Michael Dobbs

5,977 counts of murder

5,977 counts of murder

The prosecutors in the Ratko Mladic case have published a pre-trial brief outlining their evidence against the former Bosnian Serb military commander. The 166-page document charges Mladic with double genocide and the intent to make Muslims and Croats "vanish completely" from an ethnically pure Bosnian Serb state. His trial is scheduled to open on May 14. He is photographed above with his defense team in typically truculent mood wearing a Russian hat.

The first charge of genocide relates to the ethnic cleansing campaign that Mladic’s forces conducted in numerous Bosnian municipalities between May and December 1992, and the creation of a network of prison camps. The second charge of genocide focuses on the murders of "over 7,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys" following the capture of the United Nations "safe area" of Srebrenica. The document states that "5,977 murder victims" have been identified through DNA samples as of January 13, 2012.

The prosecution brief sheds new light on Mladic’s movements between July 13 and 14, which I dealt with in an earlier series of posts. It makes no reference to Mladic’s alleged presence at a mass execution near the village of Orahovac on July 14, which featured prominently in earlier prosecution testimony and journalistic accounts of the massacre. There is also no mention of his alleged presence at a detention site for Muslim prisoners in the town of Bratunac on the evening of July 13.

Reconstructing Mladic’s movements on the afternoon of July 13, the prosecutors say he visited Sandici meadow, Konjevic Polje, and Nova Kasaba soccer field "where prisoners were held prior to being executed." He is alleged to have been present when "his men beat and shot one of the prisoners" at Nova Kasaba. He then returned to his headquarters at Crna Rijeka, and attended a military promotion ceremony in the nearby town of Vlasenica on the evening of July 13. He spent the night of July 13 in Crna Rijeka.

This timetable would appear to undermine the testimony of Srebrenica survivor Hurem Suljic who claims that he saw Mladic on two different occasions during the evening of July 13 in Bratunac, some 25 miles away. Suljic has told journalists and prosecutors that he saw Mladic again on the evening of July 14 at the execution site near Orahovac.

The prosecutors cite an intercepted telephone conversation to show that Mladic remained at his Crna Rijeka headquarters on the morning of July 14. According to the prosecution, he "travelled through Zvornik on his way to Belgrade" on the afternoon of July 14.

The map below uses blue markers to indicate places Mladic visited on July 13-14, according to the prosecutor’s pre-trial brief, and yellow markers to indicate places where Suljic claims to have seen Mladic in person. Click on any marker for further details.

View larger map. Click on icons for further details.

It is conceivable that Mladic visited the Orahovac detention and execution sites during this time frame, as Orahovac is only a few miles down the road from Zvornik. However, the prosecutors make no mention of this possibility, saying only that he was in Zvornik when his subordinates "were actively supervising the execution of prisoners held in the Zvornik area."

According to his war diary, Mladic travelled to a hunting lodge near Belgrade for a 2115 meeting with Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic and European peace envoy Carl Bildt.

Mladic defense lawyers claim that their client was not in the Zvornik-Srebrenica area on July 14. You can find my earlier posts on his movements for July 13 here and July 14 here.