Mladic in Srebrenica – Day 1

The video above shows Ratko Mladic entering the United Nations "safe area" of Srebrenica around 16:15 on July 11th, 1995. Trailed by his personal video crew, he paraded down the main street, and boasted that "the time has finally come to take revenge on the Turks in this region." "Turks" was a derogatory expression frequently ...

The video above shows Ratko Mladic entering the United Nations "safe area" of Srebrenica around 16:15 on July 11th, 1995. Trailed by his personal video crew, he paraded down the main street, and boasted that "the time has finally come to take revenge on the Turks in this region." "Turks" was a derogatory expression frequently used by Bosnian Serb forces to describe the Bosnian Muslims, Slavs who converted to Islam following the Ottoman conquest of Bosnia in 1463.

It is ironic that Mladic himself has supplied much of the most incriminating and authoritative evidence for his own war crimes trial. Evidence that rests on the testimony of a single eyewitness can be contested in court -- but it is hard to argue with videotape that you ordered to be recorded for your own purposes. Back in 1995, of course, the Bosnian Serb commander did not feel at all threatened by the newly-formed Yugoslav war crimes tribunal; to the contrary, he was openly contemptuous of it. His goal in documenting his own actions was to bolster his image as one of the greatest heroes in Serbian history.

The video above shows Ratko Mladic entering the United Nations "safe area" of Srebrenica around 16:15 on July 11th, 1995. Trailed by his personal video crew, he paraded down the main street, and boasted that "the time has finally come to take revenge on the Turks in this region." "Turks" was a derogatory expression frequently used by Bosnian Serb forces to describe the Bosnian Muslims, Slavs who converted to Islam following the Ottoman conquest of Bosnia in 1463.

It is ironic that Mladic himself has supplied much of the most incriminating and authoritative evidence for his own war crimes trial. Evidence that rests on the testimony of a single eyewitness can be contested in court — but it is hard to argue with videotape that you ordered to be recorded for your own purposes. Back in 1995, of course, the Bosnian Serb commander did not feel at all threatened by the newly-formed Yugoslav war crimes tribunal; to the contrary, he was openly contemptuous of it. His goal in documenting his own actions was to bolster his image as one of the greatest heroes in Serbian history.

 

The map below shows Mladic’s movements on the afternoon and evening of July 11th, following the fall of Srebrenica to Bosnian Serb forces. I have used a red icon to identify events that are confirmed by indisputable video evidence, and a yellow icon for events confirmed by documents and eyewitnesses. (In future posts, I will use a blue icon to denote incidents that rely on contested evidence.) Click on individual icons for more detailed explanations of the events, and hyperlinks to the evidence.


Use Sat view and zoom for precise locations. View in a larger map.

As you can see by clicking the icons, following his triumphant walk through Srebrenica, Mladic drove past the Dutch peacekeeping base at Potocari (yellow icon with dot), where thousands of Muslim refugees from Srebrenica were already beginning to congregate. He spent the evening in the town of Bratunac, five miles to the north, summoning Dutchbat commanders to a meeting in the Hotel Fontana at 2000. See video here of Mladic angrily dressing down the Dutchbat commander, Colonel Thom Karremans, before drinking with him. (2:40 in the video.)

According to documents and eyewitnesses, Mladic met with his own staff at the Bratunac Brigade HQ at 2200, to congratulate them on the fall of Srebrenica and outline plans for an attack on another United Nations "safe area" at Zepa. He returned to the Hotel Fontana (video here) at 23:30 for a second meeting with Dutchbat commanders and Muslim representatives from Srebrenica. 

Mladic and his supporters orchestrated an atmosphere of extreme intimidation around the second Hotel Fontana meeting. Former Dutchbat officers recalled that the Serbs slaughtered a pig outside the window at the beginning of the meeting — a crude message to the Muslim representatives that they risked a similar fate. Mladic told the Muslims that they faced a terrible choice: "to survive or disappear."

A key question at the trial will be precisely when Mladic decided to kill his Muslim male prisoners rather than forcing them to leave Srebrenica. Investigators believe that he took the final decision on the night of July 11-12th. During the first Hotel Fontana meeting at 20:00 on July 11th, he asked Karremans whether the United Nations could arrange transportation for the refugees. (2:19 in this video.) By the morning of July 12th, he announced that he would arrange transportation himself — and would separate the men from the women in order to identify alleged war criminals. By assuming responsibility for transporting the refugees out of Srebrenica, he was also assuming responsibility for their ultimate fate.

I will examine the events of July 12th in a further post.

Michael Dobbs is a prize-winning foreign correspondent and author. Currently serving as a Goldfarb fellow at the Committee on Conscience of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Dobbs is following legal proceedings in The Hague. He has traveled to Srebrenica, Sarajevo and Belgrade, interviewed Mladic’s victims and associates, and is posting documents, video recordings, and intercepted phone calls that shed light on Mladic's personality. Twitter: @michaeldobbs

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