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23 February 2016

Bosniak Commander Oric ‘Killed Prisoners’, Witness Claims

Erna Mackic BIRN BiH Sarajevo
The first protected witness testifying at the trial of former Bosnian Army commander Naser Oric said he recalled seeing the defendant killing three Serb prisoners near Srebrenica in 1992.
The protected witness codenamed O1 told the court in Sarajevo on Tuesday that he saw Oric take part in the killings of Bosnian Serbs in the villages of Zalazje, Kunjarac and Lolici in the Srebrenica region in September 1992.

The witness, a former soldier, said that he saw Oric hitting a Bosnian Serb prisoner - one of three or four who were tied up - in the face and chest.

“Oric took a knife he held in his belt and swung it towards the neck of the prisoner. The prisoner fell on his knee. Oric then kicked him in the chest and tossed him over,” said O1, who testified via video-link from Belgrade with his features hidden.

O1 said that he went to stop a truck after Oric hit the prisoner and, on his return, saw that all the prisoners were dead.

The dead prisoners were loaded onto the truck and taken to the local Bosnian Army command centre, the witness added.

Oric is charged, along with another former Bosnian Army soldier Sabahudin Muhic of killing three Serb captives in the villages of Zalazje, Lolici and Kunjarac in 1992.

According to the charges, Oric was the commander of the Bosnian Army territorial defence units in Srebrenica and Muhic a member of his forces.

The Hague Tribunal acquitted Oric in 2008 of taking part in crimes in Srebrenica.

His defence asked for the case against him in Bosnia to be dropped because of this, but the Hague Tribunal rejected the request, saying that the cases dealt with different crimes.

The case against Oric has drawn criticism from Bosniaks who see him as a hero for his role in defending Srebrenica in the years before the 1995 massacres. The case has also been criticised by Serb war victims, who have claimed that the charges are too modest.

Witness O1 also recalled the Bosnian Army’s attack on Kunjarac in the spring of 1992, when five prisoners were taken.

Among them, the witness recalled, was his friend Mitar Savic, so he spent his time hiding from the prisoners so that Savic wouldn’t ask him for help.

“Mitar was cocky to commander Oric. He objected to something. Oric started hitting him. He took a Colt gun and hit him in the chest. He then shot him in the chest,” said the witness. He added that Oric fired two shots.

Afterwards, the witness testified, Sabahudin Muhic fired a whole round into Savic.

O1 also recalled that a prisoner called Milutin Milosevic was captured during a raid in the village of Lolici.

According to the witness, Oric talked to Milosevic and hit him, then told someone to take “an automatic rifle and shoot the prisoner”.

The witness said that a few minutes later, Muhic shot Milosevic with an automatic rifle.

“After Muhic’s shots, I saw Milutin was dead. I did not see the body after Oric’s shots. I moved the body with my leg and saw that was Milutin - a police officer I knew from before,” said O1.

Oric’s defence tried to discredit the witness by showing a police record which proved he had been convicted 11 times. According to Oric’s lawyer Lejla Covic, the witness was convicted of false testimony, abuse of social benefits, fraud and other crimes.

Covic also disputed the witness’s claims that he was a member of the Bosnian Army. After the witness said that his commander was called Alija Muskic, the defence presented a document proving that Muskic was never a member of the armed forces.

The defence also presented statements given by the witness previously in which he failed to mention that Oric took part in the killings.

The witness responded that before giving a statement to the Bosnian prosecution, he met a woman and “got the impression” from her that he should not speak about Oric. He did not explain who the woman was or what her authority was.

Oric’s defence will continue cross-examining the witness on March 8.
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