. As far as Stankovic knew, in July 1992 members of the Muslim armed forces didn’t wear uniforms and were not well armed. The fact that no weapons were recovered from the grave meant nothing because it was not customary to bury the dead with their weapons.
The defense expert criticized Dr. Clark for failing to categorize the bodies according to their injuries. The location of the injuries on the victims' bodies would have led to the conclusion that the victims had been killed in combat. Because of his military experience, his rank of major general and the fact that he had served as the Serbian defense minister, Stankovic was able to state that in combat, head and chest were usually targeted because those wounds were more likely to be lethal. Most of the victims exhumed from Tomasica had chest or head wounds, Dr. Stankovic noted. When Judge Moloto asked him whether such wounds were not typical in mass executions too, the witness confirmed it.
Dr. Stankovic will continue giving evidence tomorrow.
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