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2 May 2013
News

Mladic Assistant 'Denied” Attack on Srebrenica

Radoša Milutinović BIRN BIH Haag

Testifying at the trial of wartime Bosnian Serb leader Ratko Mladic, a former UNPROFOR chief of staff says he asked the Bosnian Serb army to stop its offensive in Srebrenica.

Dutch General Cornelis Nicolai said he asked the leaders of the Republika Srpska Army, VRS, to stop its attack on Srebrenica in July 1995, but Mladic’s closest associates denied that an offensive was underway.
 
Nicolai said that observation stands of the Dutch Battalion of UNPROFOR and civilians in Srebrenica came under VRS fire at the time of the attack.
He explained that two days prior to the fall of Srebrenica – on July 9, 1995- he warned Mladic that unless he stopped the offensive, UNPROFOR would request NATO air strikes against VRS positions. Those attacks happened on July 10 but they did not stop the VRS, which entered Srebrenica on the following day.
 
In his response sent July 11, 1995, Mladic’s assistant Milan Gvero “incorrectly said” that the VRS did not attack “blue helmets” and threatened Nicolai by saying that he would be responsible for the life of UNPROFOR staff and civilians if NATO continued its air strikes against Bosnian Serb forces.
General Nicolai said he was “still angry because of that, even though 18 years have passed since those events.”
 
UNPROFOR “took the threat very seriously,” Nicolai said. He explained that the UN understood that unless the NATO air strikes were stopped, the VRS would open “heavy fire” on Srebrenica, which would have serious consequences considering the significant number of local residents present in the town.
 
“The attacks on UNPROFOR and Srebrenica continued until the fall of the enclave,” the witness said. 
 
Mladic is charged with genocide against some 7,000 Muslims from Srebrenica and the persecution of thousands of women, children and elderly in the days that followed the occupation of the UN protected enclave by VRS forces.
 
Nicolai said that after the fall of Srebrenica the commander of the Dutch Battalion of UNPROFOR,Thom Karremans, was ordered to “stay with the civilians” and “take care of their evacuation”, as “there was no food, water” or other conditions to permit their stay in the enclave.
 
The Dutch general said that prior to the attack on Srebrenica, the VRS had deprived UNPROFOR and the local population of basic supplies by restricting the access of convoys to the enclave.
 
According to the witness’ testimony, due to the lack of fuel and manpower caused by restrictions imposed by the VRS, “the blue helmets” were not able to properly implement their mandate as of June 1995.
He said the UNPROFOR staff informed Lieutenant Colonel Karremans about the situation. General Nicolai indicated that, to the extent possible, UNPROFOR shared fuel and medicine with the local population.
 
Mladic is also charged with persecuting Muslims and Croats throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina, terrorizing civilians in Sarajevo through a campaign of shelling and sniping and taking UNPROFOR members hostage.
 
The trial of Mladic was due to continue on May 3.

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