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29 September 2010
News

Pelemis et al: Refusal to Carry out Orders

BIRN BiH

At the trial for genocide committed in Srebrenica, a witness testifying for the Defence of indictee Momir Pelemis said that indictee Slavko Peric selected soldiers to guard the men detained in the Pilica Cultural Center in order “to protect the village”.



Slavko Stevic, a former member of the First Battalion with the Zvornik Brigade of the Republika Srpska Army, VRS, told the Court he refused to carry out the order to guard Bosniak men from Srebrenica who were held in detention in July 1995. He said the order was given to him by indictee Peric.
 
“He selected me for the task, but I refused to do it. He told me: 'Why don’t you want to go, they will burn our village down'. I said: 'Those who brought them here should guard them,'” Stevic said.
 
The indictment charges Pelemis, former Deputy Commander of the First Battalion with the Zvornik Brigade of the Republika Srpska Army, VRS, and Peric, former Assistant Commander for Security, with having participated in the murder of about 1,200 Srebrenica residents on Branjevo military farm and about 600 men in the Pilica Cultural Center on July 15 and 16, 1995.
 
The Prosecution alleges that Peric identified and sent members of the First Battalion to guard the area surrounding the Cultural Center, where about 600 captured Bosniaks had been brought. It further alleges that these actions were carried out under Pelemis’ command. 
 
The witness said he saw prisoners being brought to the Cultural Center in Pilica, but that the soldiers who brought them there were not known to him. He also said that the soldiers who took the prisoners away from the Center were not members of the First Battalion.
 
“I heard that those people would be exchanged. I do not think anyone could have even suspected that this would not happen. This just discredited us, the residents of Lokanje and Pilica. They should not have brought them to our village,” Stevic said.
 
The witness said he did not see any other soldiers accompanying Peric when he went to the Cultural Center in Pilica. Trial Chamber members asked the witness why he thought that the village was in danger after armed soldiers brought unarmed prisoners to it.
 
“If you bring 100 or 200 people, they can start running away or set the village on fire. The war was going on. Only women and children were in the village at the time, as most men were on the frontlines,” the witness said.
 
Answering questions pertaining to indictee Pelemis’ authority, Stevic said that First Battalion Commander Milan Stanojevic made all decisions, while Pelemis just conveyed his orders.
 
“I once refused Pelemis’ order to bring him some blankets,” the witness said, adding this was probably caused by the fact that Pelemis came “from somewhere else”.
 
Witness Borisav Nikolic, a former member of the First Battalion, said he once refused to follow Pelemis’ suggestion.
 
“Our company was supposed to go to the field on Nisici plateau. Pelemis suggested that I take my squad to Nisici, but I refused to do as he said, because I was physically and mentally incapable of doing so,” the witness said.
 
Prior to going to the field, the witness was told by a neighbor that some prisoners had been brought to the village, but Pelemis did not mention anything when he saw him. Nikolic said he did not hear any shooting when he headed towards Nisici on the following morning. 
 
The trial is due to continue on Tuesday, October 5, when the first indictee’s Defence witnesses will be examined. 
M.T.
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