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23 May 2013
News

Intelligence Officer Denies Claims of his Colleague at Karadzic Trial

Radosa Milutinovic BIRN BiH The Hague
Former intelligence officer of the Army of Republika Srpska Svetozar Kosoric said at the trial of Radovan Karadzic that in the summer of 1995 he knew nothing of mass murders of Muslim prisoners from Srebrenica.
With the testimony from Lieutenant Colonel Kosoric, Karadzic attempted to contest the statement from another officer of the Bosnian Serb army, Momir Nikolic, that on July 12, 1995, the day after the seizing of Srebrenica, he learnt from his colleagues that all the captured Muslims would be executed.

In his earlier testimony against Karadzic, Nikolic stated that on that day Colonel Vujadin Popovic, then chief security officer of the Drina Corps of the Bosnian Serb army, told him in front of the Fontana hotel in Bratunac that “all Balijas [pejorative for Bosnian Muslims]” would be killed off.

Nikolic – who pleaded guilty before the Hague Tribunal in 2003 for crimes in Srebrenica, after which he was sentenced to 20 years of prison – claimed that Kosoric was present at the time and confirmed Popovic’s words.

Popovic was sentenced by a first instance verdict to life imprisonment for the genocide in Srebrenica.

In today’s testimony Kosoric dismissed that as “an utter lie”, adding that nothing of the sort was said and that he had no information or instruction that Muslim prisoners would be killed.

Karadzic, the then president of Republika Srpska and supreme commander of its army, is charged with genocide against around 7,000 Srebrenica Muslims and the expulsion of thousands of women, children and elderly.

The prosecutor, Julian Nicholls, during cross-examination claimed that Kosoric, as chief of the intelligence service of the Drina Corps, had to know about the mass murder of prisoners from Srebrenica in mid-July 1995.

Kosoric denied that, claiming that the first he heard about murders was in October 1995 from representatives of international community.

Although he was with Bosnian Serb army commander Ratko Mladic in Potocari, Kosoric claimed that “in those 10 to 15 minutes” he did not see Serb forces separate Muslim men from their families. He also denied he was in charge of the population’s transport from the enclave, as claimed earlier by a Dutch UNPROFOR officer.

Agreeing to the suggestion by the prosecutor that his duty had been the interrogation of the prisoners, Kosoric said that, after the fall of Srebrenica, he got another assignment to follow the enemy around Zepa. Reiterating that he did not know about mass execution of prisoners in the days after the fall of Srebrenica, the witness said that these “unconfirmed rumours” were being told by people in taverns.

He said that he believed “such order did not exist” and that “no one could carry it out”. However, Kosoric emphasised that “it was possible” that the decision about the execution of Muslim prisoners was “made behind closed doors”.

After prosecutor Nicholls claimed that Popovic announced the executions just as Nikolic described it, the witness stated: “No, Popovic did not say it, I never heard him say such a thing.”

After the prosecutor reminded the witness that Colonel Popovic was sentenced by The Hague to life imprisonment for genocide in Srebrenica, Kosoric said: “If the court has proven it, then it is true, I trust this court.” The prosecutor tried to prove the witnesses’ awareness of the crimes and his close link to Popovic with a film from August 1995 in which Popovic, hugging Kosoric, invited the cameramen to shoot them, “the war criminals”.

“Now I see that Popovic was drunk,” said the witness, not ruling out the possibility that he was drunk too. Another witness, former prime minister of Republika Srpska, Vladimir Lukic, also testified in Karadzic’s defence, and his cross-examination will commence on Tuesday, May 28.

Karadzic is also charged with the expulsion of Muslims and Croats across Bosnia and Herzegovina, terrorising civilians and taking international peacekeepers hostages.
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