THE TRUTH CANNOT BE TOLD PUBLICLY YET
At the trial of Dragan Jokic, charged with the crimes in Srebrenica, witness Tanacko Tanic said that it was not advisable, even now, to testify about the mass executions of Bosniak prisoners in July 1995
Tanacko Tanic, defense witness at the trial of Dragan Jokic, was at the school in Orahovac on 14 July 1995 when the captured Bosniaks were taken away from that building to be executed. There he saw Drago Nikolic, security chief of the Zvornik Brigade, and Vujadin Popovic, his opposite number in the Drina Corps, and several other officers whose names he gave in closed session.
Many details of his story remained hidden in closed session, that he had requested himself, because, as he said, "the situation in the towns, or rather in the Republika, where I live is not open enough for the truth to be told publicly." He added that "good many people, who had participated in the war, have become the richest people there, holding a monopoly, they are immensely strong and giving testimony has certain consequences." "No one can protect me," the witness said, explaining why he requested to testify in private session.
In open session he explained that in the early evening of 14 July 1995, he was sent with five other soldiers to escort a group of Bosniak prisoners to Orahovac "to be exchanged." He got that task despite the fact that he had spent the entire war as a treasurer in the barracks. Next to the school building in the village he saw two dead bodies and realized that the prisoners that were being taken from the gym and put on buses were to be executed. As he talked to the soldiers he learned that excavators and bulldozers had passed by the school, that the prisoners had gotten upset because of that and tried to break down the door of the gym in which they were kept. That was when the two men, whose dead bodies he saw on his arrival, were killed.
As he was not under anyone's orders, Tanic left the school building and stayed with a person he knew in a nearby house until late at night. He went back to Zvornik on foot. The gunfire could still be heard from the execution site. Then, as he recounted, a "military van picked him up." A seven-year-old boy from Srebrenica "who had survived the execution" was in the van with the soldiers. "He was taken out to be shot, but the bullet just grazed him; he was then taken to hospital," the witness said.
The duty officer in the command that evening was the accused Dragan Jokic. The witness said he had not seen him in Orahovac; he did not talk to him on his return to the barracks either. He added that Jokic, neither "as an engineer" nor as a duty officer could have "issued orders". "Other people issued orders both for the prisoners to be taken to Orahovac and for their execution," the witness said.
Both in examination-in-chief and in cross-examination, Tanacko Tanic said that the mass executions became a matter of common knowledge, as soon as they were carried out. "Soldiers, civilians, politicians, everyone knew about them," said the witness, adding that the execution in Orahovac was talked about the very next morning. According to his testimony, "it was general knowledge" that the captured Bosniaks were killed, not only in Orahovac, but "in the woods and hills, wherever they passed." Tanic thinks that 7,000 prisoners were killed in the Zvornik area alone.
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