Jezik / Language:
29 June 2015

Analysis – Verdict in Cvetkovic Genocide Case on July 2

Džana Brkanić BIRN BiH Sarajevo

After a trial that has lasted nearly two years, the Bosnian state court will hand down a verdict in the Aleksandar Cvetkovic trial on July 2. Cvetkovic has been indicted for genocide in Srebrenica.

Throughout the course of the trial the state prosecution has attempted to prove that Cvetkovic, a former member of the Tenth Reconnaissance Detachment of the Main Staff of the Bosnian Serb Army, participated in the mass execution of Srebrenica civilians in July 1995 on the Branjevo military farm.

Cvetkovic’s defense has maintained that he was only a driver and didn’t participate in any of the killings. While testifying in his own defense, Cvetkovic insisted before the trial chamber that he is “absolutely innocent.”

The state prosecution invited 26 witnesses to testify, while the defense invited 14.

A protected witness known as C2, who managed to survive the Branjevo shootings, testified at the trial.

“I fell down right away. When the shooting stopped, someone asked if anyone was alive. Two men came forward, and one said ‘Kill me,’” C2 said. According to C2, oth of the men who came forward were killed.

C2 said he and other civilians were abducted from the village of Potocari on July 13, 1995. They were taken to the Vuk Karadzic school in Bratunac, where they spent two nights. They were then taken to the village of Pilica, near Zvornik, and were housed in the Kula school. Two days later, they were transferred to Branjevo.

Witness Zoran Gajic, who transported the prisoners, also testified at the trial. He said when they arrived to Branjevo, he found soldiers that he’d never met before.

“I saw a lot of killed people in the field. About 500 to 600 of them had been executed,” Gajic said. He said that was when he realized what awaited the prisoners he’d brought to Branjevo.

“Everyone was shooting”

Many witnesses confirmed that members of the Tenth Reconnaissance Detachment participated in the Branjevo shootings, including Franc Kos and Stanko Kojic.

Kos confirmed that he’d personally participated in the shooting. In a statement he gave to the state prosecution, Kos said he heard Zoran Goronja address Cvetkovic, saying ‘Come on kid, let’s see how you did that in Kozarac.” At the trial, Kos said protected witness C-1 told Goronja to shoot. Kos said that in his initial statement he wanted to protect C-1.

Goronja also confirmed that C-1 told him to shoot. C-1’s testimony was closed to the public.

Kos was found guilty of crimes against humanity committed against Srebrenica civilians and was sentenced to 35 years in prison. Goronja was sentenced to 30 years in prison for the same crime.

Stanko Kojic, a former member of the Tenth Reconnaissance Detachment who was sentenced to 32 years in prison for his involvement in the Branjevo shootings said “everyone was shooting.”

“I couldn’t stand it, I took a handful of pills, I started to protest, but we all fired...I fired [my weapon] and there were flickers in front of my eyes,” Kojic said. Kojic said he couldn’t remember whether Cvetkovic was shooting or not because he didn’t know him that well.

Drazen Erdemovic, who plead guilty before the Hague Tribunal for his involvement in the Branjevo shootings, had a statement read aloud in court during the trial. In the statement Erdemovic said Cvetkovic participated in the Branjevo shootings. Erdemovic, who is serving a five year prison sentence, refused to testify at the Cvetkovic trial.

“Brano gave the order to fire. There were eight of us. They brought groups of ten. It lasted from 10am until 3 or 4 in the afternoon. Cvetkovic said it was going slowly and that they’d start to use the machine gun. The machine gun just butchered those people. They begged us to kill them,” Erdemovic said in his statement.

According to Erdemovic’s estimations, between 1,000 and 2,000 prisoners were killed on that day.

In response to Erdemovic’s statement, Cvetkovic’s defense said Erdemovic wanted to take revenge on Cvetkovic because of rumours that he’d had an affair with his wife in Bijeljina.

The Tenth Reconnaissance Squad was commanded by Milorad Pelemis, who is unavailable to the prosecution authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina. A red international warrant has been issued for his arrest. The detachment consisted of two platoons, and according to witnesses, one was based in Vlasenica and the other in Bijeljina.

Witnesses alleged that Cvetkovic belonged to the Vlasenica platoon.

The victims of the Branjevo shooting were buried and placed in different graves. On four occasions, protected witness C-4 dug pits for the bodies.

“It was hot. You couldn’t live because of the flies and the odor,” C-4 said, describing the work on one grave.

At the trial, forensic pathologist Rifat Kesetovic said the bodies of 1,606 Srebrenica civilians have been identified in the primary grave and eight secondary graves in this area.

Cvetkovic didn’t participate in Srebrenica operations, defense witnesses say

State prosecution witness Milivoje Nikolic, a former employee of the Branjevo farm, said he was on duty on the farm one morning in July 1995, when a van with several soldiers pulled up to the farm.

“Some of them were armed, they had a machine gun. One entered the barn to keep me there,” Nikolic said. He said he talked about pigs with the soldier in the barn.

The defense claimed that the soldier who was in the barn with Nikolic was Cvetkovic. Nikolic couldn’t identify Cvetkovic in court.

“I get on my knees before all the victims, and I know that I in any way made someone a victim,” Cvetkovic said.

According to the indictment, Cvetkovic also participated in the first attack on the safe area of Srebrenica and the UNPROFOR base at the end of June 1995, with the aim of harassing the Bosniak population.

He’s also been charged with participating in the Krijava 95 operation, which involved the takeover of the Srebrenica safe area on July 11, 1995.

State prosecution witness Dragan Todorovic, a former logistics officer in the Tenth Sabotage Detachment, said that Cvetkovic didn’t go into action with the detachment in June or July 1995 in Srebrenica.

The same claims were confirmed by several defense witnesses. Ratko Tomic said Cvetkovic was in the Vlasenica platoon of the Tenth Sabotage Detachment, and that platoon did not take part in the operation.

“He often traveled to Serbia to pick up aid for the army,” Tomic said. He said Cvetkovic didn’t participate in the Srebrenica Tunnel operation either, which took place in June 1995.

Milos Matic, a former member of the Tenth Reconnaissance Detachment, said Cvetkovic didn’t participate in any military operations in Srebrenica.

In January 2011, Cvetkovic was arrested in Israel. After two years and seven months he was extradited to the judiciary of Bosnia and Herzegovina for further processing. He has been in custody since. His trial began in November 2013.

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