JUST PASSING BY GENOCIDE
Ten former soldiers and commanders of the Bratunac Brigade called by Vidoje Blagojevic's defense over the past two weeks all told the same story, albeit from different angles: they did not take part in the "active attack" on Srebrenica; they were "just passing by" in Potocari; they were not there on official business; and they did not take any part in the separation of men from women and children, let alone in the capture and execution of Bosniaks.
"Yes, that is me," said witness Milomir Tanasijevic, crew leader of a Bratunac Brigade armored personnel carrier, during a pause in a recording of a TV broadcast played in court that showed him next to the turret.
Prosecutors presented the recording, made on 13 July 1995, in its case against Vidoje Blagojevic, Bratunac Brigade commander. They’re using it as proof that Bratunac Brigade units were present in Potocari and among the inhabitants who were forcibly transported out of the enclave. The indictment charges Blagojevic with persecution and the execution of Bosniak men of military age.
Showing the same recording today, the defense claimed that Tanasijevic had been on his way back to his position from Bratunac, where the armored personnel carrier had been taken for repairs. It had to go through Potocari, where it stopped because it was unable to pass through the "throng of Muslim women, children and, naturally, men." He claims that in Potocari, no one got off the armored personnel carrier and they did not take part in the separation of men from women and children. Indeed, Tanasijevic maintains they did not even notice it was going on. He claims they stayed there for five minutes only, until the road was cleared.
The witness further states that the APC did not take part in any combat operations from August 1993 until the end of the war and that not a single bullet was fired from the machine gun mounted on its turret except to mark "Orthodox feasts, such as Christmas and the Serbian New Year." At those times, a few rounds would be fired in the air as a sort of "fireworks, as the rounds fired from the machine gun leave an illuminated trace behind them."
"Yes, that is me," confirmed the other witness heard today, Cvijetin Stevic, when another frame in the same TV broadcast was shown. He recognized himself in a group of soldiers. According to his story, the 2nd Company of the 2nd Battalion of the Bratunac Brigade was en route to its position in the village of Budak near Srebrenica. As the road led right next to Potocari, he and another three soldiers from the company headed towards the mass of refugees "out of sheer curiosity." He says they spent about ten minutes there, saw some of their Bosniak acquaintances and said hello before boarding the buses for Kladanj.
Ten former soldiers and commanders of the Bratunac Brigade called by the lawyers of their former commander all told the same story over the past two weeks, albeit from different angles: they did not take part in the "active attack" on Srebrenica; they were "just passing by" in Potocari; they were not there on official business; and they did not take any part in the separation of men from women and children, let alone in the capture and execution of Bosniaks.
In the course of its case, the prosecution claimed the opposite. During cross-examination of the defense witnesses, prosecutors tried to challenge their credibility. Today, for instance, the prosecutors played the recording for a third time, submitting that at least three soldiers of the 2nd Company, 2nd Battalion, Bratunac Brigade can be seen in the frozen frame, in addition to the three soldiers identified by the witness. The prosecution knows their identity, yet Stevic claims he cannot recognize them.
At the end of today’s session, the prosecution announced that it would amend the indictment against Vidoje Blagojevic but didn’t provide any details.