Hazim Malagic, Naser Oric's defence witness, describes the balance of power in the Srebrenica area in 1992

Naser Oric during the trial Naser Oric during the trial

"The only thing that was not used was the atomic bomb," Hazim Malagic said today, testifying as Naser Oric’s defence witness, when asked about the weaponry used by the Serb forces in the Srebrenica area in 1992.

The Serb forces, Malagic testified, were superior in strength: some of the fighters had been through the war in Croatia, they had modern infantry weapons and heavy artillery. Often, they had air support from Serbia. On the other hand, the witness added, “for us, the weapons meant survival. We had about 150 automatic rifles and a certain number of hunting rifles. When one of our soldiers got killed, the first question we asked was, what about his rifle”.

The group he fought in had a radio they used to eavesdrop on the communications among Serb units. Malagic learned about the establishment of the Bratunac Brigade and the Assault Brigade from the intercepted conversations. He also learned about the plans to attack Muslim positions and to set up ambushes to prevent the civilians from foraging for food. His claims were corroborated by VRS documents presented by defence counsel Vasvija Vidovic. One of the documents she showed was an order by Ratko Mladic from November 1992 to the Drina Corps, noting that the defence of Visegrad is the main task, while in the environs of Srebrenica, “the enemy should be given the chance to lay down their weapons. If they refuse to do so, destroy them.”

Describing the fierce fighting in the Bjelovac area in late 1992, Malagic said that the Serb units had had the support of the airplanes and artillery from Serbia and that there had been logistic support too, judging by the uniforms the soldiers had been wearing. “As the fighting went on, our civilians were waiting for the outcome, hoping that the passage to their houses, where there was some food left, would open. At one point, airplanes flew in from Serbia and they immediately dropped their bombs on the civilians who were out in the open. If only the pilot knew what a massacre he caused,” Malagic said.

During his testimony today, the defence was trying to challenge the credibility of the military documents purportedly signed by the accused Oric, as the prosecution alleges. Speaking about one such document, an order to place parts of the Muslim forces around Srebrenica under the control of a man named Avdo Beli, Malagic said it looked “like a joke at Oric’s expense, in light of Beli’s reputation.” The witness described him as a “mentally unstable lad who never carried weapons,” and who would later commit a murder and then kill himself in Tuzla, after the fall of Srebrenica.

Hazim Malagic’s testimony will continue tomorrow with the cross-examination of the defence witness by prosecutor Patricia Sellers.