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3 February 2015

Mladic Witness: Serb Army 'Helped Thousands of Croats'

Radosa Milutinovic BIRN BiH The Hague
A Defence witness told Ratko Mladic's trial in the Hague that in 1993 the Bosnian Serb Army provided help for thousands of Croatian civilians and fighters.
Davor Kolenda, former official of Croatian Defence Council from Travnik, testified that Bosnian Serb forces, under Mladic's command, helped thousands of Croatian fighters and civilians in the summer of 1993 by letting them to evacuate trough the territory under Serbian control, during the conflicts between Bosnian Muslims and Croats.

According to Kolenda, UNPROFOR previously rejected to enable that evacuation, but after the negotiations with Bosnian Serb Army, in which he participated himself, Croatian people and fighters were evacuated trough the mount Vlasic.

Kolenda said that 800 soldiers of the Croatian Defence Council were then located in the Bosnian Serb Army's prison camp at Manjaca, out of "humanitarian reasons".

There were no crimes or mistreatment of Croats at Manjaca camp, Kolenda said.

During the cross examination, Kolenda confirmed that Serbs used the fact they helped Croats for propaganda.

"We needed help for the evacuation, and Serbs used it for propaganda purposes in order to explain the world that they respect international convention," Kolenda said adding that "treatment at Manjaca, compared to the conditions that prevailed in 1993, was correct".

Kolenda confirmed that, on the other hand, he protested to the camp administration, "because of one day of mistreatment", which he considered was "against international conventions".

He described that Croatian soldiers were taken out of hangars while it was extremely hot outside in order to "repeat one statement" in front of the cameras of Serbian television.

"The statement that we are prisoners of Bosnian Serb Army and that Bosnia is Serbian like Moscow is Russian... It was humiliating, especially because we were not military prisoners, but we asked for help," Kolenda recalled.

Former Bosnian Serb military chief Mladic is accused of genocide in Srebrenica, the persecution of Muslims and Croats across Bosnia and Herzegovina, which reached genocidal proportions in seven municipalities, terrorising the population of Sarajevo and taking UN peacekeepers hostage.

Mladic's trial continues on Wednesday.

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