Jezik / Language:
28 April 2015

Mladic Witness: Bosniaks 'Wanted to Leave' Eastern Bosnia

Radosa Milutinovic BIRN BiH The Hague
The former commander of the Birac brigade of the Bosnian Serb Army told Ratko Mladic's trial that he helped organise the 'removal of Muslims' from eastern Bosnia, but insisted they wanted to go.
Testifying in defence of former Bosnian Serb military leader Ratko Mladic at the Hague Tribunal on Tuesday, former local commander Svetozar Andric said that in the end of May 1992 he ordered the “removal of the civilian Muslim population” from the territory under the control of the Birac brigade in eastern Bosnia.

But he said this was done“in an organised fashion”, insisting that the order only applied to those Bosniaks “who wanted to leave”.

Andric rejected a suggestion from prosecutor Alan Tieger that the Bosniak population was persecuted as a result of the order. He also explained that the decision to move the Bosniaks out of the area that was affected by fighting actually saved their lives, as they needed protection from Serb refugees.

“That order saved thousands, as many would not have survived,” said Andric.

He said that the Bosniaks also needed to be sent away from the area to avoid paramilitaries, who were a “threat to Muslims and Serbs”.

During cross-examination, Andric confirmed he ordered a setting up of a camp to hold Bosniaks in Vlasenica, but insisted it was done in accordance with humanitarian law.

He explained that the camp temporarily held Bosniak men if they had not participated in the fighting. After being checked, they were sent to Bosniak territory, the witness said.

Andric said he did not know about the killings of Bosniak men in the Susica detention camp in Vlasenica in September 1992.

He blamed paramilitaries for most crimes committed in eastern Bosnia in 1992.

“The blame lies with paramilitaries in the Birac region,” he said.

He added that at the time, however, he did not know about the crimes committed by paramilitaries like the Yellow Wasps in Zvornik.

He denied that the Yellow Wasps were under the command of the Bosnian Serb Army, although he admitted they fought alongside him in Kalesija.

Mladic is on trial for the persecution of Muslims and Croats which allegedly reached the scale of genocide in several municipalities – Zvornik in the Birac region being one of them. He is also on trial for genocide in Srebrenica, taking UN peacekeepers hostage and terrorising the population of Sarajevo.

The trial continues on Wednesday.

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