Karadzic Trial’s First Srebrenica Witness Self-Destructs on the Witness Stand
www.slobodan-milosevic.org - May 5, 2010
Written by: Andy Wilcoxson
Hearing Date: April 21, 2010
The trial of Radovan Karadzic heard its first testimony about Srebrenica from protected prosecution witness testifying under the pseudonym KDZ064. The witness had previously testified in the Milosevic and Popovic trials.
The witness lived in Kamenica and fled in March 1993 first to Konjevic Polje and then to Srebrenica. On July 11, 1995 the Witness joined the column of men assembled in Susnjari in order to go to Tuzla. The witness testified that he was taken into custody by Bosnian-Serb forced two days later and detained in Bratunac and then in a school near Zvornik. The witness claims to have survived a mass execution by feigning death and escaping through the woods to Muslim-held territory.
Chronological Summary of KDZ064’s Testimony for the Prosecution
Because the witness’s testimony deals with the most serious charge leveled against Karadzic, namely genocide in Srebrenica, it is important to take the testimony in a chronological fashion.
March 1993 - July 11, 1995
At the beginning of March 1993 the witness says he was forced to leave Kamenica by Bosnian Serb forces. He says he fled to Konjevic Polje and stayed there for six days.
He then fled Konjevic Polje because he said Serb forces from Tumace opened fire on it. The witness fled to Pervane where he stayed for two days before leaving for Srebrenica with his two brothers.
The witness testified that he remained in Srebrenica with his brothers until the fall of the enclave on July 11, 1995.
When asked by the prosecutor why they left Srebrenica the witness said, “[On July 11 1995] we had to leave [Srebrenica] because the Serb forces threatened us, especially Radovan Karadzic. One year previously he said he would take his revenge on the citizens of Srebrenica. We left because we were frightened, and the thing that we were frightened of happened to us en route.”
The witness testified that on July 11th the entire population of Srebrenica fled in the face a Bosnian Serb advance on the enclave. The witness said that some fled to Potocari and others to the woods. The witness and one of his brothers assembled with thousands of other Muslim men in the nearby village of Susnjari to begin the trek towards Tuzla. Another brother who had a disability chose to go to Potocari. This brother managed to cross to Muslim-held territory without incident. The witness said, “When he reached Potocari, they had already begun separating people, and a Serb soldier told him to jump up on the truck, and he couldn't do that because he had crutches. And then another one told him to get into another bus, and he got into that and that's how he managed to leave.”
The witness estimated that he spent the night of July 11th in Susnjari along with approximately 15,000 to 20,000 other Muslim men.
July 12, 1995
On July 12th the witness said the group set off from Susnjari in a long column heading towards Tuzla. According to the witness, there were 400 to 500 armed Muslim men in the column, mostly toward the front of the column. The witness said that he and his brother were not armed. He spent the night of 12 to 13 July in the woods with others from the column.
July 13, 1995
On 13 July Bosnian Serb soldiers with megaphones called on the people in the column in the woods to surrender. Around this time the witness saw two Muslim men commit suicide, one with a grenade. The other shot himself in the head.
That afternoon at around 3:00 PM, the witness said that he and many others decided to surrender to Serb soldiers who were calling them. These prisoners, over a thousand of them, according to the witness’s estimate, were lined up in rows in a large group in a meadow in Sandici next to the Bratunac-Konjevic Polje road.
According to the witness there were some women, girls, and boys present amongst the prisoners who were permitted to get onto buses carrying Muslim women and children from Potocari.
That afternoon, the witness said General Mladic came to the Sandici meadow and told the prisoners that they would be exchanged.
According to the witness, a large number of trucks and buses arrived at Sandici that evening and the prisoners were taken to Bratunac.
The witness spent the night in Bratunac inside one of the trucks. During the night the witness said that some prisoners were taken off the trucks and killed. The witness himself did not see any prisoners being shot from inside of his truck, but this is what he heard around him.
July 14, 1995
The witness said that on July 14th the trucks left Bratunac in a convoy of 20 to 30 vehicles and took the prisoners to an elementary school in Orahovac.
The witness said that he and hundreds and hundreds of other Muslim men, along with four young children aged approximately 10 to 14 were placed in the gym of the elementary school at Orahovac and kept there for a few hours in stifling hot conditions without sufficient water and without any food or medical care for the wounded.
The witness said the guards at the Orahovac school would fire shots into the walls and ceiling to keep the prisoners quiet and that they took some of the prisoners out and shot them.
Once the guards left, the witness said that soldiers began taking prisoners in groups through a small room next to the gym where they were given a cup of water by a female soldier, blindfolded, taken outside and placed in trucks.
The witness said that the trucks transported the prisoners a very short distance to a field in Orahovac where the prisoners were told then to get off the trucks. The witness says the men were lined up in rows and shot.
The witness claims that he managed to survive by feigning death as he lay under the body of another victim. The witness said that every 10 to 15 minutes a new truck full of prisoners would arrive, and those prisoners would be killed in the same manner.
The witness said the killings continued for hours. After nightfall, a loader truck arrived with its lights on. At that time the witness claims that he heard the leader of the executioners tell the other soldiers to collect ammunition and go to a nearby field to continue the killings. The soldiers left and the witness says they continued killing prisoners at a nearby field.
that night while the soldiers were distracted, the witness claims that he was
able to escape into the woods. As he ran away, he says he got turned around and
found himself back at the killing site where he says he saw that most of the
field was covered in bodies.
July 15, 1995 Onward
After several days of what the witness described as “moving and hiding”, the witness managed to reach safety in Muslim-held territory.
Radovan Karadzic Cross Examines KDZ064
Radovan Karadzic began his cross-examination by asking the witness why he sought protective measures – especially since he no longer lives in Bosnia. The witness responded, “Because there are people who share your beliefs, who would like to get rid of me. So I don't want everybody to know where I live for that reason.”
Karadzic asked the witness, “Do you know any witnesses who my supporters executed?” The witness replied, “I don't know, but I'm afraid for myself. I'm not really interested too much about others.”
Prior to the war, the witness lived in Belgrade, Serbia. He came to Bosnia on April 3, 1992 to join the Muslim war effort. The witness said, “I came only when the war was beginning in Bijeljina … I do have the right to defend my village.”
When Karadzic asked who he was defending his village from the Witness said, “From whoever attacked it, whether it was a Muslim, Croat, a Serb. You defend your country from any enemy ... Fikret Abdic was a Bosniak and our people had to defend themselves from them because he was killing his own people.”
When Karadzic tried to show the witness a map from the Cutileiro peace plan, the witness lost his mind. The witness said, “If I had some sort of scarf or something, I would cover the screen so I don't have to look at this map.” The witness insisted “I don't want to have anything to do with the map. I don't want to mark anything on the map.”
Then the witness launched into a tirade against Karadzic saying, “You wanted to drive us out of Bosnia and Herzegovina and to create an ethnically pure territory. You didn't want to have us in Bosnia and Herzegovina any longer.”
KDZ064’s hysterical reaction to the map took even the Judges by surprise. Judge Kwon beseeched the witness, “Mr. Witness, please calm down. Just answer the question.”
Throughout the cross-examination KDZ064 was belligerent and non-cooperative. Judge Kwon had to tell the witness “answering the question is the best way to assist the Chamber to find the facts in this case, so I don't find your non-cooperation very helpful.”
Judge Baird had to explain to the witness, “Dr. Karadzic is entitled to ask you questions. He is entitled to cross-examine you.”
KDZ064 seemed to be of the opinion that he didn’t need to answer the questions. On one occasion he told the judge, “I can't answer stupid questions.” He told the bench, “If you don't like what I'm saying, just tell me. You can tell me, ‘Sir, you can leave and go back to where you came from.’”
After the witness arrived in Bosnia he joined the BH Army together with his brother. Karadzic asked him, “You were a soldier of the BH Army; isn't that right?” The witness answered, “Yes.” Karadzic asked, “And this other brother of yours, was he also a soldier?” and again the witness said, “Yes.”
The witness insisted that the BH Army was unarmed. He said, “We had men, but we didn't have any weapons. All we had were our bare chests.”
He also described the JNA as the “Serb Army”. He said, “Mr. Karadzic, from 1990 onwards, there was no JNA. It could only have been the Serb army ... The JNA dissolved as soon as the conflict broke out in Slovenia and Croatia.”
As to why the JNA was predominantly Serbian, Karadzic asked the witness, “[Were] Muslim soldiers and officers leaving the JNA pursuant to instructions of your leadership, and did your leadership prevent the response to the call-up?” The witness answered, “Yes, it did.”
Karadzic showed the witness a document (exhibit D38) entitled “Army of Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Municipal Staff of the armed forces of Zvornik, report on the state, organizational, and formational structure and combat readiness of the units of the armed forces of Zvornik” dated November 5, 1992.
The document, was issued by the command of the BH Army (of which the witness was a member) and it explicitly dealt with command structure of the army in the Zvornik region including the triangle Kamenica, Cerska, Srebrenica. It discussed arms procurement and preparations for combat, it listed the territories and roads they controlled, and it listed 32 Muslim units active in the Zvornik area.
According to the document: “The grounds of successful resistance were accredited to the preparations undertaken several months before the war, which were thus reflected in the effectiveness of a large part of the activists, the organized arming, and resolve to offer resistance at any cost. A particular effect in the sustaining of the freedom of the territory was created by the arrival and activity of Captain Hajrudin Mesic who had, together with Captain Mehdin, Senad Hodzic and a smaller number of other organizers of the resistance and the uprising, had managed to create a sense of the need for armed resistance as well as the potential and the effectiveness of freedom fighting. Captain Hajra's group was the first combat unit in this region.
“With the conduct of combat operations, the focus should be directed at the operations to liberate and open the corridor toward Kamenica, enabling us to maintain the corridor and to strengthen the frontal area of the defense, the forward area of defense throughout the liberated territory.”
The witness, who was a BH Army soldier in Kamenica from April 1992 until March 1993 (i.e. when the document was written), reacted to the document from the command of his own military by saying, “Oh, come on let’s leave those stories, empty stories.” Karadzic responded saying, “Well, you can tell your commander that.” And again the witness said, “Leave those empty stories and rumors. They're just rumors.”
So if we believe this witness, the command of the BH Army was engaged in Serbian rumor-mongering.
Karadzic read-out an excerpt from a book entitled “Zvornik from elections to Dayton” written by a Muslim named Mirza Hamzic.
The book said, “The Patriotic League was formed [in Zvornik] on July the 26th, 1991 (many months before the war started), in a youth library in Kula Grad. We had formed a Crisis Staff, but its commander was yet to be chosen. In the conversations between Hadzic and Juzbasic, it was requested that Juzbasic's wing should deliver a commander. A meeting was held during which it was decided that Sakib Halilovic, aka Kibe, was to be named as the commander.”
Karadzic asked the witness, “Do you know Sakib Halilovic?” and the witness said “Yes.”
This witness was a soldier in the BH Army, he left his home in Belgrade to come and fight in Bosnia, and he knew the commander of the Patriotic League in Zvornik. It’s not like he was some kind of helpless civilian.
The witness’s home village, the one he says he came to Bosnia to defend, was a big secret in the trial because the witness’s identity is protected, and although the transcript is heavily redacted, it is obvious what the village in question is. Even the witness said, “Everybody knows about the place.”
Shortly after the witness came to his village to fight, an eleven-year-old Serbian boy named Slobodan Stojanovic was dismembered after being captured by an Albanian BH Army soldier named Elfete Veseli. She captured the boy as he was attempting to rescue his dog and the BH Army proceeded to chop of his limbs. Karadzic submitted a report on the incident, which was admitted as exhibit D39. The witness was a member of the BH Army in the same village where this happened.
The witness explained the incident saying, “We heard that the child had been killed, but nobody said that the child had been massacred”. He also said, “Nobody expelled [the Stojanovic family]. They decided to leave of their own accord.”
Imagine that, they decided to leave of their own accord after the witness’s army dismembered their eleven-year-old son. It’s a big mystery why they’d want to flee isn’t it?
When Karadzic turned his attention to Srebrenica the witness told the judges, “the United Nations linked up the Bosniak people and gave the executioners all their weapons. Gentlemen, you know that Srebrenica was a protected area, and it should not have fallen, and you allowed 18,000 inhabitants to be killed.”
Karadzic showed the witness an order that he issued to the Bosnian-Serb Army on April 16, 1993 (exhibit D43) which ordered them to stay out of Srebrenica, and he asked if it was true that the Bosnian-Serb Army stayed out of Srebrenica until July 1995.
witness said, “Well, you might have ordered it for the benefit of the public,
but secretly you said, ‘Kill as many as possible,’ because it was your aim to
kill as many people as possible. It's not true that you wanted to prevent this
and protect this. And I heard you say over the radio, but I can't remember how
far before the fall of Srebrenica it was, that you would take your revenge on
the men of Srebrenica.” Karadzic responded saying, “Sir, your Prosecutors will
have to bring in that statement of mine if it exists.” The witness insisted,
“No. The Prosecution didn't hear that. I heard it. I listened to it.”
The witness just isn’t credible. He left his home in Belgrade to come to Bosnia and fight for the Muslim cause. He joined the BH Army where in his village his brothers-in-arms dismembered an eleven-year-old Serbian boy, and then he tries to say the boy's family left the village voluntarily. He knew the commander of the Patriotic League in Zvornik. He’s making fantastic claims about the UN arming the Bosnian-Serbs and about the Bosnian-Serbs massacring 18,000 Muslims when the highest estimate that anyone else ever heard of is 8,000 victims. He was belligerent. He refused to answer questions. He insisted that the BH army was unarmed even when contradicted by information compiled by the command of the army itself. He’s saying that he personally heard Karadzic on the radio threatening to take revenge on the Srebrenica Muslims, yet nobody managed to record it and the Prosecutor doesn’t have any record of it.
It’s certainly worth entertaining the thought that the whole story he told the prosecutor about surviving a mass-execution at the Orahovac school on July 14, 1995 by feigning death was fiction.
The summary of Karadzic’s cross-examination will continue in the April 22nd summary. A transcript of this hearing is available at:
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