22.08.2006.

TOLIMIR REQUESTED CHEMICAL WEAPONS TO BE USED IN ZEPA

As the prosecutor continues his opening statement, he uses VRS documents, transcripts of intercepted conversations and video footage of the events in Srebrenica and its environs in July 1995 to illustrate the direct ties of each accused with the events described in the indictment

As he continued his opening statement at the trial for the crimes in Srebrenica and Zepa, prosecutor Peter McCloskey today briefly went through the key military documents, transcripts of intercepted conversations and video footage he will be relying on to prove the direct ties of each of the seven accused with the events described in the indictment.

After noting yesterday that “criminal orders in war are as a rule issued verbally”, McCloskey today mentioned a few exceptions to the rule. One of the most striking ones is a report sent on 21 July 1995 by General Zdravko Tolimir from Zepa to General Radomir Miletic, acting Chief of General Staff of the VRS. Tolimir is asking for help to crush some BH Army strongholds, expressing his view that “the best way to do it would be to use chemical weapons”. In the same report, Chemical Zdravko goes even further, proposing strikes against refugee columns leaving Zepa, because that would “force the Muslim fighters to surrender quickly”, in his opinion. Zdravko Tolimir was indicted together with other two members of the VRS Main Staff, Radomir Miletic and Milan Gvero, but unlike them, he is still a fugitive from justice.

The VRS documents in the possession of the prosecution, according to McCloskey, show that General Miletic was “the key person informing President Karadzic” about all the developments in Srebrenica and its environs, while General Gvero was “the eyes and ears of Ratko Mladic in the Srebrenica operation”.

The key document relating to Vinko Pandurevic, commander of the Zvornik Brigade, according to the prosecution, is his extraordinary combat report of 15 July 1995 in which he says he is under fierce attack by the BH Army 2nd Corps. “The large number of prisoners housed in the schools in the brigade area of responsibility are an additional burden”. At that time, there were several thousand prisoners in schools in the Zvornik area, guarded by the troops from Pandurevic’s brigade. His engineer unit was digging mass graves in Orahovac, at the Petkovci dam and other execution sites in the area.

Ljubomir Borovcanin commanded the joint forces of the Republika Srpska Interior Ministry (MUP). On 13 July 1995, he was in Kravica with Zoran Petrovic Pirocanac, a Belgrade reporter, at the precise time of the massacre in the warehouse of the local co-op. They saw the piles of corpses at the entrance to the warehouse and heard the fire from automatic weapons. All the commander of the MUP forces did at the time was to take a member of his unit who had gotten burned on the hot barrel of his gun, to the clinic in Bratunac. The same day in the afternoon, in an intercepted conversation, Radislav Krstic, Drina Corps commander, asked Borovcanin, “how is it going?” Borovcanin replied, “It’s going well, I don’t have any problems.”

Ljubisa Beara participated in the Srebrenica operation as the security service chief of the VRS Main Staff. He appears in several intercepts quoted by the prosecutor today. Among them is the notorious conversation with General Krstic on 15 July 1995 in which Beara complains he has “3,5000 more packages to distribute”, but has no people to do it. According to the prosecutor, the “packages” are prisoners and “distribution” is liquidation. The prisoners were in fact liquidated the next day at the Branjevo farm and the Pilica Culture Hall by the members of the 10th Sabotage Detachment.

Another person who played an important role in the “distribution”, according to the prosecutor, was the security chief in the Drina Corps, Vujadin Popovic. On 16 July, on the day of the executions in Branjevo and Pilica, he urgently requested 500 liters of diesel fuel “lest the job I’m doing should stop”. The request was made in an intercepted conversation and was logged in the logbook of the Zvornik Brigade duty officer. Popovic duly signed the receipt for 500 liters of diesel. According to the prosecutor, the fuel was needed for the buses used to transport more than a thousand prisoners from the school in Kula to the execution site in Branjevo in groups of fifty.

As for the direct ties of the accused Drago Nikolic with the events in the indictment, the prosecutor illustrated them with the records of personnel and movement of vehicles of the Zvornik Brigade military police between 13 and 17 July 1995. The records were very meticulous: they show that the military police officer, under Nikolic’s command, mostly moved between the sites where the captured Muslims were held and the sites where they were executed.

After the prosecutor, the floor was taken by American lawyer John Ostojich, representing Ljubisa Beara, who started his opening statement. He will continue tomorrow and complete it in the morning. The defense counsel for Drago Nikolic will speak next and then the court will hear Milan Gvero with a statement without taking a solemn oath.