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12 November 2015
News

Bosnian Serb Official Admits Helping Srebrenica Fugitives

Radosa Milutinovic BIRN BiH The Hague

Testifying in defence of Ratko Mladic, former Bosnian Serb deputy interior minister Dragan Kijac said that in 1996 he gave fake identification cards to Srebrenica massacre suspects so they could flee to Serbia.

Kijac testified at the Hague Tribunal on Thursday that he was ordered to give fake identification cards to eight former members of the Bosnian Serb Army’s Srpska Tenth Reconnaissance Unit so they could escape potential prosecution.

He said he received the order from Petar Salapura, the former commander of the Bosnian Serb Army Main Headquarters’ information section.

The order, which prosecutor Arthur Traldi presented to the witness in the courtroom, stated that fact identification cards were needed by “persons indicted by the Hague Tribunal”.

At that time, only Mladic and Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic were charged with war crimes by the UN-backed court in The Hague.

Kijac said that assisting the fugitives was “totally fine”.

“In 1996 I had no obligation to cooperate with the Tribunal,” he said.

Among those given fake identification, Kijac admitted, was Drazen Erdemovic, who in 1996 admitted to taking part in the killings of over 1,000 Bosniaks in a village near Zvornik after the fall of Srebrenica.

Mladic, the former commander of the Bosnian Serb army, is charged with genocide in July 1995 in Srebrenica, when units under his control killed more then 7,000 Bosniak men and boys.

Prosecutor Traldi also showed Kijac an order in which Mladic authorised Erdemovic and three other soldiers to travel to Serbia in 1996. The witness said he “had no knowledge” about who they were.

Asked by presiding judge Alphons Orie if he knew that by giving fake identification to suspects he was “obstructing the Tribunal”, Kijac replied: “From this perspective, yes… But I was just acting under the law at that time.”

Traldi also quoted Mladic’s notes made during a meeting with Karadzic, after a visit to Bosnia by US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Karadzic said, according to the notes, that “a big show was made for Albright and they expected to find 1,200 bodies but found only five”.

Mladic is also being tried for genocide in several other municipalities in 1992, terrorising the population of Sarajevo and taking UN peacekeepers hostage.

Karadzic is awaiting his verdict for genocide and other crimes in Bosnia during wartime.

Mladic’s trial continues on Monday.

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