THE HAGUE | 21.03.2012.

FRAUD OR NOT FRAUD

Forensic document examiner David Browne called by Jovica Stanisic’s defense contends that most of Ratko Mladic’s notebooks ‘contain some anomalies but there is no definitive proof of fraud’. As the expert witness explained, the damage sustained by one of the notebooks is the ‘strongest indicator of possible forgery in the whole series’, but it didn’t necessarily mean that the notebooks were actually forged

Forensic document examiner David Browne, expert witness called by Jovica Stanisic, contends that most of Ratko Mladic’s notebooks produced from mid-1991 to the end of 1996 ‘contain some anomalies but there is no definitive proof of fraud’. Some of the notebooks he examined have missing pages and others contain ‘parallel’ entries, from the same time period, Browne said. One of the notebook contained corrections, and another had ‘pages which are not aligned’.

In Browne’s view, notebook no. 16 is the most suspicious. It has been ‘substantially damaged’ and the covers are loose. Some sheets are ‘barely attached’ and others are not aligned. Browne concluded in his report that the level of damage to notebook no. 16 was the ‘strongest indicator of possible forgery in the whole series’. The witness said the condition of the notebook could be explained either by ‘defects in the manufacture’ or ‘fraud’. However, based on his analysis, the witness couldn’t claim with any certainty that the notebook was a forgery. Browne nevertheless ‘cannot rule out the possibility that some pages were replaced’ or that others were inserted between the covers with text already on them. This could be done by removing the excess glue on the inserted pages with a special device with an extremely sharp blade called a ‘guillotine’, Browne explained.

Yesterday, Browne claimed that the most likely reason why the diaries were so neat was because the entries were written later from notes. This led the prosecutor to show the witness footage of Mladic’s meeting with the Dutch Battalion commander in Srebrenica, Ton Karremans, in the Fontana Hotel on 11 July 1995. The recording shows Mladic busily writing in a notebook with a watermark that Browne examined later, the prosecutor insisted. The witness said the video did nothing to change his opinion that Mladic may have copied the notes he had taken at meetings at a later time.

In the re-examination, Browne confirmed that when he wrote his report he did give some weight to ‘external factors’ such as the fact that there were no statements of Serbian MUP officers involved in the investigation of the notebooks and that there are no photos of the location where the notebooks were found. This is in Browne’s view an indication that the notebooks could be a forgery. Browne nevertheless concluded that he didn’t know what the notebooks had been through before they came to his possession.

Yesterday, the defense lawyer presented the defense’s position on the notebooks in closed session, and today he asked the prosecutor to do the same. The notebooks were not all filled in contemporaneously with the events described in the entries, the prosecutor responded. They ‘may have been altered’ or ‘damaged’. As the prosecutor insisted, he limited his cross-examination to the indicators of possible alterations and damage.

In some of his notebooks, Mladic mentions the former chiefs of the Serbian State Security Service, Stanisic more often than Simatovic. They are both on trial for the crimes of the police and paramilitary formations under their control in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.