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11 October 2010
News

Pelemis and Peric: Heavy Burden to Bear

BIRN BiH

At the trial for genocide committed in Srebrenica, three witnesses testify for the defence of Momir Pelemis and say that, as far as they knew, members of the First Battalion with the Zvornik Brigade of the Republika Srpska Army, VRS, did not participate in the murder of prisoners in Pilica village.

 Witness Jovan Gajic, who was in charge of general affairs at the First Battalion Command, said he heard about the fall of Srebrenica through the media when he was on leave, adding indictee Pelemis told him, upon his return to the Battalion Command, about “some prisoners from Srebrenica who were supposed to be brought to Pilica”. 

 “When I came to the Command, I heard a group of prisoners had been sent to Pilica. As he told me, other Command members went to Pilica to take over the prisoners that had been brought from the school building in Kula and guard the school building until an exchange was organised,” Gajic said.

He added that his neighbours from Lokanj village, where he lived at the time, told him a few days later about the execution of prisoners on Branjevo farm and in the Cultural Center in Pilica. 
 
The Prosecution of Bosnia and Herzegovina charges Momir Pelemis, Deputy Commander of the First Battalion with the Zvornik Brigade, and Slavko Peric, former Assistant Commander for Security with the same Brigade, with having participated in the murder of several hundreds of Srebrenica residents in the Cultural Center in Pilica and on Branjevo military farm in July 1995.  
 
Stjepan Mitrovic, former member of the Communications Company with the Zvornik brigade, also testified in defence of the first indictee, saying he found out about the fall of Srebrenica and the prisoners who were brought to Pilica through radio communications. 
 
“Brigade officers were supposed to accommodate them somewhere. As there were more prisoners than previously announced, they faced problems finding accommodation for them,” Mitrovic said. 
 
As he said, the witness found out about the murder of the prisoners on his way home in Lokanj village, Zvornik municipality, on July 17 or 18. He said he was told that they “were killed and buried on Branjevo farm”.
 
“As I was passing by, I saw machines and dredgers at the location where the mass grave was. I know that members of the First Battalion did not take part in it. It was done by commandos who had been brought there for this purpose. Each and every person condemned this,” Mitrovic said. 
 
The third Defence witness, Dragan Manojlovic, former member of the First Battalion with the Zvornik Brigade, was on the frontline, near Teocak, when he heard about the arrival of prisoners in Pilica. He found out later on that they had been executed. 
 
“We heard that prisoners had been killed, but I do not know who did it. I never heard that Peric or any other local residents participated in it. (...) This is a heavy burden to bear. My child bears the burden as well. Nobody asked us, Lokanj village residents, anything. There was nothing we could do,” Manojlovic said. 
 
The next hearing is due to take place on Wednesday, October 13, when the first indictee’s Defence will examine two witnesses.

D.S.

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