Saturday, July 17, 2010

War Crimes: Balkans - 18 wartime notebooks believed to have been written by Ratko Mladic released

This article originally appeared in International Justice - ICTY, produced by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting,

New details have emerged on the trove of material Serbian authorities seized last February from family members of Hague indictee Ratko Mladic.

Prosecutors at the Hague tribunal released this week a list of every item seized during the search of properties of relatives of the former Bosnian Serb army leader, including the 18 wartime notebooks believed to have been written by Mladic himself, as well as about 200 additional items, including documents, medical papers, DVDs, audiotapes, and floppy disks.

This material is still being “transcribed, translated and analysed by the prosecution and may be the subject of further filings in the future”, wrote Hildegard Uertz-Retzlaff, a senior trial lawyer on the Radovan Karadzic case.

Details about the contents remain limited, but there are now more clues as to the substance of the additional documents.

For example, at number 23 on the list is a “/?Photocopy of/ fax with map of school in Karakaj which was used as a detention centre for prisoners from Srebrenica who were taken to mass executions sites indicating where Mladic was sighted”.

Another document on the list is described as an “original handwritten letter to Ratko Mladic from/signature illegible/ proposing a quick attack and imprisonment of UNPROFOR members, undated”.

Mladic is charged with taking about 200 United Nations military observers and peacekeepers hostage in 1995, but whether this document relates to those charges remains unclear.

At number 55 on the list is an “original [Bosnian Serb army] main staff dispatch …dated 23 August 1994…addressed to Ratko Mladic: request for a meeting to discuss changes of [Bosnian Serb army] personnel by Radovan Karadzic without asking the main staff”.

Former Bosnian Serb president Karadzic is currently standing trial at the tribunal, and prosecutors on his case have asked to admit material from the 18 notebooks to their exhibit lists, a request that judges are still deliberating.

Karadzic asked that his trial be suspended while he reviews all of the material – over 3,000 pages - but his request was denied.

Mladic, the commander of the main staff of the Bosnian Serb army from 1992 to 1996, is wanted for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Like Karadzic, Mladic is charged with responsibility for the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, the 44-month shelling of Sarajevo, as well as deportation, extermination, murder and persecutions of non-Serb civilians in various Bosnian municipalities. He has evaded arrest since 1995, and is currently thought to be hiding in Serbia.

This week’s documents also show that materials were seized not only from the home of Mladic’s wife, but also from the office of his son, Darko Mladic, located in the same Belgrade building. Authorities found DVDs, CDs, floppy disks, mobile phones and SIM cards in Darko’s office, according to tribunal investigator Erin Gallagher.

In previous filings that dealt with the notebooks, Karadzic prosecutors say there are six specific entries which are relevant to their case. These mainly deal with meetings among high-level Bosnian Serb officials between 1992 and 1995.

According to the brief descriptions, these entries deal with the military and political situation in Bosnia, the threat of sanctions by the international community, and the strategic objectives of the Bosnian Serb army.

In addition, one entry details a meeting shortly after the July 1995 Srebrenica massacre with generals from the UN Protection Force, UNPROFOR, “during which treatment of the Srebrenica population was discussed”.

Prosecutors say the notebooks have been reviewed and verified as authentic by General Manojlo Milovanovic, former chief-of-staff and deputy commander of the main staff of the Bosnian Serb army. He was a “close friend and associate of General Ratko Mladic before, during and after the conflict in Bosnia and Hercegovina”, prosecutors stated in an earlier motion.

Prosecutors in the cases of Serbian nationalist politician Vojislav Seselj, ex-Serbian security officials Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic, former Bosnian Serb interior ministry officials Mico Stanisic and Stojan Zupljanin, and six Bosnian Croat leaders, known as Jadranko Prlic et al, are also seeking to enter the notebooks as exhibits in those trials.

A prosecution motion in the Stanisic and Zupljanin case cites a meeting referred to in the notebooks from June 2, 1992, attended by Mladic, Karadzic and other officials, where the “problem” of “14,500 Muslims” is discussed. At that same meeting, another official “confirms the takeover” of the northern Bosnian town of Doboj, and the fact that “the enemy is disarmed and that functioning authorities have been established”.

The prosecution motion in the Seselj case cites a meeting from May 22, 1992 which summarises “the situation in Sarajevo by noting the ongoing process of replenishing and enlarging units and problems regarding the administration in Vogosca (more crimes, volunteerism and interpersonal dislike)”.

Rachel Irwin is an IWPR reporter in The Hague.