Continuing his cross-examination of the former head of the Srebrenica investigation Jean-Rene Ruez, the accused Karadzic tried to prove that the victims exhumed from mass graves in the Srebrenica area had been soldiers killed in combat, before and in July 1995. The witness countered by saying that a great quantity of evidence, including documents of the VRS [Serb Army] Zvornik Brigade seized by the OTP [Office of the Prosecutor], showed the exact opposite. The mass graves are the result of ‘the extermination of prisoners’, Ruez said.
SENSE Tribunal — The accused Radovan Karadzic continued his cross-examination of French police inspector Jean-Rene Ruez. From 1995 to 2001, Ruez headed the OTP [Office of the Prosecutor] Srebrenica investigation team. Karadzic insisted on his argument that the victims exhumed from mass graves in Podrinje were in fact soldiers of the BH Army 28th Division who had been killed in the attacks on the Serb positions before and during the Srebrenica operation. According to Karadzic, the mass graves were the result of the ‘terrain clear-up operations after combat’. Serb forces were obliged by the law to take the hygiene and sanitation measures.
Karadzic put it to the witness that in the 40 months of war until July 1995, the 28th Division had lost over 2,000 soldiers in the attacks it launched from the enclave on the Serb territory. Karadzic also claimed that a lot of fighters lost their lives as they ‘fought their way towards’ Tuzla in July 1995.
Ruez explained that the Srebrenica investigation didn’t deal with the people who had been killed in combat. ‘We focused on the sites where, according to our information, people were executed on 14, 15 and 16 July 1995’, Ruez said, reminding the accused that a lot of evidence on this issue has already been called through forensic experts Richard Wright and William Haglund. Ruez added that investigator Dean Manning had yet to give evidence. Manning consolidated the findings of all the teams working on the exhumations and established links between detention facilities, execution sites and primary and secondary mass graves. Military analyst Richard Butler dealt with the military aspect of the operation. Ruez also mentioned the documents of the VRS [Serb Army] Zvornik Brigade seized by the OTP. The documents made it possible to reconstruct the movement of the military trucks and buses from the sites where the captives were detained for a while to the actual execution sites. The documents also made it possible to follow the movements of the backhoes to the execution sites, where they were used to dig primary graves.
Ruez didn’t want to speculate on the number of people who were in Srebrenica at various points in time from the beginning of the conflict to the fall of the enclave, insisting that the goal of his investigation was to establish what happened to the 8,000 missing men who were on the International Red Cross list. According to that list, a third of the total of 24,000 missing persons in BH was last seen in July 1995 in Srebrenica. More than 6,000 missing persons from Srebrenica have been identified using DNA analysis. Ruez warned that the exhumation and identification process is still ongoing.
Karadzic argued that the massacre in the Kravica warehouse was caused by an incident in which a prisoner grabbed a rifle from a Serb soldier and opened fire. An incident of that kind, even if it had happened, couldn’t explain ‘the systematic killing of all the prisoners’, first in the eastern and then in the western part of the warehouse, Ruez insisted. ‘The killing stopped only when the executioners were sure there were no survivors’, the witness added.
Karadzic put it to Ruez that the number of 1,200 people killed at the Branjevo farm had not been ‘scientifically proven’. The investigators got this information from Drazen Erdemovic who confessed to his part in the executions. Ruez reminded Karadzic that about 1,200 persons were killed at the Branjevo farm and 500 men were executed in Pilica. To ‘scientifically prove’ the number of 1,700 dead would require adding the number of bodies that remained in the primary grave at Branjevo to the number of bodies in nine secondary graves discovered along the Cancari road. The nine graves have not yet been completely exhumed.
Karadzic will continue cross-examining Jean-Rene Ruez tomorrow morning.
Radovan Karadzic completed his cross-examination of Jean-Rene Ruez. Insisting that ‘numbers are important’, Radovan Karadzic counted 60 to 70 persons on an aerial photo of the football field in Nova Kasaba taken on 13 July 1995. Ruez replied that he never actually thought to count the prisoners, but, as far as numbers were concerned, he put his trust in the VRS [Serb Army] documents, which show that more than 1,000 persons were arrested that day in the Nova Kasaba area. After Ruez completed his evidence, the prosecution called protected witness KDZ 333, a survivor of the execution at the Branjevo farm.
SENSE Tribunal — As former Republika Srpska president Radovan Karadzic was about to complete his cross-examination of Jean-Rene Ruez, he asked the witness to tell him ‘what is the biggest number of bodies’ that could be counted on the photographs taken during the mass grave exhumations. ‘I want to see the photos showing hundreds of bodies in a single grave’, the former Republika Srpska president demanded today. Karadzic is charged with the genocide in Srebrenica committed by the forces under his command in July 1995.
Ruez explained that the mass graves were exhumed gradually, layer by layer, and it was therefore technically impossible to record the contents of an entire grave on a single photo. Ruez told the accused he should ask archeologist Richard Wright and forensic anthropologist William Haglund who could give him more detailed answers. Wright and Haglund conducted the exhumations in Srebrenica. Judge O-Gon Kwon noted that Karadzic had failed to ask them this question when he had a chance to cross-examine them.
Karadzic insisted on counting the victims on the photos. On an aerial photo of a group of prisoners in the football field in Nova Kasaba taken on 13 July 1995, Karadzic counted between 60 and 70 persons. Ruez replied that he never tried to count them because the photos were too fuzzy. Ruez noted that any reasonable person trying to count the prisoners would come up with a bigger figure than Karadzic.
In the re-examination, prosecutor Mitchell brought up a report sent by the 65th Protection Regiment of the VRS Main Staff on 13 July 1995, instructing the subordinates to transfer the prisoners from the football field in Nova Kasaba to ‘covered facilities’ to prevent them from being photographed from ground or air. The document spoke of ‘over 1,000 prisoners’ of Bosniak ethnicity captured after the fall of the Srebrenica enclave. As the witness said, this document and other similar papers were the best way to accurately calculate the number of the captured men.
Ruez did not accept Karadzic’s theory that the bodies of Bosniak fighters killed in fighting were added to the mass graves. ‘I find this theory shocking’, the witness said, insisting that none of persons indicted for the Srebrenica crimes had aired this as a possibility, which would have helped them to obfuscate. The Zvornik Brigade commander Dragan Obrenovic, who pleaded guilty to the crimes, and the chief engineer in the Zvornik Brigade Dragan Jokic did not bring up that possibility, Ruez noted.
After Ruez completed his evidence, the prosecution called a protected witness, KDZ 333. The witness was detained in the football field in Nova Kasaba on 13 July 1995. KDZ 333 confirmed that 1,200 to 1,500 persons were put there. The witness is one of the two survivors of the mass execution that was carried out three days later, on 16 July 1995 at the Branjevo farm. The transcript of the witness’s evidence at the trial of General Radislav Krstic in 2000 was admitted into evidence.
In the cross-examination, Karadzic put it to the witness that he had made up the whole story about the execution. Karadzic claimed that somebody from the ‘witness training center’ instructed the witness what to say in court. The witness dismissed Karadzic’s accusations and said he hoped Karadzic would never leave prison, ‘considering how many crimes he had committed’.