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JUDGEMENT SUMMARY CHAMBERS
(Exclusively for the use of the media. Not an official document)
The Hague, 10 June 2010
Judgement Summary for
Popović et al.
for the former
Please find below the summary of the Judgement read out today by Judge Carmel
Tribunal Pénal International pour The Trial Chamber is sitting today to deliver its Judgement in the case The l’ex-Yougoslavie Prosecutor v. Vujadin Popović, Ljubiša Beara, Drago Nikolić, Ljubomir Borovčanin, Radivoje Miletić, Milan Gvero and Vinko Pandurević. I shall now read a summary of the Trial Chamber’s findings in that Judgement. However, the authoritative account of those findings is contained in the Judgement, which will be made available after this hearing.
At the outset, the Chamber wishes to express its gratitude to all counsel, past and present, the Registry staff, the interpreters and court reporters, the Security Officers and staff at the United Nations Detention Facility, the Trial Chamber’s own staff, and all others who have contributed to the smooth and efficient conduct of this trial. Trial proceedings in this case commenced on 21 August 2006 and concluded on 15 September 2009. In that time, the Trial Chamber has heard or otherwise admitted evidence from 315 witnesses. There are 5,383 exhibits before the Trial Chamber, amounting to 87,392 page numbers.
Over the course of a few days in July 1995, following the fall of Srebrenica, thousands of Bosnian Muslim males were detained in deplorable conditions, transported to various remote locations and summarily executed. In parallel to these mass executions, Bosnian Muslim women, children and the elderly were transferred out of this part of Eastern Bosnia. In the context of the war in the former Yugoslavia, and in the context of human history, these events are arrestive in their scale and brutality.
The Trial Chamber wishes to emphasise that while the horrific crimes committed in and around Srebrenica and Žepa in July 1995 form the basis for this case
http://www.icty.org Media Office/Communications Service Churchillplein 1, 2517 JW The Hague. P.O. Box 13888, 2501 EW The Hague. Netherlands Tel.: +31-70-512-8752; 512-5343; 512-5356 Fax: +31-70-512-5355 By virtue of their acts and omissions, five of the Accused—Vujadin Popović, LjubišaBeara, Drago Nikolić, Ljubomir Borovčanin and Vinko Pandurević—are alleged to be responsible for genocide (count 1); conspiracy to commit genocide (count 2); extermination, a crime against humanity (count 3); murder, a crime against humanity and a violation of the laws or customs of war (counts 4 and 5); persecution, a crime against humanity (count 6);
inhumane acts (forcible transfer), a crime against humanity (count 7); and deportation, a crime against humanity (count 8).
All five Accused are alleged to have been members of the JCE to Murder and the JCE to Forcibly Remove, and are charged under every form of individual responsibility set out in Article 7(1) of the Statute. In addition, Ljubomir Borovčanin and Vinko Pandurević are alleged to be responsible pursuant to superior responsibility under Article 7(3) of the Statute.
By virtue of their acts and omissions, two of the Accused—Radivoje Miletić and Milan Gvero—are alleged to be responsible for murder, a crime against humanity and a violation of the laws or customs of war (counts 4 and 5); persecution, a crime against humanity (count 6); inhumane acts (forcible transfer), a crime against humanity (count 7); and deportation, a crime against humanity (count 8).
Radivoje Miletić and Milan Gvero are alleged to have been members of the JCE to Forcibly Remove, and are charged under every form of individual responsibility set out in Article 7(1) of the Statute.
The Facts I now turn to the Trial Chamber’s findings in relation to the commission of the alleged crimes by the Bosnian Serb Forces.
I note that the Judgement sets out the background of the events alleged from 1992.
For the purpose of this summary, however, the Trial Chamber will limit itself to events that took place between March and September 1995.
In March 1995, Supreme Command Directive 7 was issued by President Karadžić. The Directive set out the criminal plan for an attack against protected UN safe areas aimed at forcing the civilian populations of Srebrenica and Žepa to leave the enclaves. It tasked the Drina Corps to create “an unbearable situation of total insecurity with no hope of further survival or life for the inhabitants of Srebrenica and Žepa”. It also detailed that “the planned and unobtrusively restrictive issuing of permits” should be undertaken so as to limit the supply of material resources to the population and logistics support of the United Nations Protection Force (“UNPROFOR”).
In the implementation of this plan, from at least June of 1995, the aid supply decreased significantly as a result of the Bosnian Serb Army (“VRS”) restrictions, creating an increasingly dire humanitarian situation in the Srebrenica and Žepa enclaves.
On 6 July, the VRS started its military attack on the Srebrenica enclave—known as Krivaja-95. Several days of intense shelling followed, with Srebrenica town and the compounds and observations points of the Dutch Battalion of UNPROFOR (“DutchBat”) being amongst the targets. On 11 July, the enclave, including the town of Srebrenica, fell.
As a result of the attack, from 10 July, thousands of Bosnian Muslims started fleeing from Srebrenica town to the DutchBat compound in Potočari, desperate for protection.
While mostly women, children and the elderly fled to Potočari, Bosnian Muslim men from Srebrenica gathered in villages in the valleys of the Srebrenica enclave. In the late evening, these men formed a column which set off in the direction of Tuzla, which was in territory held by the Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina (“ABiH”). In order to reach Tuzla, the column had to break through VRS-held positions. The column consisted of about ten to fifteen thousand individuals, mostly men, and with both a civilian and a military component.
Meanwhile, three meetings took place between representatives from the VRS and DutchBat at the Hotel Fontana in Bratunac over 11 and 12 July. “Unofficial” representatives of the Bosnian Muslim population also attended the second and third meetings. The parties discussed the logistics of moving over ten thousand Bosnian Muslims from Potočari and its surroundings, and Mladić told the Bosnian Muslim representatives, “You can either survive or disappear. For your survival, I demand that all your armed men…surrender their weapons to the VRS.” By the morning of 12 July, a decision had been taken to separate the Bosnian Muslim men in Potočari and execute them.
On that same day, the VRS dispatched approximately 50 buses to Potočari where members of the Bosnian Serb Forces, that is VRS Forces, Ministry of the Interior in Republika Srpska (“MUP”) Forces, began separating men aged 15 to 65 from the women, children and the elderly who boarded the buses. Already on the verge of a humanitarian disaster, a night of utter misery ensued at the DutchBat compound: people were frightened, some died, members of the Bosnian Serb Forces took away men who did not return, and women were heard screaming, “Let me go,” and “Don’t.” The transfer and separations continued throughout the next day.
Members of the Bosnian Serb Forces confiscated and eventually burned the separated men’s belongings, including passports and identity papers, and detained the men at various houses in Potočari. They were given no food, hardly any water, and sanitary facilities were scarce. Members of the Bosnian Serb Forces transported the separated men towards Bratunac. The Bosnian Serb Forces thwarted efforts by DutchBat soldiers to escort the convoys and record the men’s names.
On 13 July, there were several random killings of Bosnian Muslims by members of the Bosnian Serb Forces including at the Luke School and in Potočari.
By the evening of 13 July, between twenty and thirty thousand Bosnian Muslims had been bused out to ABiH-held territory and no Bosnian Muslims remained in Potočari or Srebrenica. The Trial Chamber has found this constituted forcible transfer, including, by majority, Judge Kwon dissenting, with respect to the civilian component of the column.
Meanwhile, on 12 and 13 July, the VRS deployed several units along various routes in order to engage militarily and block the column of Bosnian Muslims that was moving from Srebrenica to Tuzla. By this point, the murder plan originally directed at the men in Potočari was extended to Bosnian Muslim men who were captured or surrendered from the column. By 13 July, Bosnian Serb Forces had detained approximately six thousand Bosnian Muslim prisoners in the Bratunac area.
The prisoners were forced to surrender their property, which included identity cards, wallets, watches, and food. They were kept in cramped conditions and received some water, although hardly any food. Members of Bosnian Serb Forces did not ask or record names. Some of these detained prisoners became victims of “opportunistic” killings.
On 13 July, VRS Commander Ratko Mladić issued a telling order prohibiting filming and photographing of prisoners, and preventing access by “unauthorized” and “uninvited” entities. At the same time, a series of meetings were held over 13 and 14 July between members of the civilian authorities and VRS members at which the logistics of the killing and burial operations were the central subjects.
On 13 July 1995, the murder operation began in earnest. Members of the Bosnian Serb Forces shot and killed Bosnian Muslim prisoners on the banks of the Jadar River, at an area along a dirt road in the Cerksa Valley, the Bratunac Brigade Headquarters, at Sandići Meadow, and in and around the Vuk Karadžić school in Bratunac town.
On the same day, Bosnian Muslim prisoners, who were captured or surrendered from the column, close to Sandići Meadow, were marched or transported to the nearby Kravica Warehouse. There, what appears to be a busload of prisoners were initially killed after a prisoner had grabbed a weapon, killing one member of the Bosnian Serb Forces and wounding others. What followed this initial killing episode can only be described as a massacre of the prisoners held in the warehouse. Members of the Bosnian Serb Forces besieged the prisoners with gunfire and grenades. The assault upon the prisoners lasted through the night. By the end, at least 1,000 Bosnian Muslim men had been killed.
Excavators arrived on 14 and 15 July to remove the bodies.
Further mass executions followed in Zvornik shortly after. Over 13 to 17 July, the detained Bosnian Muslim men were taken by the Bosnian Serb Forces in buses and trucks from Bratunac to various places of detention in Zvornik. The men endured a brief but horrific period of detention in various public buildings, mainly schools. The facilities were woefully inadequate; the men were taunted along ethnic lines and largely denied food and water. An atmosphere of terror was maintained through beatings and sporadic executions.
Their spirits broken, the Bosnian Muslim men were taken for execution. Some were blindfolded and their hands were tied, and at one detention site they were given a final cup of water. Then they were transported to nearby locations, and shot. This scene played out at a field in Orahovac, a dam at Petkovci, a gravel pit at Kozluk and a farm in Pilica. In addition, hundreds were killed inside the Pilica Cultural Centre, an execution for which there are no known survivors.
Loaders and excavators were either already at the sites at the time of the executions or arrived soon thereafter to bury the dead in mass graves. In the wake of these mass executions, the Bosnian Serb Forces ordered a “mopping up” operation throughout the enclave and executions on a smaller scale continued in the Zvornik area between 16 and 27 July.
The members of the column who had not surrendered or been captured, had continued to move towards ABiH-held territory. By 15 July, the column had reached the Zvornik Brigade’s area of responsibility and heavy fighting took place. However, on 16 and 17 July, a corridor, several hundreds metres wide, was opened in the defence lines of the Bosnian Serb Forces, allowing a significant part of the column to pass to ABiH-held territory.
These Bosnian Muslim men escaped the murder operation.
During September and October 1995, in an effort to conceal the killings, the VRS, with the assistance of the civilian authorities, carried out a large scale operation in the areas of the Zvornik and Bratunac Brigades during which bodies of execution victims were moved from their primary graves to secondary locations.
An extensive amount of forensic and demographic evidence was presented in this trial. This evidence is analysed in detail in the Judgement. Based on this evidence, the Trial Chamber has found that at least 5,336 identified individuals were killed in the executions following the fall of Srebrenica. However, noting that the evidence before it is not all encompassing, the Trial Chamber is satisfied that the number of identified individuals will rise. The Trial Chamber therefore considers that the number of individuals killed in the executions following the fall of Srebrenica could well be as high as 7,826.
The scale and nature of the murder operation, with the staggering number of killings, the systematic and organised manner in which it was carried out, the targeting and relentless pursuit of the victims, and the plain intention—apparent from the evidence—to eliminate every Bosnian Muslim male who was captured or surrendered proves beyond reasonable doubt that this was genocide.
As these events played out north of Srebrenica, the VRS also maintained a military focus on the Žepa enclave. The VRS initiated discussions regarding the removal of the population of Žepa before arriving militarily at the enclave. Three rounds of “negotiations” took place. At each juncture, military force was the means used to compel concessions from the Bosnian Muslim population of Žepa.