Jezik / Language:
1 August 2013

Praised for an Excellent Job

Radosa Milutinovic BIRN BiH Hague

Testifying in defence of Radovan Karadzic, former member of the Republika Srpska Army, VRS, Franc Kos says that, following the shooting of hundreds of Srebrenica Muslims on Branjevo farm, Lieutenant Colonel Ljubisa Beara praised the crime perpetrators in a café “for doing an excellent job” and promised that “the state would be grateful to them.”

Kos said that, at that moment he realised that the mass murder had been “planned”.

“No members of the 10th Reconnaissance Squad had any motive to go there, be it on personal, ethnic or any other grounds, but they did it as per an order,” the witness said.

Karadzic, the then supreme Commander of VRS, is charged with genocide against about 7,000 Muslims in the days that followed the occupation of Srebrenica by VRS on July 11, 1995.

The Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina pronounced a second instance verdict against Kos, sentencing him to 35 years in prison.  

Responding to the Prosecutor’s questions, he said that, following the shooting on Branjevo, members of the Squad went to a café in nearby Pilica village, while the execution of Muslim captives was ongoing in the local Cultural Centre across the road.

He saw both military and civil policemen in front of the Centre. According to the indictment and previous verdicts, Serb forces killed about 500 Muslim captives in the Cultural Centre in Pilica.

When he returned to the café, Lieutenant Colonel Beara, who was “very drunk, gave a speech” to the soldiers, telling them: “Soldiers, you did an excellent job. The State will be grateful to you.”

“At that moment I realised that somebody had planned it, but I do not know who... All I know is that we had to do it. Once he is arrested, Brano Gojkovic will say who gave the order to do it, because he was the only one who spoke to the Lieutenant Colonel,” Kos said.

Gojkovic led a group of eight Squad members, who shot captives on Branjevo. He is the only one of them still on the run.

The Hague Tribunal pronounced a first instance verdict against Lieutenant Colonel Beara, the then Chief of Security Sector with the VRS Main Headquarters, sentencing him to life imprisonment for the Srebrenica genocide.

Kos told the Tribunal that, a few days later he asked his Squad Commander Milorad Pelemis why he allowed his soldiers to be involved in the shooting of captives.

“Pelemis told me: ‘A superior power!’. He told me not to ask any more questions about it, so I did not... At that moment I thought that Colonel Petar Salapura, who had always given us orders, was the superior power,” Kos said.

At that time Colonel Salapura was Chief Intelligence Officer with the VRS Main Headquarters. He was the Squad’s superior officer “according to the professional line”. The Squad was directly subordinated to Commander of the VRS Main Headquarters General Ratko Mladic. It could not be used without his permission.

Proving the allegation that about 1,200 Muslims were killed on Branjevo, Prosecutor Chistopher Mitchell presented the witness with the fact that a total of 1,735 victims, 500 of whom were killed in the Pilica Cultural Centre, had been identified through a DNA analysis after having been exhumed from mass graves linked to that location.

However, Kos stuck to his allegation that the 10th Reconnaissance Squad shot men brought to Branjevo by seven or eight buses, adding that the total number of captives was 350.

After the Prosecutor quoted his previous statements, in which he specified that about 1,000 Muslims were killed, although it was not in his interest, Kos said that he did not think about it at the time and that he called on a statement given by Drazen Erdemovic. While saying that killing even one innocent civilian was a horrible thing, Kos said:

“We killed 300 people, as per an order. It was a big crime, but there was nothing we could do about it. We are now considered responsible more than the ones who had planned it. We had no idea what we would do when we arrived on Branjevo farm.”

The Prosecutor insisted that he had changed his statement concerning the number of killed people several times and that he could actually not say with certainty how many victims there were. Kos responded by saying: “Nobody can say with certainty how many people were shot and how many were buried.”

The trial of Karadzic, who is also charged with persecuting Muslims and Croats throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina, terrorising civilians in Sarajevo and taking UNPROFOR members hostage, is due to continue after the summer break, on August 28.
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