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Court Hears of Mladic Rage at Bratunac
Ex-Dutch UN official speaks of Serb intimidation in meetings with peacekeepers o
n outskirts of Srebrenica.
By Velma Saric - International Justice - ICTY
TRI Issue 667,
29 Oct 10
A former Dutch military official told the trial of Zdravko Tolimir this week of
the intimidating atmosphere in meetings with Bosnian Serb Army, VRS, officials i
n Bratunac in July 1995.
Evert Rave was the liaison officer and assistant commander for terrain security
of the United Nations Protection Force, UNPROFOR Dutch battalion stationed at Po
tocari, in the municipality of Srebrenica in July 1995.
Appearing as a prosecution witness in the Tolimir trial, he gave testimony this
week regarding a meeting held on July 11, 1995 in Bratunac, between VRS commande
r Ratko Mladic and UNPROFOR Dutch battalion commander Thomas Karremans.
Tolimir, the former assistant commander for military intelligence and security i
n the Republika Srpska, RS, army general staff, is charged with eight counts inc
luding genocide, conspiring to perpetrate genocide, extermination, murder, expul
sion, forced transfer of population and deportation of Bosniaks from Srebrenica
and Zepa in July 1995.
Rave previously testified before the Hague tribunal in the 2000 trial of VRS gen
eral Radislav Krstic - who was found guilty of complicity in genocide and senten
ced to 35 years imprisonment - and his testimony from that trial was included on
the record of the Tolimir trial this week. During the Krstic trial, Rave appear
ed as a protected witness, but he asked to testify without protection measures i
n the Tolimir trial.
Reading the resume of Rave’s statement from 2000, prosecutor Peter McCloskey repea
ted the chronology of VRS attacks against the enclave, including attacks on UN o
bservation posts on July 6, 2005.
On the afternoon of July 11, Rave returned to the Potocari base, where he estima
ted that there were “10,000 to 15,000 scared Muslims in the UN compound”. In the eve
ning, Karremans ordered Rave to join him for a meeting in Bratunac with Mladic a
nd other VRS representatives.
This meeting on July 11 in the Fontana hotel is seen as a key event in trying to
establish the actions and intentions of the VRS during this time and has been p
art of every Srebrenica-related trial.
“Entering, I saw that some [UNPROFOR Dutchbat] soldiers had left their observation
posts and surrendered to the VRS,” Rave’s 2000 statement continued.
It also included an observation regarding how Mladic shouted at Dutchbat represe
ntatives during the meeting at the Fontana hotel.
Rave recalled this week how he had described the incident in his notebook, writi
ng that “it seemed to me like they were going to take us out and shoot us all outs
ide”.
He said that, despite having heard Mladic shouting very loudly, he was unable to
hear much of the details, because “Petar [the interpreter] was translating to Lie
utenant Karremans, and was sitting far from [Rave]”.
Rave told the Tolimir trial that another meeting held late in the evening of tha
t same day had included a representative of the Srebrenica Bosniaks, Nesib Mandz
ic. Mladic had previously ordered his troops “to find a Muslim and bring him at 11
o’clock”, he said.
Mandzic was the school principal in town and was, according to Rave, “scared” becaus
e “Mladic told him (Mandzic) that he was holding the fate of his people in his han
ds”.
In the beginning of the meeting, a strange event “seemed to additionally increase
pressure on the already scared Mandzic”, Rave added.
“A very loudly screeching pig could be heard from the outside,” Rave said, adding th
at he had recorded at the time that “somebody was slaughtering a pig”, noting the “smi
rk on some Bosnian Serb soldiers’ faces”.
Judge Antoine Kesia-Mbe Mindua said he wanted the witness to come back to this i
ssue and explain it in more detail.
“I had the impression that this was to scare and terrify the people on the non-Ser
b side, it was Lieutenant Kosoric who started smirking and some others on the Se
rb side; again, we heard the pig’s screeching, and as soon as it finished the wind
ow was closed and the curtains were drawn, so that the meeting began on a horrib
le note,” Rave said. “I had the impression that they had planned this beforehand, kn
owing our reaction.”
Judge Prisca Matimba Nyambe then asked the witness what it was that he found ter
rifying about the pig’s slaughter.
“It was the sound, it sounded very un-normal and bizarre, I had the impression tha
t they were trying to say that what they were doing to the pig, they could to th
e Muslims, too,” Rave said.
“I didn’t know about the religious aspect and Muslims not eating pork, but I guess i
t wasn’t specifically about the pig, what they were doing outside they could have
done to another animal, a dog, a cat or another animal.”
In the cross-examination, Tolimir who is defending himself, devoted a large part
of his questioning to this issue. He first suggested that the animal in questio
n was not a pig, but another creature.
Rave, however, said that he “relied on personal experience from his grandpa s farm
in making his judgment”.
Tolimir then pointed out that a significant number of Muslims in Bosnia “ate pork
despite the religious canon”, which prohibits observant Muslims from eating pork p
roducts.
Finally, the general pointed to a July 10 document from the Bratunac agricultura
l estate which referred to “providing a male pig, up to 80 kg in weight, for the n
eeds of the Dutch soldiers at the Fontana hotel”.
Rave, however, pointed out that the soldiers at the hotel were not “guests, but ho
stages”.
The first indictment against Tolimir was presented on February 25, 2005, and he
was arrested on May 31, 2007. On December 16, 2009 he pleaded not guilty to all
counts.
Velma Saric is an IWPR-trained journalist in Sarajevo.