BIRN — Continuing his testimony at the trial of Radovan Karadzic, Momir Nikolic, former Serb officer with the Republika Srpska Army, VRS, says that, two days after the fall of Srebrenica, July 13, 1995, it was known that the captured Bosniak men would be “killed”, adding that it happened that way.
Nikolic, former Security Officer with the Bratunac Brigade of VRS, said that Colonel Ljubisa Beara, Security Officer of the VRS Main Headquarters, told him on that day that all the Bosniaks would be killed. He said that VRS Commander Ratko Mladic had previously indicated the existence of such an intention.
“What I know is that all men, who had been separated from women and children in Potocari, as well as those who had surrendered on the road between Bratunac and Konjevic polje, were transferred to Bratunac on July 13 and then, on the following day, to Zvornik municipality, where they were executed,” Nikolic said.
He expressed his regrets for having participated in the “horrible crime” and conveyed his apology to the victims’ families. In 2003 Nikolic admitted guilt, before The Hague Tribunal, for persecuting Bosniaks from Srebrenica. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison. He is serving his sentence in Finland.
Karadzic, former President of Republika Srpska and supreme Commander of VRS, is charged with genocide against 8.000 Bosniak men and the persecution of thousands of women and children from Srebrenica. Besides that, The Hague Prosecution charges Karadzic with the persecution of Bosniaks and Croats throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina, terror against civilians in Sarajevo and taking members of the UN’s peace mission hostage.
In 2010, The Hague Tribunal passed down a first instance verdict, sentencing Ljubisa Beara to life imprisonment for genocide in Srebrenica. Mladic is awaiting his trial before The Hague Tribunal for genocide and other crimes in Bosnia and Herzegovina to begin.
During his testimony Nikolic said that, while Bosniaks were coming from the nearby forests and surrendering to the VRS in the vicinity of Konjevic polje on July 13, 1995, Mladic indicated to him that the captives would be killed.
“Mladic spoke to Muslim prisoners. He told them not to worry. He said that everything would be OK and that they would be transferred to a desired destination. When he moved towards his car, I followed him. I asked him what would happen to the captives. He did not say anything, but he just looked at me and made a gesture with his hand,” Nikolic said, moving his hand from left to right, with his fingers extended and hand palm facing down, while showing the gesture to the judges.
Nikolic said that, while he was in Bratunac in the evening on that same day, he met Ljubisa Beara, who told him what was going to happen to the prisoners.
“Beara ordered me to go to the Zvornik Brigade Command, tell them that prisoners would come and that they should get the buildings ready for them. I think that Beara said that they would be killed,” Nikolic said.
When he returned to Bratunac at around midnight on July 13, 1995, Nikolic said that he saw thousands of Bosniak prisoners and attended a meeting at which Beara and Miroslav Deronjic, Karadzic’s commissioner for Srebrenica, “quarreled” as they could not agree whether the prisoners would be killed in Bratunac or Zvornik.
“They said openly that the prisoners would be killed. They were just not sure whether it would happen in Bratunac or Zvornik. Deronjic insisted on having received instructions from Karadzic, saying that the prisoners should be sent to Zvornik. He said that he did not want the murders to be committed in Bratunac,” Nikolic said.
In 2003 Deronjic admitted guilt, before The Hague Tribunal, for crimes against Bosniaks in Glogova village in 1992. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison. He died in 2007, while serving his sentence in Sweden.
During the course of his testimony Nikolic expressed his regrets for having participated in “the horrible crime” in Srebrenica.
“I feel particularly responsible, because I was a school teacher to many of the killed men and I had no way or power to help them. I wish to apologise again to all the families and victims. I am sorry for having been there and executed the orders, thus contributing to the commission of the crime. I feel sorry for not fleeing from that place, when it became clear that the crime was going to happen,” Nikolic said.
Indictee Karadzic began cross-examining the witness today. The cross-examination is due to be continued on Wednesday, February 15.