Written by: Andy Wilcoxson

The testimony of Col Radovan Paponjak continued at the trial of Slobodan Milosevic on Monday. Paponjak is the former head of the SUP in Pec and has been giving evidence relating to the Dubrava Prison in Istok.

Col. Paponjak has testified that 93 people were killed at the Dubrava prison between May 19th and May 24, 1999. He said that the dead were inmates and prison staff killed by the NATO bombing.

Today Paponjak said that some prisoners may have been shot by prison guards while trying to escape. According to one of the documents he obtained from the prison, the bombing damaged the perimeter wall around the prison and a number of prisoners attempted to escape through the damaged wall. The document says, "measures were taken" by prison authorities to prevent the break-out. Under questioning from Judge Kwon, Paponjak said that "measures taken" could have meant shooting, but he was not sure.

President Milosevic also presented a document that would seem to indicate that some prisoners could have been shot while trying to escape. He presented the report of a Spanish forensic team, dated June 3, 2000. The report pertained to autopsies allegedly carried out on victims from the Dubrava Prison. The report said that of the 60 bodies autopsied, 45 were definitely killed by bombing and 53 were killed either by bombing or were killed with weapons "possibly during an escape attempt."

Milosevic played more videotape from the crime scene investigation carried out at the prison. On the tape the corpse of Januz Krasniqi could be seen. Krasniqi is listed in Schedule J of the indictment as having been executed by Serbian police, but from the videotape we can see that he had not been shot. No gunshot wounds or blood could be seen anywhere on Krasniqi's body (he was wearing light blue clothing so blood would have been easy to see).

Krasniqi obviously died as the result of blast injuries from the NATO bombing. With blast injuries, the force of the bomb blast causes internal injuries (the pressure wave can cause a person's blood vessels to burst, their lungs can explode, etc...), while leaving the outside of the body looking intact. Krasniqi's body appeared to be intact, clearly he was not the victim of an execution. If he had been shot with a machinegun or hit with a grenade, he would have been a bloody mess.

In fact, the corpses of all 93 of the victims could be seen on the tape. Most of them were not identified, but Krasniqi was among a small group of corpses that had been identified.

Col. Paponjak denied that any executions had taken place at the prison. He said that if any executions had been carried out that he would have known about it. With that his examination-in-chief came to an end and he was cross-examined by Mr. Nice.

The prosecution's case is very weak on the Dubrava Prison. Dr. Eric Baccard testified, as a prosecution witness, that a number of bodies exhumed at a cemetery near Istok had died as the result of gunshot wounds. The only problem was that he couldn't say whether those bodies had come from the Dubrava Prison or not.

The prosecution also relied on the testimony of Jackie Rowland, a BBC reporter who was at the prison at practically the same times as Col. Paponjak. Her testimony did not help the prosecution at all. She testified that she did not know how the corpses that she saw at the prison were killed, she could not see them because the bodies were covered by bed sheets.

In short, there is no conclusive proof that anybody was shot at the Dubrava prison. Baccard didn't know where the bodies he examined came from, and Ms. Rowland didn't know how the bodies she saw had died.

Ms. Rowland did testify that the prison was bombed between May 21st and May 24th. This is what Col. Paponjak says too, but Mr. Nice denies that this is the case. Mr. Nice claims that there was no bombing at that time - he says that is when Serbian police were executing the prisoners.

Mr. Nice says claims that NATO bombed the prison after May 21st are attempts to "cover-up." Mr. Nice, who conveniently ignores the testimony of his own witness says claims that NATO bombed the prison are attempts to conceal the responsibility of the Serbian police.

Col. Paponjak denied that there was any conspiracy to cover things up. He said that the reports and documents that he relied on in his testimony were written contemporaneously. He said that there was no possibility of a cover-up, because nobody would have known what they were supposed to be covering-up.

He said that the story of an execution at the prison was not invented until much later. In fact when one reviews the testimony of Ms. Rowland, one sees that the story did not materialize until the middle of August 1999.

Mr. Nice spent the remaining part of his cross-examination asking general questions about the situation in Pec. Those questions did not relate to any specific charges in the indictment. The cross-examination will continue on Tuesday.

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