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U.N. Srebenica Witness Testifies

March 31, 2000

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) _ A U.N. military observer testified Friday in the genocide trial of Gen. Radislav Krstic that Bosnian Serb commanders planned to wipe out the Muslim population of Srebrenica if they refused to leave.

Lt. Col. Joseph Kingori also contradicted claims by Krstic’s defense attorney that Bosnian Serb forces overran the enclave in Bosnia-Herzegovina in response to attacks from within the demilitarized enclave by Muslim soldiers.

``I don’t think they posed any threat at all,″ said Kingori, a Kenyan air force colonel who served with the U.N. observer mission in Bosnia.

Krstic, the most senior Bosnian Serb commander to face the U.N. tribunal, is charged with every crime in its jurisdiction: genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions. The charges carry a maximum life prison term.

Prosecutors say that, as commander of the Bosnian Serb army’s Drina corps, Krstic was responsible for the troops who carried out the bloodshed at Srebrenica.

Around 40,000 Muslim fled to Srebrenica as Serb forces closed in on the enclave in northeast Bosnia in the latter part of the 1992-95 Bosnian war.

In early July 1995, the Serbs pushed aside a battalion of Dutch peacekeepers and allegedly slaughtered at least 7,500 Muslim men and boys. The rest escaped or were deported to Muslim-held territory.

Kingori was one of two unarmed U.N. observers stationed inside Srebrenica monitoring compliance with a 2-year-old Serb-Muslim agreement backed by the United Nations to demilitarize the enclave.

Kingori said he was summoned to meetings before the offensive in which Bosnian Serb Army subcommanders spoke in ``menacing″ terms about their intentions. An officer he identified as Col. Vukovic delivered a stern ultimatum.

``If the Muslims don’t leave, he was going to kill all of them,″ said Kingori. ``Something was being planned.″

The Kenyan did not specify whether Krstic was at the meeting but said that lower commanders followed orders from Bosnian Serb command.

Krstic’s lawyer, Nenad Petrusic, wrote in a pretrial brief that the general ordered the Srebrenica offensive in response to what he claimed were Muslim attacks from the enclave, involving ``ethnic cleansing, burning houses and terrorizing the civilian population″ of outlying Serb villages.

Kingori said Serb shelling of Srebrenica with mortars, rockets and heavy artillery was ``the order of the day.″ Civilian casualties multiplied as residential areas were targeted, while a hospital and the U.N. post were narrowly missed, he said.

By contrast, the witness said, Serbs had little to fear from Muslim soldiers inside the enclave, who had handed over nearly all of their heavy weaponry to peacekeepers.

The Yugoslav war crimes tribunal was established in 1993 by the U.N. Security Council. It has sentenced 14 Serbs, Croats and Muslims to up to 45 years in prison for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Prosecutors have so far failed to obtain a single genocide conviction.


On the Net:

The U.N. site for the tribunal for the former Yugoslavia: http://www.un.org/icty/

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