Michael Dobbs

Mladic in Srebrenica

Click on icons for further details. View in a larger map. With the Ratko Mladic trial due to start at the end of March, this seems a good time to look in more detail at the evidence against the former Bosnian Serb commander. I am planning a series of posts examining the gravest accusation of ...


Click on icons for further details. View in a larger map.

With the Ratko Mladic trial due to start at the end of March, this seems a good time to look in more detail at the evidence against the former Bosnian Serb commander. I am planning a series of posts examining the gravest accusation of all: the murder of around 8,000 Muslim males from Srebrenica in July 1995, a crime described as "genocide" by the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal. 

At the core of the prosecution case against Mladic is his physical presence in and around Srebrenica during the days immediately following the capture of the former United Nations "safe area." The prosecution will attempt to demonstrate that he exercised direct command and control over the troops who rounded up, transported, and executed thousands of Muslim prisoners before dumping their bodies into mass graves. The defense will argue that the number of killings has been greatly exaggerated and that Mladic was not himself present at any of the executions.

One  Srebrenica survivor, Hurem Suljic, claims that he personally saw Mladic a total of six times over the course of three critical days, July 12-14th. The first such occasion was on July 12th, when he was separated from his family outside the headquarters of the Dutch peacekeeping force in Potocari. The final incident was at a mass execution site near the village of Orahovac on July 14th, some thirty miles to the north-west. 

I have plotted these sightings on the map above. The map markers are color coded. A blue icon indicates an event that Suljic remembers as having taken place on July 12th, the day after the fall of Srebrenica, a red icon July 13th, a yellow icon July 14th.  Click on the individual icons for more details of each sighting.

A crippled ex-carpenter, Suljic is the only known survivor among the group of a thousand or so Muslim males who were seized by Bosnian Serb forces outside the United Nations base in Potocari, after being forcibly separated from the women and children. His disability made it impossible for him to join a much larger group of men from Srebrenica who attempted to escape across the mountains to Bosnian government-controlled territory to the north. Many of these people were rounded up and executed. 

Suljic first made his accusations in a series of 1995 interviews with western journalists, including the Associated Press and David Rohde, whose book "Endgame" was the first detailed reconstruction of the Srebrenica events. Since telling his story to reporters and western officials such as U.S. human rights envoy John Shattuck, Suljic has appeared in several Srebrenica trials as a "protected witness," testifying under a pseudonym. The uniqueness of his story makes him easily identifiable. 

In future posts, I will incorporate the testimony of Suljic and other survivors into the mass of documentary evidence accumulated by investigators during the fifteen years since Srebrenica. I will also attempt to evaluate the reliability of the evidence, distinguishing claims that have been independently verified from those that rest on the testimony of a single eye-witness.

The historical record has been enriched, and in some cases amended, by the release of previously secret intelligence documents, war diaries, telephone intercepts, war diaries, reconnaissance photographs, and forensic investigations of the various crime scenes. Much of this material was not available to the journalists who wrote the "first rough draft of history" in the immediate aftermath of the worst massacre in Europe since World War II. I will draw on this material, as well as survivor testimony, to reconstruct Mladic’s movements and actions over the critical period, July 11-14th, 1995. 

 Twitter: @michaeldobbs

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