by Lj. SMAJLOVIC
While she talked, General Krstic held his head in his hands and did not look towards the witness stand. When the judge asked the witness whether she wanted to say anything to the defendant, the witness addressed Krstic in a tone devoid of anger that still betrayed remnants of respect for men in uniform. “I would like to ask Mister General whether there is any hope that some of them are still, somehow, somewhere, alive, only cannot contact us?” This was not cynicism. Woman’s voice still betrayed hope.
Several days later, on August 4, 2000, a recording of Krstic’s interview with chief Tribunal’s investigator on the Srebrenica case Jean-Rene Ruez was shown in the courtroom. Then it became evident that Krstic accused his superior Ratko Mladic and another five officers of slaughter of Muslims in Srebrenica. He described the incident as a war crime committed by “madmen”. Besides Mladic, Krstic charged Colonel Ljubo Beara, Major Pecanac, Leutenant Misa Pelemis, Major Malinovic and Leutenant Colonel Vujadin Popovic. General Krstic said that on July 12, 1995, between 3,500 and 4,000 Muslims who were trying to break through to Tuzla in a long column were captured.
“All of them were handed over to Mladic,” Krstic stated. They were subjected to “alleged security processing” and “later, what happened - happened”.
Responding to Ruez’ question about what happened, Krstic replies: “based on what I know, they were executed”.
The Hague indictment of Ratko Mladic for “genocide, participation in genocide, crimes against humanity and violation of laws and customs of warfare,” among other charges the wartime commander of the Army of the Republic of Srpska with the murder of “several thousands of Bosnian Muslim men” after the fall of Srebrenica. Although our and international public customarily mentions the figure of 8,000 dead and missing Srebrenica Muslims, the verdict in General Krstic’s trial admits that “it is impossible to precisely determine the number of men” executed by the Serb forces after the taking of Srebrenica in July 1995 and quotes the “conservative expert estimate” that “the minimum number of bodies” recovered so far from mass graves is 2028 and that according to the same “conservative estimates” about 7,500 persons are listed as “missing”. The Hague Tribunal accepts the possibility that at first “only military age men” were the target for executions, but it concludes that the original goal of ethnic cleansing through forced relocation of population “was transformed into a murderous plan to once and for all destroy the male population of Srebrenica”.
Three generations of Srebrenica men were wiped off the face of the Earth. General Krstic did not benefit much, as far as his sentence is concerned, from apparently showing a certain amount if unease during the operation Srebrenica and for preventing reprisals against civilians in Zepa when after the taking of Srebrenica he was put in charge of the attack on Zepa protected enclave. He was sentenced to 46 years in prison, and the judges, despite Krstic’s willingness to accuse General Mladic, concluded that he did not demonstrate “cooperativeness” with respect to the Prosecutor’s Office (readiness to “cooperate” with the Prosecutor’s Office is the only acceptable “mitigating circumstance” based on the Tribunal’s Statute). “His life story is a story about a professional soldier who failed to confront insane orders of his superiors,” the verdict states.
Given what happened to General Krstic in the Hague, it is not difficult to guess what attitude the Tribunal would take with respect to the man who issued “insane orders”. Also, given the evidence that has so far been presented to the public, it is unlikely that in any local court – if General Mladic were to face our judiciary – General Mladic would have been able to keep the image of a war hero, which he still enjoys in some circles in Serbia. It should not be forgotten that General Zoran Stankovic, head of the Military Medical Academy in Beglrade, who appeared in Krstic’s trial as an expert for defense and a man whose patriotism has never been questioned, has stated these days (Nacional, January 20, 2003) that he had participated in exhumations of the victims from Srebrenica and that 2082 bodies also included a woman and seven children. “I have told Ratko Mladic that if he wanted to defend his honor, he must face the court and as the commander of the army that participated in those crimes explain what happened there. However, after hearing that, Mladic got angry with me,” Zoran Stankovic concluded.