Last Updated: Thursday, 31 July 2014, 17:47 GMT

Witness Describes Bosniaks Jumping to Their Death

Publisher Institute for War and Peace Reporting
Author Velma Saric
Publication Date 27 February 2009
Citation / Document Symbol TU No 590
Cite as Institute for War and Peace Reporting, Witness Describes Bosniaks Jumping to Their Death, 27 February 2009, TU No 590, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/49aceb421e.html [accessed 2 August 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

He says Bosniaks captured following fall of Srebrenica died after leaping from windows of school.

By Velma Saric in Sarajevo (TU No 590, 27-Feb-09)

Milorad Trbic, on trial at the Bosnian War Crimes Chamber in Sarajevo.
A witness in the trial of a Bosnian Serb officer charged with genocide in Srebrenica this week said he saw captured Bosniaks jumping to their death from a school's windows to escape Serb detention.

Mile Babic, an ex-military policeman, told the trial of Milorad Trbic that he saw "10 to 15 prisoners jumping out of the [Vuk Karadzic] school windows" in the town of Bratunac in the days following the fall of the enclave. None of them survived the fall, he said.

When Judge Davorin Jukic asked the witness whether anyone had been shooting at the prisoners as they jumped, he said they had not been. He said the detainees died from falling onto concrete and some tables that were stacked beneath the windows.

Trbic, the former assistant commander of security in the Zvornik Brigade of the Bosnian Serb Army, VRS, is on trial at the Bosnian War Crimes Chamber in Sarajevo.

His brigade is alleged to have been directly involved in mass executions of captured Bosniaks after the fall of Srebrenica on July 11, 1995.

About 8,000 Bosniak men and boys were killed after the enclave was overrun by Bosnian Serb forces.

According to the indictment against Trbic, hundreds of Bosniak men and boys who were captured trying to escape Srebrenica after its fall were taken to the nearby Serb-held town of Bratunac and detained in the Vuk Karadzic elementary school.

Between July 13 and 15, 1995, the indictment says, detained Bosniaks were "summarily executed, inside and outside the school".

This week, Babic told the court about what he witnessed in Bratunac following the fall of the enclave, although he mentioned no specific dates.

He said the prisoners he saw there were "exhausted and frightened". He added that although he heard continuous gunfire coming from the direction of the school, he did not see any Bosniaks being executed.

Although Trbic was initially indicted for genocide by the Hague tribunal, his case was transferred to the Bosnian state court for trial. Proceedings against him started on November 8, 2007, and are still in the prosecution phase.

When Trbic's defence lawyer asked Babic whether his unit was involved in joint operations with the Zvornik brigade, he said he was not sure.

He denied having any direct knowledge of his own Bratunac brigade working together with Trbic's Zvornik brigade on the tasks described in the indictment.

The witness also said at that time, he saw Bosniak men being transported in buses to the Bratunac stadium.

The stadium is mentioned in the indictment as a place where between 1,000 and 1,500 Bosniak detainees were held and later executed.

Prosecutors claim "Trbic personally shot at least 10 detained Bosniaks [with] an automatic rifle" at the stadium.

Judge Jukic asked Babic to describe what he saw at the stadium when he arrived there.

"I heard gun shots, but I did not see anything," replied Babic.

The judge then referred to an earlier statement from Babic in which he said he had seen Serb soldiers collecting dead bodies in Bratunac, and asked him to explain this.

"I saw dead bodies being collected from behind the Bratunac high school, but not from the city stadium," replied the witness.

Babic also said that a few days after the fall of Srebrenica, he saw former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and his military commander Ratko Mladic in a hotel in Bratunac.

Karadzic was arrested in Belgrade in July last year and is currently awaiting trial at the Hague tribunal, while Mladic is still on the run. They have both been charged with the 1995 Srebrenica genocide.

Babic said that some ten days after the fall of Srebrenica, he and his unit went to Glogova, a village near Bratunac, which was under the jurisdiction of the Bratunac brigade.

"We were told that we would guard somebody and some victims would be buried," he told the court.

"When we got there, I heard some diggers doing something in the woods, but I did not see what they were doing. That was the only time I was there."

Prosecutors claim that several hundred Bosniak men and boys - the victims of the mass executions that followed the fall of Srebrenica - were buried in Glogova on or around July 19.

At the end of this week's hearings, Judge Jukic asked the witness whether he knew the defendant.

"His face is familiar to me, I might have seen him a few times in Bratunac, but I never had any personal contact with him," said Babic.

"Was that during the war?" asked the judge.

"No, that was before the war," replied the witness.

The trial continues next week.

Velma Saric is an IWPR-trained reporter in Sarajevo.
Copyright notice: © Institute for War & Peace Reporting

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