Jezik / Language:
6 November 2013

Exaggerating and Reducing

Radoša Milutinović BIRN BiH Haag

At the trial of Radovan Karadzic prosecutors try to prove that Defence witness Vujadin Popovic was not “an innocent passer-by” at several locations, where thousands of Srebrenica Muslims were shot in July 1995, but he was “a committed participant” and one of the key crime perpetrators.

However, the then lieutenant colonel of the Republika Srpska Army, VRS, and Chief for Security of the Drina Corps stuck to his allegation that, although he brought hundreds of captives to school buildings in villages in the Zvornik surroundings, he did not know that they were shot in the vicinity of those places afterwards.

In 2010 The Hague Tribunal pronounced a first instance verdict, sentencing Popovic to life imprisonment for genocide in Srebrenica in July 1995.

Karadzic, former President and supreme Commander of the Republika Srpska armed forces, is charged with genocide against about 7,000 Muslims from Srebrenica and persecution of tens of thousands of women, children and the elderly from the enclave.

Quoting the statements by survivors during the cross-examination, Prosecutor Jullian Nicholls said that Popovic “lied” by reducing the number of captives in school buildings and mitigating the difficult conditions and inhumane treatment to which they were subjected in order to present himself as “an innocent passer-by”, instead of a crime perpetrator.

“That is absolutely incorrect. I have no reason to hide anything, because that it how it really happened,” Popovic said, suggesting that the survivors were “exaggerating a bit”. 

He said that there were no more than 200 or 300 captives in the school building in Rocevic village on July 14, 1995, although the Prosecution and Court found that more than 1,000 were present.

Popovic indirectly suggested that it was not possible that more than 6,000 captured Muslims from Srebrenica could be detained and executed in the vicinity of Zvornik.

“I formed a convoy, consisting of 30 buses and three big trucks...I would have needed 100 buses to transport 6,000 captives,” Popovic said.

He confirmed that, in the evening on July 15 he found out that the captives held in the school buildings in Orahovac, Rocevic and Petkovci villages had already been liquidated.

Commenting on a testimony by former sub-officer of VRS Srecko Acimovic, who said that Popovic asked for soldiers to shoot captives in Rocevic, the witness said that it was impossible, because he was at another location at that time.

Popovic confirmed that, on July 16, 1995 he heard “a burst fire from several pieces of weapons” in Pilica village and that the fire “lasted between ten and 15 minutes”. Also, he said that he heard bomb explosions in the local Cultural Centre, where 500 Muslim captives were held. While he was in a restaurant across the street from the Centre, where he met his superior officer Ljubisa Beara later on, he saw a pile of corpses.

“I came to the restaurant... Beara said: ‘Those drunken fools killed the captives’...I can even describe one of them. He staggered at the bar, holding a machine gun,” Popovic said.

When asked if he tried to save the captives, Popovic said that he did not try, because his superior officer Beara was present there.

The Hague Tribunal sentenced colonel Beara, the then Chief of the Security Service with the Main Headquarters of VRS, and Popovic to life imprisonment for genocide in Srebrenica.

Popovic confirmed that, in the fall of 1995 he knew about the operation consisting of exhuming and hiding corpses of Srebrenica Muslims from several mass graves, adding that he did not “personally participate in it”, but he “just controlled the consumption of fuel”.

The trial of Karadzic, who is also charged with persecution of Muslims and Croats throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina, which reached the scale of genocide in seven municipalities, terror against civilians in Sarajevo and taking UNPROFOR members hostage, is due to continue tomorrow, November 7.

comments powered by Disqus