ICTY Significantly Reduces Toll of Srebrenica Massacre, but Continues to Exaggerate Body Count
Although the Karadzic Judgment finds that far fewer Bosnian-Muslim men were executed during the July 1995 Srebrenica Massacre than the 8,000 frequently alleged by the media, their estimate of 5,115 victims is still too high.
www.slobodan-milosevic.org - November 14, 2016
Written by: Andy Wilcoxson
In its verdict convicting former Bosnian-Serb president Radovan Karadzic, the ICTY trial chamber rejected his defense that mass-graves associated with the Srebrenica massacre also contain the remains of soldiers lawfully killed in combat. According to the Karadzic Trial Chamber's findings, “there is no evidence to prove the existence of mixed Srebrenica-related gravesites” and “all the bodies found in Srebrenica-related primary and secondary gravesites can be linked to the corresponding scheduled killing incidents.”
These findings contradict the earlier findings of the Krstic Trial chamber, which conceded that one “cannot rule out the possibility that a percentage of the bodies in the gravesites examined may have been of men killed in combat.”
The Karadzic Chamber determined that “at least 5,115 men were killed by members of the Bosnian Serb Forces in July 1995 in Srebrenica.” This figure is roughly in line with the Tolimir trial chamber’s finding that “Bosnian Serb Forces killed at least 4,970 Bosnian Muslims.” While it is notable that these figures are significantly below the “8,000 men and boys” often alleged by the media, and a far cry from the 8,372 “victims of genocide” alleged by the memorial in Potocari, they are still too high. The number of Bosnian-Muslims executed by Bosnian-Serb forces in July 1995 is likely closer to 3,900.
The Karadzic and Tolimir chambers assume that every body in every grave associated with Srebrenica belongs to a Bosnian-Muslim who was captured and then unlawfully executed by Bosnian-Serb forces, and they exclude the possibility that the remains of Bosnian-Muslim soldiers who were legally killed in combat could have been buried in the same graves together with prisoners who were illegally executed even though this is almost certainly what happened.
The Mass Grave at Branjevo Military Farm
Evidence associated with the mass grave at Branjevo Military Farm proves, contrary to the Karadzic Chamber’s findings, that many of the bodies found in Srebrenica-related gravesites can NOT be linked to the mass executions enumerated in the scheduled killing incidents listed in the indictment.
The Karadzic Trial Chamber found that “DNA analysis has led to the identification of 1,735 individuals found at the Branjevo Military Farm gravesite and its associated Cancari Road secondary gravesites as persons missing following the take-over of Srebrenica.”
The Trial Chamber explains that “Towards the end of September 1995, as part of the reburial operation to conceal the Srebrenica killings the bodies initially buried at the Branjevo Military Farm were reburied in some of the Cancari Road secondary gravesites.”
They explain that “The victims who had been previously detained at the Kula School and subsequently killed at the Branjevo Military Farm, as well as the victims who were killed at the Pilica Cultural Centre, were all buried at the Branjevo Military Farm primary gravesite and were subsequently reburied at the Cancari Road secondary gravesites.”
Specifically, the Chamber notes that “Of the 13 known secondary mass graves along the Cancari Road, only Cancari Road 4 to 6 and 8 to 12 have been linked to the Branjevo Military Farm primary gravesite.”
The Karadzic Trial Chamber arrived at the number 1,735 by adding the 138 bodies identified by the ICMP in the primary mass grave at Branjevo Military Farm to the 1,597 bodies identified by the ICMP in the associated secondary grave sites along Cancari Road (138 + 1,597 = 1,735).
To corroborate its finding, the Karadzic Chamber notes that “This number is consistent with other evidence before the Chamber: Ahmo Hasic estimated that there were 1,000 to 1,500 people who had been killed at the Branjevo Military Farm, and Erdemovic estimated that between 1,000 and 1,200 Bosnian Muslim detainees were killed there. In relation to the killings at the Pilica Cultural Centre, [Jevto] Bogdanovic estimated that there were approximately 500 there.”
The Trial Chamber therefore concludes that “on 15 and 16 July 1995, at least 1,735 Bosnian Muslim men were killed at the Kula School, the Branjevo Military Farm, and the Pilica Cultural Centre by members of the Bosnian Serb Forces, including members of the 10th Sabotage Detachment and VRS soldiers from Bratunac. Some of these Bosnian Muslim men were killed at the Kula School, about 1,200 were killed at the Branjevo Military Farm, and about 500 were killed at the Pilica Cultural Centre.”
Unreliable Testimony of Hasic, Erdemovic, and Bogdanovic Relied on by Karadzic Chamber
The Karadzic Trial Chamber’s findings rely on eyewitness testimony that is unreliable, and they ignore hard physical evidence that is indisputable.
The Karadzic Trial chamber relies on Jevto Bogdanovic’s estimate of the number of people killed at the Pilica Cultural Center despite the fact that his evidence is hearsay that he overheard when he was drinking. Footnote 18643 of the Karadzic judgment directs you to page 11333 of the Popovic trial transcript where Bogdanovic is testifying, and here is the testimony you find when you look-up that transcript:
Q. When you were drinking that day, could you say what it was you were drinking?
A. Rakija brandy.
Q. Where did you get that?
A. Neighbours, the locals, brought that to us. We drank for courage, to be able to sustain looking at the blood and the bodies, and the brains of the people.
Q. During the course of that day, did you hear anybody mention a number of how many bodies were in the dom?
A. I heard somebody on the road saying that there were 550, but we ourselves did not count.
There is also reason to doubt the accuracy of estimates put forward by Drazen Erdemovic and Ahmo Hasic with regard to the number of people executed at Branjevo Military Farm.
Drazen Erdemovic was a member of the 10th Sabotage Detachment that carried out the killings at Branjevo Military Farm. Erdemovic has estimated that 1,200 people were killed there, but he has also made it very clear that he does not stand by the accuracy of that estimate.
In the Popovic trial, Erdemovic estimated that “between 1,000 and 1,200” prisoners were executed at Branjevo Military Farm. He explained that he arrived at his estimate “based on the buses that were arriving,” but when asked how many busses had arrived he said, “I don't know exactly, but in my previous testimony and also in my case as well, from 15 to 20, but no one can know how many exactly and what.”
When Erdemovic testified in the Karadzic trial he admitted that he may have exaggerated the number of people killed. He said, “I never said that this was an exact figure. I always said it was an estimate. Maybe I said -- well, maybe I increased the number, but that was my thinking at that point in time because this went on for a long time for me. For me, it was an eternity, everything that happened on that day.”
In the Mladic trial, Erdemovic was confronted with evidence showing that another member of his unit, Franc Kos, had estimated the number of people killed at Branjevo Military farm to be between 650 and 700 people. Erdemovic’s response was, “Perhaps that is correct. Perhaps my estimate is correct. I cannot tell you how many people it was. I always emphasised that I did not know and that I did not want to know how many people there were.”
Erdemovic admitted that he had no idea how many people were killed. He said, “I cannot tell you how long that took. As I told you before, I wasn't looking at my watch and timing how long things lasted, how many buses came, how many people were on them. It was sheer horror to any human being, and in that situation to think about how many minutes, how many hours it took to count the people, the buses, I'm really sorry, I didn't do that.”
Ahmo Hasic is a Bosnian-Muslim who survived the killings at Branjevo Military Farm and managed to escape. He survived the executions by pretending to be dead, then when the coast was clear he went and hid in the bushes until nightfall before making his escape.
As confirmed by the Trial Chamber, he did estimate that between 1,000 and 1,500 people were killed at Branjevo Military Farm. Although it seems like it would be difficult for a person in his position to make an accurate estimate while he’s trying to stay hidden, he did make that estimate.
However, he also testified that the prisoners were brought to the Kula School in Pilica by a convoy of seven busses containing 50 prisoners each.
The prisoners who were killed at Branjevo Military Farm were brought there from Kula School. If there were seven busloads of 50 prisoners each that’s 350 prisoners who were at Kula School, and that means there aren’t 1,000 to 1,500 people who you can bring from that school to Branjevo Military Farm in order to kill them there.
Reliable Evidence Ignored by Karadzic Chamber
There are certain uncontested facts. The first fact is that the prisoners killed at Branjevo Military Farm and the Pilica “Dom” Cultural Center were all initially buried together in a common mass grave at Branjevo Military Farm. This was confirmed by the judgment itself and by the Prosecution’s expert witness Richard Butler who has testified that “In the case of Pilica Dom, or the dome of culture in that respect, all of those bodies would have to have been brought from the Dom to the Branjevo Military Farm where they were buried with the other bodies.”
We also know that the gymnasium at the Kula school where the prisoners were held before being brought to Branjevo Military Farm and executed measures 180 square meters, and we know that the Pilica Cultural Center where the other prisoners were held captive and eventually executed measures 223 square meters. The blueprints of these buildings have been tendered into evidence at the ICTY, and these structures still stand and can be measured to this very day.
There is also an aerial photograph of the Branjevo Military Farm that shows the dead bodies sprawled out on the ground after they had been executed. By using the known dimensions of the farm buildings for scale, or by using software like Google Earth, one can reliably estimate the size of the killing field to be approximately 640 square meters.
The question you should now be asking yourself is whether you fit the 1,735 Bosnian-Muslim men that the Karadzic chamber says were executed in and around Pilica (at Branjevo Military Farm, Kula School, and the Pilica Cultural Center) into the space available? Probably not.
William Haglund is the Prosecution’s forensic expert, and in his expert report he describes the mass grave at Branjevo Military farm as “a trench that extended 28 m east to west and 10 m north to south. The grave itself was approximately 2.5 m deep.” This would make for a 700 cubic meter grave.
However, Haglund’s evidence is not entirely consistent. Outside of that one instance above, he always describes a significantly smaller grave. Elsewhere in his report he describes the grave as “a large rectangular, swath of depressed soil measuring approximately 5 m wide by 20 m long” and “a large rectangular, light-colored swath of soil measuring approximately 5 m wide by 20 m long”
In the Popovic trial, Haglund testified that the grave "was a two and a half to three metre deep grave that extended by six by 28 metres"
In the Krstic trial, Haglund testified that "The grave measured 28 by approximately 5 metres, and it ranged from 2 1/2 to 3 metres in depth." He said, "Although the grave space itself was 28 metres long, only 14 per cent of it was occupied, the floor space, was occupied by a pile of human remains" He explained that "the grave itself had 53 complete individuals in this group of bodies, 23 nearly complete individuals, and about 170 body parts."
As noted above, the ICMP identified the remains of 138 people in this mass grave using DNA analysis. If 138 bodies occupy 14% of the grave, then it would take approximately 986 bodies to fill the grave to 100% capacity, but probably less because only 76 of the 138 bodies that used for that calculation were complete or nearly complete bodies.
This is corroborated by Haglund’s expert report, which estimates the capacity of the grave. It says: "The disturbed area was of sufficient size to accommodate up to several hundred persons."
1,735 bodies is significantly more than the “up to several hundred persons” who could have been buried in the original primary grave. This is the smoking gun.
The ICMP identified the remains of 138 people in the primary grave at Branjevo Military Farm and 1,597 people in the associated “secondary” graves along Cancari Road, but the primary grave was only large enough to “accommodate up to several hundred persons” according to the prosecution’s own expert. That means at least some of the bodies in the secondary graves must have come from someplace other than the primary grave at Branjevo Military Farm, which means they weren’t part of the killings in and around Pilica and cannot be linked to any of the scheduled killing incidents listed in the Karadzic indictment.
We know from combat maps compiled by the prosecution’s military expert Richard Butler that fighting between Bosnian-Serb forces and the column of Bosnian Muslim soldiers who broke out of Srebrenica took place on 15 and 16 July 1995 in the area of Kamenica and Glodansko Brdo. The area of Kamenica and Glodansko Brdo happens to be precisely where these secondary Cancari Road gravesites were found.
We also know from maps drawn by the Bosnian Serb Army, and by surviving members of the column that the column crossed the road and passed through the exact area where these Cancari Road graves are located.
In addition, there are contemporaneous reports of hundreds of Bosnian-Muslim combatants being killed in this exact area of Kamenica and Glodansko Brdo where these graves are at. A combat report of the Zvornik Brigade dated July 15th 1995 says, “In the wider area of Pandurice, Planonci, Crni Vrh, Kamenica and Glodansko Brdo, there are about 3,000 armed and unarmed enemy soldiers. Brigade forces are sealing off and searching the aforementioned region. A few hundred enemy soldiers have so far been liquidated.”
When Radovan Karadzic asked Jean-Rene Ruez, the officer in charge of the ICTY Prosecutor’s Srebrenica investigation, “Where were the combat casualties buried in July 1995?” The answer he got was, “This I don’t know. I repeat, we were not looking for combat casualties but to identify the detention sites, the nearby execution sites, and the successive burial places of these prisoners.”
Let’s put this all together: (1) there are more bodies buried in the associated “secondary” gravesites along Cancari Road than could have ever been buried in the original primary mass grave at Branjevo Military Farm, (2) there were combat operations with hundreds of people reportedly killed in the precise area where these “secondary” gravesites along Cancari Road are located, and (3) the Prosecution’s lead investigator doesn’t know where the combat casualties were buried.
The Karadzic chamber is clearly not justified in its conclusion that none of the 5,115 bodies exhumed from mass graves associated with the Srebrenica massacre could have been casualties of lawful combat. They are therefore overstating the number of Bosnian-Muslims executed by Bosnian-Serb Forces in the Srebrenica Massacre.
 Karadzic Judgment, ICTY, 24 March 2016, Para 5539, 5599
 Krstic Judgment, ICTY, 2 August 2001, Para 77
 Karadzic Judgment, ICTY, 24 March 2016, Para 5519
 Tolimir Judgment, ICTY, 12 December 2012, Para 570
 Karadzic Judgment, ICTY, 24 March 2016, Para 5463
 Ibid., Para 5451
 Ibid., Para 5452
 Ibid., Para 5458
 Ibid., Para 5457
 Ibid., Para 5461
 Ibid., Para 5463
 Ibid., Para 5464
 Drazen Erdemovic’s testimony in the Popovic trial, Transcript pg. 10983
 Drazen Erdemovic’s testimony in the Karadzic trial, Transcript pg. 25385
 Drazen Erdemovic’s testimony in the Mladic trial, Transcript pg. 13774
 Ibid., Transcript pg. 13776
 Ahmo Hasic’s testimony in the Popovic trial, Transcript pg. 1190 and 1198
 Richard Butler’s testimony in the Blagojevic and Jokic trial, Transcript pg. 5209
 Popovic trial exhibit 7D00929
 Karadzic Trial Exhibit P4321 pg. 17
 Ibid., pg. 13, 17
 Testimony of William Haglund in the Popovic trial, Transcript pg. 8908
 Karadzic Trial Exhibit P4321 pg. 13
 Krstic trial Exhibit P613
 Krstic trial exhibit P2996 (map showing location of gravesites), Krstic trial exhibit P2 (VRS combat map showing route taken by column), and Krstic trial exhibit P159 (map showing route taken by column drawn by Bosnian-Muslim man who was part of the column).
 Tolimir trial exhibit P00013.E
 Testimony of Jean-Rene Ruez in Karadzic trial, Transcript, pg. 24001