1 Wednesday, 27 April 2011
2 [Open session]
3 [The accused entered court]
4 --- Upon commencing at 9.01 a.m.
5 JUDGE FLUEGGE: Good morning to everybody in the courtroom.
6 Yesterday, during the last session, we had an incident, unfortunate
7 situation. I would like to let everybody know that the situation is
8 resolved due to the -- and thanks to the medical care here in The Hague.
9 No reason to worry about it.
10 I forgot yesterday to mention that we are sitting pursuant to
11 Rule 15 bis. That was decided already last week, on Thursday. We put
12 that on the record that this week, Judge Mindua will not be present and
13 not be able to participate in the hearings due to another commitment.
14 Only Judge Nyambe and myself are the Bench. This is the fact for
15 yesterday, today, and tomorrow's hearing.
16 If there is nothing else, we should continue with the witness.
17 She should be brought in, please.
18 [The witness takes the stand]
19 WITNESS: ESMA PALIC [Resumed]
20 [Witness answered through interpreter]
21 JUDGE FLUEGGE: Please take your earphones. Good morning and
22 welcome back. Please be seated and make yourself comfortable.
23 Ms. Palic, welcome back. I have to remind you that the
24 affirmation that you made at the beginning of your testimony yesterday
25 still applies. Mr. Elderkin has additional questions for you.
1 Mr. Elderkin.
2 MR. ELDERKIN: Thank you, Mr. President, and good morning to
3 Your Honours and everyone else in the courtroom.
4 Examination by Mr. Elderkin: [Continued]
5 Q. Good morning to you, Ms. Palic.
6 A. Good morning.
7 Q. Ms. Palic, we were just at a point of your story when we finished
8 yesterday talking about the time after the 17th or 18th of July of 1995,
9 when your house had been shelled and you moved up to Stitkov Dol. You
10 said that people moved to Stitkov Dol from the villages on the left-hand
11 side. Could you please explain to us what you mean by that reference,
12 the villages on the right-hand side?
13 A. When I spoke about this, I had a picture of my house in my mind.
14 My house was the reference point for left hand and right hand. That
15 means that on the left-hand side there were settlements of Stop, Vrelo.
16 Then there were people of the village of Ljubomislje, Laze, Borovac, who
17 also came to Vrelo, down to Vrelo. Those were the villages that had been
18 occupied at the beginning of the war. Then in 1992 people returned to
19 Ljubomislje to live there, and then in 1995 those inhabitants went in the
20 same direction as me, that is to Stitkov Dol.
21 On the right-hand side there was the centre, the Kula settlement,
22 then Zepa, Slap, Pribicevac, and after that, Ribioc, Vratar, Polje.
23 THE INTERPRETER: Interpreter's note: Could please all other
24 microphones be switched off when the witness is speaking. There is a lot
25 of background noise.
1 JUDGE FLUEGGE: I think, Mr. Elderkin, this refers to you.
2 MR. ELDERKIN: Yes, indeed. I see no other microphones are on
3 other than my own.
4 Q. How many people were the -- up at Stitkov Dol?
5 A. Around 2 to 2.500. It's a smaller village, but when you take
6 into account the number of people in those settlements and the total
7 capacity of Stitkov Dol, I would say around 2.500. The fact is that the
8 houses were full those days when we were there. Also, all the auxiliary
9 buildings. There were women with small children, elderly people,
10 disabled. For instance, my mother-in-law was among them. Also, the
11 courtyards and the fields around the houses were full as well. It was
12 maybe a fortunate circumstance that it was summer so people slept in the
13 courtyards and fields.
14 I remember I used to sit with some of those groups. There were
15 pregnant women among them, those who did not find a place in a house to
16 sleep. So they spent the night on meadows.
17 Q. So just to be very clear, the figure of 2 to 2.500 people is your
18 estimate for the time when you moved up there to escape from the
19 shelling, as did other people; is that correct?
20 A. Yes, that's my estimate. I believe that my estimate is very
21 close to the actual number.
22 Q. You've said a little bit about the make-up of the group up at
23 Stitkov Dol so that there were women with small children, elderly people
24 and disabled. Were there also soldiers up at this location when you were
1 A. There were no soldiers there. There were no able-bodied men
2 there, because this was the most critical period. All the men were at
3 the defence lines. It could have happened that somebody maybe had to
4 look for their family to get the clothes or simply to see their family,
5 but I don't remember anybody except Amir Imamovic. He was the president
6 of the civilian protection of the Zepa municipality. He was also
7 captured later on. He used to come on several occasions. I spoke to
8 him. And also Hamdija Torlak used to come. He was a president of some
9 sort of a board in Zepa and also one of the negotiators before Zepa. So
10 they are the only able-bodied men that I remember.
11 Q. You've mentioned Messrs. Imamovic and Torlak, and also you spoke
12 about negotiations. What was your awareness of negotiations that were
13 taking place with the Bosnian Serb side at that time?
14 A. I knew that the Serbs imposed certain conditions for the
15 surrender, as well as us leaving the territory. They said that all the
16 men had to surrender and go to collection centres. That's how they used
17 to call them. I would say that they were camps. To put it simply, it
18 was clear that we had to leave Zepa. The Zepa delegation, the
19 negotiators who negotiated on behalf of the authorities of Zepa and the
20 people in Zepa, they tried to get some guarantees for the safety of
21 civilians. I also know that my husband was trying to buy time so that it
22 wouldn't happen that Serb army would march into Zepa and do what they did
23 in Srebrenica, the massacre that they did in Srebrenica. He wanted the
24 international community to realise what happened in Srebrenica and to
25 have enough time in order to do something more humane, in order to
1 prevent a new massacre. And those precisely were the reasons because of
2 which the men in Zepa made superhuman efforts in order to maintain the
3 territory in Zepa until they could negotiate a safe passage of civilians
4 out of Zepa.
5 I remember something that I'm never going to forget. We were
6 already in Stitkov Dol. Hamdija Torlak was one of the negotiators. He
7 came there one evening, to the house where I was with my babies. He came
8 in, and he lied on the floor, silent. Those of us all around him simply
9 waited for him to speak. After some time, he made a deep sigh, and he
10 said, "I had to sign the surrender of Zepa." You could hear it in his
11 voice. It was the voice of a traitor. Of course, we all knew that
12 anybody else who would have found themselves in his position, they would
13 have had to do the same thing.
14 Q. What was your husband doing during the time while you were in
15 Stitkov Dol?
16 A. I don't know if I already mentioned this. When Srebrenica fell
17 and the chaos ensued in Zepa, the first thing that my husband requested
18 from the Ukrainian Battalion in Zepa was to protect us. It was clear
19 that they were a small unit and that they could not protect the whole
20 territory. That's why he insisted that they should alert the UN
21 headquarters. He wanted that they should ask Mr. Smith,
22 Mr. Rupert Smith, to provide protection and whatever mechanism that the
23 UN was duty-bound to provide for the enclave. However, this didn't
24 happen. The Ukrainian commander, Dudnjik, went over to check-point 1
25 where Mladic arrived with his staff. It means that they had occupied
1 check-point 1. It was an UNPROFOR check-point. And the Ukrainian -- the
2 Ukrainian commander was trying, or at least that's what he said to Avdo,
3 that he was trying to request the end of the shelling and the end of the
4 operations around Zepa, and this Ukrainian commander went away one day
5 and never came back. We heard that he was stopped by Mladic.
6 The officer that deputised for him in Zepa said, "Avdo, here's
7 your weapons. This is it." And then my husband and all other who were
8 able to do that went up to the defence lines. It could have been the
9 13th or the 14th of July, a few days after the fall of Srebrenica. So
10 they were trying to stop the breakthrough of the Serbian Army into Zepa.
11 And this went on until the 24th of July. All this time my husband was
12 with the military.
13 Q. You mentioned the Ukrainian commander Dudnjik going to
14 check-point 1. Do you remember the location of that check-point? We
15 know, for example, there was a check-point which the UN numbered 2 but
16 which was at Boksanica.
17 A. That is the check-point. I thought it was number 1, is the
18 check-point at Boksanica. It was the first check-point when you enter
19 Zepa coming from Rogatica through Borike towards Zepa. That was the
20 first check-point. I thought it was check-point 1.
21 JUDGE FLUEGGE: Mr. Elderkin, it's just a reminder, you should
22 try to avoid leading questions. Your last one was some sort of leading
24 MR. ELDERKIN: Indeed, and I'll do my best to avoid that,
25 Your Honour.
1 Q. Ms. Palic, during the time you were up at Stitkov Dol, was there
2 any shelling?
3 A. Of course there was shelling. Stitkov Dol is situated in a
4 particular way. It doesn't mean that it wasn't within the range, but the
5 deployment of the artillery was such that shells did not land into the
6 centre of the village. The shells landed on the other side of the hill
7 that protected the village, and everything around was shelled. During
8 that time, I cannot remember one single moment that the shelling was not
9 going on, but the shells were not landing in Stitkov Dol.
10 Q. Until when did you stay up there at Stitkov Dol?
11 A. I remained in Stitkov Dol until the 23rd, the evening, the 24th.
12 So we left in the night between the 23rd and the 24th July, sometime
13 after midnight, probably around 2.00 a.m. We waited for the shelling to
14 die down. We had to leave - how should I call it? - this oasis and set
15 out for the mountain. We were in danger. We were threatened by the
16 shelling and by those PAMs and PATs. So we set out at the time when it
17 felt most secure. We assumed that Serbian soldiers would be asleep at
18 that time. That's when we set out for the mountain, and we reached the
19 mountain sometime in the morning of the 24th.
20 Q. And how long did you spend at that location, at the mountain?
21 A. As soon as we arrived in this sort of mountain lodge that
22 belonged to a relative of mine, I went in with the babies. I had to feed
23 them. And then a boy arrived and said that Avdo requested that we should
24 go back, that the evacuation of civilians from Zepa had been agreed. So
25 maybe I stayed there for a couple of hours. Only as long as it took us
1 to simply prepare for the way back.
2 Q. When you moved back down towards Zepa, how many people went with
4 A. It was the same column. Everybody who went with me also returned
5 and went back. This was a huge column. So all those people who went one
6 way also went back. Also, the news was then transmitted to other groups
7 of refugees, and those people also began to go back towards Zepa, towards
8 the centre of Zepa. They were coming from all sides, from all the places
9 where the refugee groups were. They received this information, and they
10 began to return to Zepa.
11 Now, later on I had the opportunity to speak to some people.
12 Some of them set out immediately, some of them were still afraid, which
13 is perfectly normal. Everybody was afraid to be the first one to leave.
14 They were wondering what was going to happen to them.
15 Q. When did you arrive back in Zepa town?
16 A. It was the early afternoon. Maybe around 2.00, 3.00 in the
18 Q. Could you please describe the scene when you arrived into the
20 A. What I remember is the following: It was a very warm day in
21 July. People were coming from all sides carrying bundles, clothes, bags.
22 They were out of their mind. Everybody had lost someone. Everybody
23 were -- was asking about someone.
24 As I have already said, everybody, and especially the people who
25 had been expelled and then ended up in Zepa, had their families divided
1 between Srebrenica and Zepa. Part of the family lived in Srebrenica, and
2 a part of the family in Zepa. Then when the attack on Zepa began, some
3 of them fled towards the mountains, some of them stayed in the woods or
4 in the cave. There was panic. Everybody was asking, "Did you see this
5 one? Did you see that one? Do you know anything about this one?" Then
6 some news arrived about people who were killed at the lines. It was very
8 There's one thing that I remember very well. There was a column
9 of buses lined up along the street leading from UNPROFOR to the health
10 centre, and there were Serbian soldiers there. In front of a local cafe,
11 when I approached that place I saw my husband. He was in front of the
12 cafe, and there was a Serbian officer standing there as well, and there
13 were some soldiers around them. When my husband saw me, he approached
14 me. We greeted each other. Of course, I was panicked. He tried to calm
15 me down. He told me that a convoy with wounded people had already left.
16 There were many wounded. I was only worried about him.
17 Of course, I was also afraid, and I was thinking How are we going
18 to cross all that territory? Avdo told me not to be nervous, that
19 everybody would be okay. He told me that Zdravko Tolimir was there. He
20 pointed at that man, and he told me that he agreed with him that he was
21 going to accompany the convoy in his automobile in front of all the
22 buses. He told him to keep his personal firearm and that if he notices
23 anything suspicious, he should just shoot him in the head on the spot.
24 I told him not to believe him. It is true that he looks rather
25 civilised compared to all the creatures around him, but I told him not to
1 trust that man. My husband, of course, tried to be calm. I'm sure that
2 he himself was very well aware of everything. He knew that he could not
3 maintain Zepa. The UN was doing nothing, so he simply had no other
5 Q. Did you see any representatives in Zepa town that day from the
6 International Red Cross?
7 A. I didn't see them. I know that my husband's position was
8 something that he insisted upon when talking to any civilian authorities'
9 representatives who attended negotiations. He insisted that the
10 evacuation process should not go in any other way except with the
11 assistance of the Red Cross, meaning that those who were departing had to
12 be registered and had to be provided safe passage out of the territory
13 where we were being driven out of. However, I didn't see anyone. No one
14 was making any lists or asking us anything.
15 Q. Were there other soldiers from the Armija of Bosnia and
16 Herzegovina around in the area of Zepa town when you were down there
17 around the time you've described, when you saw your husband?
18 A. There were no ABiH soldiers there. Some lines had fallen. Those
19 people, as throughout the war, tried to reach the Zepa mountain just like
20 we all used to. I suppose that a part of those men withdrew towards it.
21 In Zepa itself, the only able-bodied men were from the civilian
22 authorities, as well as Avdo's driver, Mujo Bicic, and those lightly
23 wounded who were in the hospital. That's all the men that were there.
24 In any case, I can distinctly recall Mujo Bicic and Mehmed Hajric being
25 there. As for any other men, I don't think the Serb army would have
1 allowed it. They simply could not show themselves there. There were
2 Serb soldiers there, however.
3 As one enters Zepa, and when I say that, I have in mind the
4 source of the Zepa River down to the centre of town, all along that route
5 there were groups of Serb soldiers. I remember them so well. They had
6 long beards. They looked unnatural, in a way, for human beings. Their
7 shirts were unbuttoned. They had knives tucked in their belts, and they
8 kept insulting us, throwing remarks at us. They kept saying, "Turks, go
9 to Turkey. Kurds, leave." And they were singing a song about Zepa.
10 However, it was a pejorative song of the population of Zepa heroically
11 defending their hearths, where at the same moment we were being forced to
13 Q. And what did you do after speaking to your husband, as you
15 A. Well, I came to terms with what my husband instructed me to do.
16 I got on the bus he pointed out. Still, I refused to believe that the
17 evacuation would be safe. My sister was a girl at the time. I handed
18 one of my babies to her. And I was afraid of how things would develop.
19 For as long as one stayed in Zepa, there was some dignity left, but my
20 worst fear had always been to fall into their hands. When I say "their,"
21 I mean the Serb army. Many of them were acquaintances and even friends
22 of mine who, to my great disappointment, became criminals. If things
23 developed in a way that we would be taken off buses, I was afraid to face
24 the same fate as many women who had been taken prisoner in 1992 in
25 Rogatica. They ended up in Zepa after an exchange, previously having
1 gone through different kinds of torture, mainly rape. I also didn't want
2 to see my children suffer. So in a way, we were trying to come up with
3 the best option, and perhaps that was my attempt to hand over one of the
4 babies to my sister so as to give an impression that she was an adult
6 We split afterwards. My mother was there as well, who had been
7 handicapped ever since World War II. We brought her into the bus. In
8 any case, I followed Avdo's instructions.
9 Q. How many people were there on the bus that you boarded?
10 A. The bus was full. I don't know how many people exactly could fit
11 in, some 50 plus. Some were seated on the floor as well. All the buses
12 were packed. There were a few steps at the back of the bus near the rear
13 door just in front of the last row of seats and there were people sitting
14 there as well, then next to the driver, my mother was seated. In any
15 case, the buses were full.
16 Q. When did that bus eventually leave from Zepa?
17 A. The boarding process took forever. The people were beside
18 themselves. In any case, we set off sometime in the afternoon.
19 Q. Did you know what the intended destination was at the time you
20 set off in the bus?
21 A. They said that we were going towards Kladanj, which was in ABiH
23 Q. On the journey towards Kladanj, did you stop anywhere along the
25 A. My fear was that we would be taken out of Zepa and then arrested.
1 As we were leaving Zepa, it almost became part of reality, because after
2 we entered Borike -- actually, there is -- there is an open stretch just
3 in front of the stables at Borike, and I could still see the passenger
4 vehicle where Avdo was with Tolimir at the head of the column. Suddenly
5 I got afraid, wondering why we stopped. I was two rows behind the
6 driver. In front of me there were a girl and her mother. I was trying
7 to see up front what was going on.
8 The bus in front of us started again, but we remained in the same
9 place. That bus went ahead and then started backing up into the stables
10 compound. I was wondering why. Before the war, it used to be a horse
11 farm. I couldn't figure out why we were to go there. I had a sudden
12 attack of panic which I had to handle by myself.
13 A soldier came on the bus, who was maybe 25 years old. He leaned
14 his weapon against a railing near the door and began talking to the
15 driver, although I don't know about what. I felt sick, and they gave me
16 some water. I was afraid that we would all be killed and butchered
17 there. However, after a while, the driver said that the bus had a flat
18 tyre and that they backed into the farm to fix it. Indeed, some half an
19 hour later, we set off again.
20 Q. Did you see your husband again at any point during that journey?
21 A. We went through Rogatica. What remains etched in my memory is
22 that the Rogatica inhabitants were all lined up along their -- in their
23 windows. Those were our Serb neighbours who came out to see us being
24 driven out.
25 We went through Rogatica and left the town when the buses stopped
1 again. It was already getting dark. I could see my husband in the
2 headlights of the bus, and I was wondering why he was returning. He came
3 onto the bus and remained with us from that spot all the way to Kladanj.
4 Q. And did you talk with your husband at all during that journey?
5 A. Yes, I did. We did talk.
6 Q. Did he say anything about the situation that you'd found
7 yourselves in?
8 A. We didn't discuss that. I kept begging him to take care of
9 himself, telling him that he mustn't trust Tolimir. I asked him to
10 promise that once he got back, he would get away from them. I told him
11 that he should have himself in mind and that he couldn't save anyone
12 unless he saved himself first.
13 I was trying to persuade him to think of his own safety.
14 However, he clearly put it to me that he cannot allow for the civilians
15 to be hurt. He literally said, "Esma, I'll do this job all the way to
16 the end, no matter what happens to me." That was the sort of person he
17 was. He thought he was responsible for those people, and he never even
18 thought of placing himself before anyone else. We also discussed some
19 future plans of ours.
20 JUDGE FLUEGGE: Ms. Palic, whenever you need a break, let us
21 know, please. May we continue, or do you need a break?
22 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] Perhaps we could have a break.
23 JUDGE FLUEGGE: Yes, indeed, we should have a break, and I would
24 kindly ask the court usher to inform us when we can continue.
25 We adjourn.
1 --- Break taken at 9.50 a.m.
2 --- On resuming at 10.26 a.m.
3 JUDGE FLUEGGE: Ms. Palic, I'm glad to see that we can continue,
4 but please let us know at any point in time if you need another break.
5 Mr. Elderkin, please continue.
6 MR. ELDERKIN: Your Honour, thank you.
7 Q. Ms. Palic, we've heard about your bus journey the day you left
8 Zepa. Where did the bus finally stop?
9 A. We stopped when we were told that we have arrived at the
10 separation lines near Kladanj. If -- well, at 9.00 in the morning, we
11 were in that meadow where a UNHCR unit awaited us with refreshments. We
12 walked for a long time before that through a gorge.
13 Q. Where was the last point at which you were still with your
15 A. When we arrived and got off the buses, my husband and I bid
16 farewell. I was holding one of our daughters in my arms. I told him to
17 take care of himself and left. He told me to stick to the middle of the
18 road. I didn't understand exactly what it meant at the time. Later on,
19 I found out that there were mines along the road. That is why he
20 cautioned me.
21 Let me tell you this as well: That was the road that the people
22 from Srebrenica tried to use to reach the free territory. It was a
23 stretch of about 10 kilometres. Even if they were able to reach that
24 point in attempts to cross the road, they frequently stepped on mines and
25 were killed or wounded. In any case, straying from the road would have
1 been a great risk.
2 Q. Were your mother and your sister still with you at that time?
3 A. Yes, they were. My grandmother was there as well. I believe I
4 told you that she was handicapped due to World War II. There were other
5 people with us as well, other refugees. It was very difficult. You can
6 carry a child, but what do you do with an elderly person who was over
7 70 years old? We finally placed her on a branch and pulled her along the
8 road. The entire situation was rather humiliating.
9 Q. Did you want to leave Zepa when you went down to the town and
10 were prepared to get on the buses? Was that your choice?
11 A. No. It wasn't the choice of anyone. It was Ratko Mladic's
12 decision and the decision of his associates, the apparatus he surrounded
13 himself with, including Mr. Tolimir, who is present here. They decided
14 about what would happen with us. They decided we had to leave and in
15 what way. All that story of free choice is absurd viewed in those
16 circumstances. Basically, throughout the war we had no choice.
17 I can tell you two things about it since you ask. If someone
18 asked me to stay in Zepa, promising that my husband would be safe, I
19 would stay there for my entire life, although I had not lived there
21 I can also tell you that people lived in Zepa for generations,
22 and such families never dreamt of leaving. They were the true indigenous
23 population of Zepa who never pondered leaving their property. However,
24 they had to leave. They never managed to adapt to the new social
25 circumstances, but they had to leave.
1 Q. What were the alternatives for you and for those people if they
2 had stayed, had not got on buses that day?
3 A. Suffice it to say that Zepa, a small town, was attacked by such a
4 force comprising that many brigades with that much equipment, with so
5 many criminals, most of whom were convicted criminals. One needs to
6 wonder what would have happened with us had we stayed. We simply would
7 not have been allowed to live in a territory which they wanted to see as
8 an ethnically pure Serb area. We surely would have been killed and
9 tortured. We would be no more.
10 Q. Do you know what happened to buildings in Zepa after the
11 population left in July 1995?
12 A. Even before I left Zepa, I could see some of the villages in the
13 hills that had been entered by the Serb soldiers. I could see houses
14 ablaze already. They started setting fire to them, and I could see
15 tendrils of smoke. They even torched my parents' house, or whatever was
16 left of it. They razed, torched.
17 Once we left Zepa the last civilian convoy remained as well as a
18 number of wounded who were taken off that convoy in Rogatica as POWs,
19 including some of my relatives. They spent some time in a camp in
20 Rogatica. Then they were taken to Zepa to gather plums and do some work
21 for the Serb army and their leadership, and they knew that at the time
22 that everything was razed to the ground, torched and destroyed; they
23 could see it for themselves. They knew it was all destroyed and anything
24 that could burn was burned. By the time I left, it was no longer a
25 township. It was a jungle.
1 MR. ELDERKIN: If could we see Exhibit P2178 on the screen, and
2 at page 6, please, of that exhibit.
3 JUDGE FLUEGGE: While this is coming up, I would like to ask you
4 something, Ms. Palic. You told us about the situation at the separation
5 line near Kladanj, and your husband left, and you went with your family
6 along the road. Why did your husband not come with you?
7 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] I wish he had, but then my husband
8 couldn't stand having left the people of Zepa behind. He may have had an
9 opportunity to leave. And I asked myself that question, too, and I
10 thought about it, but if he had left Zepa, if he had left all his troops
11 behind, all those people with whom he had defended Zepa so many times,
12 the people who trusted him and their families, according to his moral
13 criteria and mine, it would have been unbearable for him to leave those
14 friends and associates behind with their families and children to save
15 himself and his own family.
16 It was very difficult to bear for me for years, but today my view
17 is that one's honour comes above all, all other things.
18 JUDGE FLUEGGE: Where did he go from that point?
19 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] He returned with Tolimir, and I
20 asked Avdo, because I was extremely scared, while he was with us, while
21 there were so many of us on the bus, so many civilians -- it seemed to me
22 that he was safer while I could see him, and I was afraid what would
23 happen to him when he returned with Tolimir.
24 My husband tried to convince me that Zdravko Tolimir was a
25 trained officer, and when he said that, he meant that being a trained
1 officer meant honouring the conventions and humanitarian law. And I
2 replied to him, "Well, if he's that highly trained, what's he doing in
4 I knew that Avdo's intention was to convince me and to achieve
5 that I don't torture myself, but it was important to me that Avdo
6 returned safely, and I asked him to give me notice that he had -- that he
7 was safe. And indeed, when I was in Visoko two days later, I got a
8 message from my husband through a ham radio network that he had made it
9 to Zepa safely.
10 JUDGE FLUEGGE: When you were travelling on the bus with this
11 group of people from Zepa and with your husband, where was Mr. Tolimir?
12 Was he also on the bus or in a separate car?
13 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] I don't know. I suppose that he
14 remained in the front seat of his car. He was not with us. He was
15 probably in his car, I guess.
16 JUDGE FLUEGGE: Thank you very much.
17 Mr. Elderkin, please continue.
18 MR. ELDERKIN: And, actually, for the exhibit on the screen, if
19 we could go back to page 5 first of all.
20 Q. Ms. Palic, do you recognise this location that we see in an
21 aerial photograph on the screen?
22 A. I do.
23 Q. And just for orientation, there's a location indicated with an
24 English worded tag saying "Central Mosque," which is inside a large
25 square on the screen. Do you see that?
1 A. Yes, I see it.
2 Q. And this shows the scene as the image was taken on the 27th of
3 July of 1995 with buildings standing in the centre of Zepa village. Does
4 this correspond with the buildings that were there when you were leaving
5 on the 24th of July?
6 A. It mostly does. What -- what I see in the centre, yes. I did --
7 I didn't see those buildings such as the factory and so on, but the
8 mosque, the cafes, the medical centre, yes, that was all there when I
10 Q. Does this image cover the area where your family's house was
12 A. Yes. It certainly does. My house is on the right side,
13 150 metres roughly down the main street, to the right.
14 MR. ELDERKIN: Perhaps I could ask for the usher's assistance.
15 Q. It may help us just to put a marking to indicate where your house
16 was located roughly.
17 A. Hereabouts.
18 Q. And where we see the other smaller squares on this image running
19 alongside the roads, are those houses as far as you know?
20 A. Which roads?
21 Q. Starting off with the road where you've indicated your family's
22 house. So heading up from there towards the top right of the screen we
23 see some other squares and --
24 A. Yes, yes. Yes.
25 Q. And how about those heading from where we see the mosque, heading
1 towards the left of the screen, and there's a road that curves up and
2 back down again, and there are some squares along there. Do you know if
3 those were houses?
4 A. Yes, they were, both houses, and there was a school, and to the
5 left from the mosque there was the UN base. It was the
6 Ukrainian Battalion. And up there, there was also a neighbourhood called
7 Kula, and the road went on to some surrounding villages.
8 THE INTERPRETER: Could the witness please move away from the
9 microphone. She's chafing the microphone with her clothes.
10 JUDGE FLUEGGE: Could you help, please, the witness to have a
11 certain distance from the microphone.
12 MR. ELDERKIN: Those are the only markings I'd like to see on
13 this page of the exhibit, and I'd ask if that could be admitted as an
14 exhibit marked in court, please.
15 JUDGE FLUEGGE: This aerial photograph with the markings will be
16 received as an exhibit.
17 THE REGISTRAR: Your Honours, Exhibit Number P2178, map number 5,
18 shall be assigned Exhibit Number P2192. Thank you.
19 MR. ELDERKIN: Now could we see the next page, page 6.
20 Q. Ms. Palic, the central mosque in this picture and the houses on
21 the road running leftwards, the road that first curves up and then down
22 in the picture, can you look at those areas and tell us if you know
23 anything about the destruction of buildings, including the mosque and
24 houses in that area after you had left Zepa in July of 1995.
25 A. I wasn't there when they destroyed these houses and the mosque.
1 The mosque was there on the 27th of July when the last convoy of
2 civilians was blocked in Zepa. They spent the last night in the harem of
3 that mosque. These buildings were burnt down after the civilians had
4 left. It was a part of the process of ethnic cleansing in Zepa.
5 What I do know, and I returned to Zepa after eight years for the
6 first time, and it was in 2003 or 2002 when people first started to go to
7 Zepa. And all houses were destroyed. Some neighbourhoods were
8 completely erased. Vegetation in Zepa is very rich, and everything was
9 already overgrown. It had all become a desert.
10 MR. ELDERKIN: I don't need to have that image up on the screen
11 any more. Thank you.
12 Q. Ms. Palic, I'm going ask you a few more questions now, and these
13 do concern your husband, and please do indicate to me if you need to take
14 a break at some point.
15 You've mentioned getting news that your husband had returned
16 safely to Zepa after you had arrived in free territory, and you received
17 such a message. Did you hear anything about his whereabouts in the days
18 after that?
19 A. No, nothing. That was the only information I got from my
20 husband, and I received it indirectly.
21 On the 28th, in the evening, I heard the news on the radio that
22 the entire civilian population had been evacuated from Zepa, and the
23 whole leadership along with the commander of Zepa, Avdo Palic, had been
24 taken prisoner. That was the moment when my war began.
25 Q. Since you heard that your husband had been taken prisoner, did
1 you receive any information that he was then at some point registered by
2 the International Red Cross following his capture?
3 A. Since I was at Visoko, I immediately tried to alarm some
4 acquaintances and family who were in Sarajevo and who were closer to the
5 UN and the Presidency to do everything possible to save my husband.
6 There were rules according to which you couldn't immediately report a
7 person missing to the Red Cross. Although there was a war, they adhered
8 to that rule.
9 I did have information that my husband was in Rogatica, though,
10 that they were questioning him there, and I got that information from a
11 Ukrainian soldier, indirectly, that is, and nothing else. And when the
12 conditions were met, I reported my husband missing to -- I reported that
13 to the Red Cross. And when the Red Cross raised that issue at meetings
14 with the Serb side, concerning my husband, they were always saying that
15 they had no idea. It's a long story. At first they even refused to
16 acknowledge they had arrested him. They were saying that they had never
17 heard of him.
18 In a reply that was recorded by the Red Cross, Ratko Mladic said
19 that Avdo Palic had fled through the woods and probably died in the
20 process. And there was a series of lies and invectives. I was unable to
21 learn the truth of my husband. Only in 1996, after the Dayton Accord was
22 signed in the month of January, Abdurahman Malkic and Sado Ramic, two
23 prisoners who were taken prisoner when -- while they were fleeing from
24 Srebrenica, and they spent some time in Bijeljina, in a building where
25 there was a secret prison. There are four cells in that building, in the
1 basement. In one cell there was Abdurahman, in the other there was Sado
2 and in the third there was my husband. When these two were exchanged,
3 they told me that they had seen my husband and that he had stayed there
4 when they were transferred to the Batkovic prison on the 10th of August.
5 No, Avdo was brought on the 10th of August, and they were transferred
6 from that prison, whereas Avdo had to stay there.
7 Q. Did you ever receive any letter from your husband after he was
9 A. No, never.
10 Q. Have you seen or heard from your husband since you got off the
11 bus that took you away from Zepa?
12 A. No. I only got that message that he arrived at Zepa safely and
13 that information from those witnesses. I had no other contact with my
15 Q. You now know that your husband lost his life.
16 A. Yes.
17 Q. How many years passed before you learned that he was dead?
18 A. Fourteen years, that is, in 2009, they identified the remains of
19 my husband. He was found in a mass grave near Rogatica.
20 Q. Can you tell us briefly what has been the impact on you and your
21 family of these events, including the disappearance of your husband?
22 A. Well, the meaning of everything has changed. Nothing of what I
23 had craved in life but did not achieve was due to the fact that somebody
24 else had made decisions about my life. Since 1992, for the most part, my
25 life was reduced to what Mladic had decided and all that machinery of the
1 Serb forces and political circles that wanted to cleanse those areas from
2 the Muslim population. My life was changed, and the lives of my children
3 too. They didn't have the life that they would have had if their father
4 hadn't died. I lived in agony for 14 years. I wanted to find his mortal
5 remains. Now I'm trying to find those responsible for his murder. So
6 basically ever since the war my life has consisted in the quest for
7 justice, and that has also affected my health.
8 Q. Ms. Palic, thank you very much. I don't have any further
10 MR. ELDERKIN: Your Honours, I'm in your hands.
11 JUDGE FLUEGGE: Thank you very much.
12 Ms. Palic, you know that now Mr. Tolimir has the right to put
13 questions to you during his cross-examination, but let me tell you again,
14 whenever you need a break, please tell us.
15 Mr. Tolimir, you have the floor for your cross-examination.
16 THE ACCUSED: [Interpretation] Thank you very much, Mr. President.
17 I once again send my regards to everyone present including Ms. Palic and
18 may God's will be done in these proceedings and may the outcome be as God
19 wishes and not as I wish.
20 Cross-examination by Mr. Tolimir:
21 Q. [Interpretation] Ms. Palic, since you and I speak the same
22 language, please make a pause so that what you or I say can be recorded.
23 I will try to remind you what you said.
24 On page 24, that is a short while ago, you were asked by the
25 Prosecutor when you learned that your husband was killed, and you said in
1 2009, after 14 years - that is under line 11 - when he was identified in
2 a mass grave.
3 Here's my question: Do you know, were any other persons killed
4 together with your husband at the same time since they were buried in a
5 mass grave? That may have been a source of information for you looking
6 for your husband and trying to find the perpetrators of his murder. Now,
7 once the cursor stops, please begin your answer.
8 Thank you. Please go ahead.
9 A. In that grave, the bodies of Mehmed Hajric, Amir Imamovic, one
10 Hamdija Dedic. In all, nine bodies were found.
11 Q. Thank you. Please tell us, were you able to find out whether
12 Mehmed Hajric was killed at the same time as your husband, and was
13 Amir Imamovic killed at the same time as your husband, and is that why
14 they were buried in a mass grave? Please start your answer once this is
15 recorded. Thank you.
16 A. Mr. Tolimir, that is a question I would like to put to you. As
17 early as 1998, I found your telephone number, and I wanted to ask you
18 about the fate of my husband, and I did call a number in Banja Luka, but
19 nobody answered the phone. It wasn't easy for me to do, because I knew
20 you wouldn't answer me, and I didn't want to provoke, but all my letters,
21 all my phone calls, all my attempts to learn the truth, which went as far
22 as trying to set up contact with you, I don't know when these individuals
23 were killed, but what I do know is that my husband remained in that
24 secret prison, Vanekov Mlin in Bijeljina after these two persons,
25 Abdurahman Malkic and the other.
1 At first it was by my private efforts that I managed to obtain
2 some information, and later on a statement was taken from the prison
3 warden and he confirmed that Avdo, indeed, was in that secret prison.
4 And in the night between the 4th and the 5th of September, around
5 midnight, Dragomir Pecanac arrived with his driver, and as the warden
6 said, he took over the prisoner.
7 What followed was that Pecanac, in his statement, said that he
8 had handed over Avdo to Colonel Jovo Maric, the commander of some air
9 force unit, a man who at that time was dead already, so he could neither
10 confirm nor deny that allegation, so that all the information about what
11 happened to my husband once he was taken away by Pecanac is insufficient.
12 I don't know what happened to him except that he ended up in that mass
14 Q. Thank you, Mrs. Palic. I know that you wanted to gather as much
15 information as possible. I know that there were some proceedings before
16 national courts. There were some witnesses here who also testified about
17 what you are talking about. However, right now it is most important for
18 you and me and the Trial Chamber to get as many facts about the
19 circumstances of his disappearance as possible. That's why I'm asking
20 you whether you know if he was killed at the same time with others or
21 not. That's very important, because there were many misinformations on
22 the part of the exhumation commission and on the part of those who took
23 part in everything. Because if we don't find out things at this
24 Tribunal, how are we going to find them out? That's why I want you to
25 tell these things to me and to the Trial Chamber. Don't be afraid even
1 if you say something about me. The Trial Chamber should hear everything.
2 A. Sir, I'm not afraid of the truth. I'm very much for the truth.
3 I just don't know, though, those things. However, the fact is that
4 nobody saw my husband in Rogatica except you, Ljubisa Beara, and other
5 people from Mladic's staff, Pecanac and others. So he was first kept for
6 15 days there. After that he was taken to Bijeljina, to the secret
7 prison. No other prisoner was with my husband in the cell. They saw him
8 in Bijeljina, but in Rogatica he wasn't seen by any of the other
9 prisoners. You know very well that in Rogatica he was kept in a private
10 apartment. You interrogated him there. Beara interrogated him there.
2 Mr. Tolimir, weren't you the officer who negotiated with Avdo in
3 Zepa, the officer who was present when Avdo was arrested, when he was
4 kidnapped by the soldiers of the Army of Republika Srpska in the UN base?
5 In one of the statements we can see that you were present when Avdo was
6 brought there as a prisoner.
7 Q. Thank you. A witness testified here. He was the one who took
8 over Avdo Palic from the persons who arrested him, and he testified about
9 the circumstances.
10 I would like you to only speak about what you saw or what you
11 know, because many people talk many things. You said Maric said this,
12 and then Tolimir saw him and things like that, but I would like you to
13 tell us exactly what you know. That's the only way we can find the
14 truth. I mean, there's no problem if I'm involved in all this.
15 A. But isn't that a shame?
16 Q. I don't know what a shame is. I don't think that it's a shame if
17 you speak the truth, that's why I want you to tell the truth. Could you
18 please answer my following question: You asked me a number of questions
19 here, and I have to tell you that before this Court I only have the right
20 to ask questions and not to answer. So through my questions, I'm going
21 to try to tell you everything I know. I'm going to say everything that I
22 can say, everything that I am allowed to say.
23 Please tell us, do you know that at the time while your husband
24 was interrogated in that apartment, he was interrogated by the State
25 Security Service and not the army? You said that he was in that mill.
1 A. It was four.
2 Q. And do you know that he was also interrogated there by the same
4 A. He wasn't registered. There is no trace of him being registered
5 anywhere except one thing. The only trace comes from the fact that the
6 warden of the prison in Vanekov Mlin was sufficiently intelligent, and he
7 requested that Pecanac should sign a certificate certifying that he took
8 over the prisoner. So this is the only trace from which we can see that
9 Avdo was treated as a war prisoner, because he was handed over as a war
10 prisoner. So that's one thing.
17 JUDGE FLUEGGE: Mr. Elderkin.
18 MR. ELDERKIN: I need to ask if we can go into private session.
19 JUDGE FLUEGGE: Private.
20 [Private session]
11 Pages 13334-13335 redacted. Private session.
19 [Open session]
20 THE REGISTRAR: We're back in open session, Your Honours. Thank
22 JUDGE FLUEGGE: Ms. Palic, you told us about the commissions set
23 up by the government and Republika Srpska. Please continue.
24 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] So as I was saying, none of those
25 commissions managed to yield the answer, which was the basic reason for
1 the establishment of the commissions. They did not investigate those
2 responsible, and they did not tell me where the body of my husband was.
3 You are now referring me back to the institutions in Sarajevo.
4 Look, I do not amnesty anybody in this case, but the fact remains that I
5 did not expect to receive an answer from them.
6 All this could have happened the way that it did happen. When we
7 requested them to identify possible mortal remains it was one thing, but
8 in this particular case all the responsibility rested with the
9 Government of Republika Srpska.
10 Q. Thank you, Mrs. Palic. Please tell the Trial Chamber who
11 identified your husband. Tell us everything you know about that so we
12 can see whether they found him in the mass grave or whether they placed
13 him in the mass grave after the identification, because this is going to
14 reveal many things about the manner in which those people were killed.
15 A. In 2009, I received information that my husband had been
16 identified. That was a great shock for me. Why? Because I was informed
17 that the body that was found out to belong to my husband had been buried
18 in Visoko as an unidentified body, that it had been exhumed from a mass
19 grave in Vragolovi close to Rogatica in 2001, and the identification was
20 done by the ICMP, because they do all the identifications in the former
21 Yugoslavia. That's an international institute for the DNA analysis.
22 So the body of my husband was exhumed from a mass grave in 2001.
23 It was transferred to Visoko. This means that it was handed over to the
24 federal commission. Since no identification was made, because at the
25 time they did not do DNA analysis, he was buried as an unidentified body.
1 You have to understand that this was a great frustration for me.
2 I passed by that graveyard on many occasions, and I didn't know that the
3 body of my husband was lying there. I consider the Government of
4 Republika Srpska responsible, because if they told me that they told the
5 truth I would have known in the body of my husband was there. We could
6 have done all this analysis before.
7 Q. Thank you, Mrs. Palic. Now, based on all your knowledge, could
8 you answer my following question: Do you maybe know whether the mortal
9 remains of your husband were found in an individual grave or in a common
10 grave with other people who were killed at different times and different
12 A. I don't know if they were all killed in the same place. My
13 husband's body was found in the mass grave near Rogatica where there were
14 also the bodies of Mehmed Hajric, Amir Imamovic and Hamdija Dedic, as
15 well as six other victims. It is certain that the three I mentioned were
16 killed in the area of Rogatica. Actually, there is information to that
17 extent, including information on the perpetrator. However, I don't know
18 where my husband had been. This is what I'm trying to find out.
19 Q. Thank you. I'm trying to point out a key fact, which is whether
20 he was killed at the same time, so that to be buried in the same grave,
21 or was he exhumed and then subsequently put in it. This is what you need
22 to research, because it will provide many answers ultimately.
23 A. There is indicia in existence that this was a secondary grave.
24 However, as I said, they're only indicia. I think you know that better
25 than me.
1 Q. Since say that there are indications that it was a secondary
2 grave, are there also indications that someone buried people killed in
3 different places in that single grave in order to cover up any traces and
4 lead the investigation in a wrong direction?
5 A. If anyone did that, it was done by members of the VRS in
7 Q. You also said that Republika Srpska was to blame. Could the VRS
8 bury the mortal remains of your husband and others in Visoko, those
9 allegedly found in the mass grave, because it is in federation territory.
10 A. This is an ugly question. I'm telling you and the Chamber this:
11 There wasn't a single day spent that I didn't do something trying to find
12 out where my husband was. I have the decision of the war crimes chamber
13 in Bosnia-Herzegovina, a senior judicial body which states that it was
14 the authorities of the RS who are tasked with determining or defining the
15 fate of Avdo Palic. If he is found to be alive, he should be released
16 immediately. If he is dead, the mortal remains need to be returned to
17 the family and perpetrators tried. It means that the mortal remains were
18 to be given to the family, not to any federal commissions, because there
19 are three such commissions, including the government of the RS. But not
20 a single one was able to tell us that he was, say, killed in Rogatica and
21 buried at this particular place. This is the lead we would have
22 followed. Only the last commission hinted at that, and then I insisted
23 that targeted individual identification be done of the bodies in the
25 If the commissions appointed by the RS between 2001 and 2007, had
1 they done their job, everything would have been clear, but where are the
2 results of investigations?
3 Throughout the investigation, I don't see any responsibility with
4 the federation commission. I believe this is imputed. We looked for so
5 many years, we insisted, and all along the body was on our side. It's a
6 classical set-up so as to appear that, yes, it is ultimately you hiding
7 the body.
8 Q. Thank you, Ms. Palic. You know that the perpetrator of a crime
9 is trying to cover up tracks. I'm asking you this in goodwill. Please
10 consider it carefully. Did you ask the Prosecution who carried out the
11 exhumation in Vragolovi, The VRS or the commission of Bosnia-Herzegovina?
12 Did you find out who it did and who took his body to Visoko and for what
14 A. The question you put to me is illogical. As I said, the
15 exhumation of the mass grave in Vragolovi was carried out in 2001, and if
16 I'm not wrong, the VRS no longer existed. There were only the joint
17 armed forces of Bosnia-Herzegovina. How could then the army exhume his
18 body? It is a fact that until 2001 he was buried in VRS territory, and
19 exhumations were never carried out by the army.
20 Q. Thank you, Ms. Palic. Please consider this carefully: These
21 joint organs which carried out exhumations, did they take your husband's
22 body to Visoko, to ABiH territory, and buried him there, or was this done
23 by Republika Srpska, to take his body to the territory of the other
24 entity? This is the question you need to explain to the Chamber.
25 A. It was done by representatives of the federal commission. The
1 rule was -- well, it's difficult and tedious to explain, but every
2 commission had a list of people they were looking for. The RS government
3 is duty-bound to assist with identifying and locating people in their
4 territory, as is the federation in its territory. Of course, many more
5 Muslims went missing, and for the most part searches were done in -- in
6 RS territory. Now it turns out that it's the federal commission to
7 blame, and they found him, and the blame is not on those who killed.
8 Q. Well, I didn't raise the issue of the blame. I raised the issue
9 of who found the body in the mass grave and who took it to Visoko.
10 Perhaps you can tell us I know, I don't know or something else. When you
11 say the federal commission, the Court doesn't know which commission it
12 is. Is it the one controlled by the Army of Bosnia-Herzegovina and its
13 government or is it some other commission and territory?
14 A. When we are referring to this, I cannot refer to the Army of
15 Bosnia-Herzegovina or the VRS. These two military formations ceased
16 their existence once the Dayton Accords were signed, and shortly
17 afterwards, joint BiH forces were created. I believe you know that.
18 There are no separate armies any more. This is done by commissions for
19 searching for those who went missing, and there are two, one in the RS
20 and the other in the federation. Need I say more?
21 Q. Thank you, Ms. Palic. I have no further questions about this,
22 because you are putting in the context of who is to blame. I was simply
23 trying to find out whether the federation commission working in the
24 territory of the federation was supposed to go to Rogatica, which is in
25 RS territory. Are they free to come without any authorisation or
1 approval by the RS authorities?
2 A. There must be permission to come, and there must be police
3 security provided.
4 Q. That is why I asked you. How come a body is taken from Rogatica
5 to Visoko, from the RS to the federation, without you knowing and without
6 you being informed?
7 A. It is the ultimate crime, actually. Had I not done what I did,
8 had I not fought, had I not searched, had I not have the decision by the
9 Court ordering the RS authorities to hand over the body to the family --
10 and I never turned to the federal commission because I didn't think they
11 were responsible. This question was before all other questions. The
12 disappearance of my husband was taken out of the context of those who
13 went missing in Bosnia-Herzegovina. I fought for him to be found. I
14 fought for the truth to be learned, and there were court decisions on my
15 side. There's also the fact that my husband was the most senior prisoner
16 in terms of rank on any side, the Croatian, the Serbian, or the army
17 side. It was a well-known case. This is why I believe it to be more of
18 a crime by the RS, because they knew, but they didn't want to deliver
19 despite the obligation by the chamber for human rights and despite the
20 decision of the constitutional commission of the Constitutional Court of
21 Bosnia-Herzegovina. They simply did not provide information that the
22 body of my husband was exhumed, and that was in the territory of the
24 Do you think that anyone in the federation would have an interest
25 in hiding my husband's body? What for?
1 Q. It is not up to me to have an opinion about this. I simply put
2 questions about what you said. You said you passed by the graveyard
3 without knowing. So the person who buried him didn't tell you.
4 A. That somebody is the Government of the RS.
5 Q. Did the Government of the RS bury him in Visoko in federation
6 territory without the federation knowing?
7 A. Please, if I give you something without telling you what it is,
8 how can you be responsible for it? Once the body was exhumed from the
9 grave in Rogatica, did anybody provide a list of those victims, saying
10 this is Mehmed Hajric, Amir Imamovic, Hamdija Dedic, and Avdo Palic? No
11 one said so.
12 It is your responsibility or the responsibility of the person who
13 killed them, the person who located that mass grave there, and it is the
14 responsibility of the Government of the RS who did not conduct an
15 efficient investigation and did not hand over the body in time.
16 Q. Thank you, Ms. Palic. You know best how to arrive at the truth.
17 It is up to me to ask you to -- whether you have considered all these
18 elements, and since we entered the realm of politics, you may well end up
19 without appropriate answers on either side. I hope you are aware of
21 A. I do not understand.
22 JUDGE FLUEGGE: This was not a question. I think this is a very
23 difficult matter to deal with in this courtroom. I think it's very
24 important for Mr. Tolimir, and it is a very serious matter for you,
25 Ms. Palic. I would like to invite both speakers to calm down, if that is
1 possible, dealing with this problematic matter. We should avoid
2 debating. We should try to continue by putting questions and answer
4 Mr. Tolimir, please carry on and put questions to the witness.
5 THE ACCUSED: [Interpretation] Thank you, Mr. President. I am
6 trying to.
7 MR. TOLIMIR: [Interpretation]
8 Q. You were asked by Judge Fluegge why your husband did not join you
9 when he arrived with you at the separation line at Kladanj. You
10 described how you arrived there and how he went back.
11 My question is this: When your husband came on your bus, did he
12 tell you that I offered him to go to ABiH territory with you, and it was
13 because of that that I let him to go to your bus to accompany you to the
14 separation line? Did he tell you that as you were moving between the two
15 lines of confrontation?
16 A. No, he did not. Not in those words. He didn't mention your
18 Somewhere in my memory it seems to linger this idea that you were
19 ready to let him go. He was a hindrance to you in Zepa. Maybe I simply
20 wanted him to come with us. In such circumstances, your only -- only
21 your need for survival operates properly.
22 Avdo was a commander. Furthermore, he was the person who enjoyed
23 the trust of his people. He radiated peace and security, which was
24 important for the inhabitants of Zepa. Had Avdo left, what would have
25 been with the people? Only one convoy had left by that time. I'm
1 certain that Srebrenica would have occurred in Zepa. How would Avdo be
2 able to go on living knowing that he had abandoned his people? Also,
3 what would that have meant in terms of his service? It would surely be
4 seen as a betrayal.
5 By that time, I got used to this underhanded approach of yours as
6 to who started the war, how, when. It's always the same thing over and
7 over again. There's only one thing that is certain: For as long as you
8 are here, you're important in that context.
9 Mr. Tolimir, if you were indeed of such good intentions, why
10 didn't you save my husband once his mission was completed, once he saved
11 the people of Zepa? Instead, you offered to him a dirty way out, a
12 coward's way out.
13 Would you have abandoned your people? I know many would.
14 However, I'm proud.
15 Q. Thank you, Ms. Palic.
16 JUDGE FLUEGGE: Ms. Palic and everybody else, it's a very
17 emotional situation for you, of course, but it's up to Mr. Tolimir to put
18 questions to you and not the other way round, because we are in a trial,
19 so that there is no possibility for Mr. Tolimir to answer your questions
20 I suppose you have, and I understand that very well, but it's only for
21 him to put questions to you.
22 Mr. Tolimir, carry on.
23 MR. TOLIMIR: [Interpretation]
24 Q. Ms. Palic, apart from taking care of the civilian population, was
25 your husband obliged to take care of his brigade first and foremost, and
1 did he want his brigade to get out of Zepa either by convoy or some other
2 way, and was there resistance to that by the Sarajevo authorities? Do
3 you know anything about that? Thank you.
4 A. I only know that -- that Avdo only accepted an evacuation of his
5 forces by air, because he didn't want his soldiers to take a land route
6 without Red Cross monitoring. Only by air, for reasons of safety.
7 And as for resistance in Sarajevo, no. I know that there were
8 talks about that in Sarajevo, and there were representatives of the Zepa
9 War Presidency involved, and they did everything to bring about such an
11 Q. Thank you, Ms. Palic. Since there was no evacuation of
12 able-bodied men, was it logical for him to try to provide support for
13 their evacuation through direct contacts with the Sarajevo authorities,
14 including Alija Izetbegovic, and did he tell you that he had been offered
15 to leave and do that and contact his unit the same way he contacted you
16 at Visoko?
17 A. No, I don't know anything about that.
18 Q. Thank you, Ms. Palic.
19 THE ACCUSED: [Interpretation] Could we please see D55, paragraph
20 108. It's on page 30. Now Ms. Palic can see what her husband wrote to
21 Alija Izetbegovic concerning the -- concerning his soldiers.
22 MR. TOLIMIR: [Interpretation]
23 Q. You can see the text right below the third paragraph. This is
24 the letter which your husband in his capacity as brigade commander sent
25 to Alija Izetbegovic on the 26th of July. I quote --
1 JUDGE FLUEGGE: Mr. Tolimir, before you are going to quote,
2 please tell us where we can find the English text. Is it the last
3 paragraph on that page, 29? Yes. Now I see it. Paragraph 108.
4 Continue, please.
5 THE ACCUSED: [Interpretation] Thank you, Mr. President.
6 MR. TOLIMIR: [Interpretation]
7 Q. I quote again what Avdo Palic wrote to Alija Izetbegovic on the
8 26th of July:
9 "President -- Mr. President, at about 2100 hours negotiations at
10 Boksanica at which General Smith, Hamdija Torlak, President of the
11 Executive Board of Zepa, and war criminal Ratko Mladic were present
12 concluded: As General Suvalic informed me today during these
13 negotiations on agreement about the exchanges of all for all accepted
14 also by our side should have been adopted. Minister Muratovic was
15 supposed to be present but he wasn't because security was not guaranteed
16 for him. General Suvalic also informed me about this. During the
17 negotiations General Smith stated that our side did not accept the
18 agreement about the exchange of all for all and that our side was
19 demanding some additional concessions. Hamdija Torlak remained at the
20 place of negotiations in Boksanica and he was told that if we were ready
21 for an exchange of all for all during the night until 0800 in the
22 morning, General Smith would let us know so that a plan of helicopter
23 evacuation could be prepared.
24 "President, I ask you on behalf of my brigade which is on the
25 verge of a nervous breakdown, if our side does not accept the agreement
1 to undertake everything so that it accepts the agreement and free us from
2 our -- from our predicament. We cannot believe that this problem looks
3 like you will not solve it. If the problem's not resolved tomorrow, I
4 must make a decision to make a breakthrough with 2.000 men and 10 -- and
5 a thousand rounds."
6 A. 10.000 rounds.
7 Q. Yes, I apologise, "10.000 rounds and you have the picture of
8 Srebrenica and intelligence data that we are blocked from all sides.
9 Tomorrow the evacuation of civilians will be over and UNPROFOR will
10 immediately pull out so that tomorrow we will probably be left to fend
11 for ourselves.
12 "President, I ask you, in the name of the soldiers who have been
13 fighting for the last five days --
14 A. Fifteen days.
15 Q. "Fifteen days, like lions. I ask you in the names of fallen
16 soldiers, and in my ranks, I have sons or parents of those who died, I
17 ask in the name of the evacuated families and children, who can hardly
18 wait to meet their fathers who are left on Zepa mountain to be
19 slaughtered or annihilated in any other way. I ask you again in the name
20 of my soldiers to make it possible for us to defend Bosnia in some other
21 battle-fields, to liberate it and to die like men. Do not let us die of
22 hunger, of the most common diseases, because we don't have a single
23 doctor but already have sick people who cannot reach the free territory
24 if we start the breakthrough," and so on.
25 And now let's take a look at the last sentence in this paragraph:
1 "He could have left yesterday with the wounded, but did not want
2 to leave his brothers-in-arms. He wanted to know to the end what would
3 be their fate and share it with them. I will be waiting for your reply,
4 hoping that you will successfully resolve this problem."
5 And the ERN number of the document from which this is a quote can
6 be seen in footnote 164.
7 Did you know that your husband sent such appeals to
8 Mr. Alija Izetbegovic and that there was no helicopter evacuation in
9 spite of that? Thank you.
10 A. This was after my departure from Zepa, so I can't have known
11 this. What I do know is that --
12 JUDGE FLUEGGE: Please continue.
13 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] There was continuous communication
14 and that there were continuous efforts on the part of the Sarajevo --
15 THE INTERPRETER: Interpreter's correction: To inform the
16 Sarajevo authorities of the situation in Zepa.
17 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] There is one fact: Nobody, apart
18 from us who were there, including you, Mr. Tolimir, could not have a
19 faithful picture of what was going on there. Avdo did all he could that
20 the Sarajevo authorities get correct information, and the UN in Sarajevo
21 too, that the people be adequately protected.
22 If you're asking me, I can say that it was my -- it is my
23 personal impression that we were left to our own resources and that
24 everybody had left us at the mercy of those -- those thugs that I saw in
25 Zepa, the Serb army.
1 Could the Sarajevo authorities do more? I don't know. I know
2 that the UN could have done more. They could have stopped you. And this
3 is the source of my bitterness. But that does not justify what you did
5 MR. TOLIMIR: [Interpretation]
6 Q. Thank you, Ms. Palic. I kindly ask you the following: Your
7 husband wrote this one day after your departure. The situation did not
8 change in that one day. And the date before your departure agreement D51
9 was signed. Could we please see it in e-court. Did your husband talk to
10 you, and did you know that an agreement was signed under which the
11 soldiers were also supposed to cross over to BH Army controlled territory
12 under certain conditions? Did he tell you about it?
13 A. Yes, he did. He said that they would come, too, because
14 otherwise I wouldn't have left him if I hadn't hoped that he would join
16 Q. Thank you. Did he tell you that he spoke to me in the car about
17 the evacuation of able-bodied men and that we had the idea of him to go
18 to federation territory and arrange the evacuation from Zepa by
19 helicopter, irrespective of the pride that matters to all of us there?
20 But if we look at the result of that pride, that's something else.
21 A. No, he didn't tell me, and it's normal he didn't, because then I
22 would have tried much harder to persuade him to come with us. But I
23 repeat that this was a cowardly ruse.
24 Let us think about the objective situation where you give an
25 opportunity for the number one man to leave. What else can that be
1 called but betrayal?
2 Q. Thank you, Ms. Palic. That's your opinion. But those who had to
3 resolve problems in the war such as your husband and I, had to find
4 some -- had to find agreement.
5 Now we can see here an agreement on the disarmament of the
6 able-bodied population in the Zepa enclave. And the other problems are
7 outlined in these ten items. Please take a look at item 2, which says:
8 "Avdo Palic shall issue an order to his troop -- troops to --
9 THE INTERPRETER: The civilian and able-bodied population --
10 MR. TOLIMIR: [Interpretation] of Zepa shall assemble around the
11 UNPROFOR base in Zepa which shall be assigned to the army of RS, that the
12 units under the command of Avdo Palic have accepted the truth and will
13 not try to take advantage of it."
14 Now look at item 10. It reads:
15 "UNPROFOR, the ICRC, the UNHCR, and other international
16 humanitarian organisations, in co-operation with the Army of Republika
17 Srpska, shall enable the transport of its civilian population from Zepa
18 to territory under the control of Rasim Delic's army or to third
19 countries of their choice in accordance with the Geneva Conventions of 12
20 August 1949."
21 Which means that, apart from the able bodied and the civilian
22 population, your husband had to tackle the problem of the able bodied who
23 he commanded. Here is my question. Would all able-bodied men have
24 accepted the agreement if your husband had signed it, and if the Sarajevo
25 authorities accepted it? Would that have been a better outcome that
1 would have enabled them to come home to their families as your husband
2 wrote in his letter? Thank you.
3 A. I will get back to your question, but first I can see whether
4 this says done on the 24th of July. This is the agreement that
5 Hamdija Torlak had to, was forced to, sign, which means that this
6 agreement was imposed by force. That's one thing.
7 Another thing: I state with full responsibility that if it had
8 been agreed for the troops to surrender to you, the Serb army, what would
9 have ensued would have been the same massacre as in Srebrenica. I also
10 don't know what would have happened to the civilians, but the troops
11 would have been massacred. I'm positive about that. You know that even
12 those who fled to Serbia were mistreated, and that in a country which,
13 conditionally speaking, was not at war. And what would have become of
14 them if they had surrendered to those in Zepa?
15 There is no such favourable option as you're trying to present
16 it. If you had been so harmless, you wouldn't have shelled and killed so
17 persistently. You wouldn't have come from the other end of the country
18 to drive us out of there. You are saying that you would have let the
19 Zepa troops to leave without harming them? Oh, come on. Your
20 persistence to conquer in that territory was incredible. You know how
21 much effort was put into conquering Zepa from 1992 to 1995, and yet
22 you're now trying to convince me that you would have let the soldiers to
23 leave and join their families. Well, why didn't you do that at
25 JUDGE FLUEGGE: I have stop you. We need our second break now.
1 We're running out of time. But I would like to mention that on page 48,
2 line 19, it reads: "Please look at item 2 which says," and then you were
3 quoting, but that was, in fact, item 3 of the document in front of us.
4 Thank you. We must have our second break now, and we will
5 continue at 12.35.
6 --- Recess taken at 12.03 p.m.
7 --- On resuming at 12.37 p.m.
8 JUDGE FLUEGGE: Mr. Tolimir, please continue.
9 THE ACCUSED: [Interpretation] Thank you, Mr. President.
10 MR. TOLIMIR: [Interpretation]
11 Q. Mrs. Palic, while we looked at D51 in e-court, you asked whether
12 it said the 24th of July. I have to say yes, it says so at the
13 beginning, in the first paragraph and also at the very end, and the
14 agreement was signed on the 24th of July, 1995.
15 While it is still on the screen, I'm not a good reader, so that's
16 probably the reason why I read the third paragraph instead of the second,
17 but could you now take a look at the seventh paragraph where it says:
18 "In accordance with the Geneva Conventions of the 12th of August
19 1949 and the Additional Protocols of 1977, the civilian population of
20 Zepa shall be given the freedom to choose their place of residence while
21 hostilities continue."
22 Do you see that?
23 A. Yes.
24 Q. Thank you. Since this was signed on the 14th of July, 1995, can
25 you tell us whether you know when the Dayton agreement was signed?
1 A. Not the 14th, the 24th. That's what I asked you, whether it was
2 the 24th.
3 When the Prosecutor was posing questions, I said that I remember
4 it well, that I remember that Hamdija Torlak came in one evening and then
5 lied on the floor in the house where I was with my babies. He was silent
6 for a long time, and then he let out a deep sign and said, "I had to sign
7 the surrender of Zepa." He was a desperate man at that moment.
8 Anybody else in the same position could not have done anything
9 else. You were the masters of life and death. That's how you acted, and
10 that's how it was. But whoever would have been in the same situation
11 would also feel the same burden of treason. That's why he had a very
12 hard time.
13 So everything that you see written here, everything written here
14 was written on the instructions of Ratko Mladic, and this document was
15 probably written just for the purpose of writing it, not for the purpose
16 of actually agreeing on something. So what I see here in this document
17 is for me yet another proof of the fact that you defined the rules of the
18 game, that you had your own goals and your own visions.
19 You mention Geneva Conventions here, but you cared nothing for
20 them. This document is yet another proof that you blackmailed the
21 negotiators from Zepa. And as for the Dayton agreement it was signed on
22 the 14th of December, 1995.
23 Q. Thank you.
24 A. But I don't see what it has to do with this.
25 Q. It has to do with this, please. Does that mean that this
1 agreement was in force for less than 6 months and after that everybody
2 had the right to return to the territory from which they fled during the
3 war. Isn't that something that this agreement guarantees? And aren't
4 some people living in Zepa now? You yourself said that you went to Zepa
5 after the war. Thank you.
6 A. This question is extremely provocative, but as I told you, I am
7 used to the ruses generated by the machinery of the Serbian nationalism.
8 The Dayton peace agreement guarantees a lot of things, things
9 that were never implemented, never ever. On the contrary. As for the
10 return to Zepa, it began probably sometime in 2001.
11 I would like to inform the Chamber and remind you in July 1995,
12 when you arrested Avdo, you know that the army was disintegrating, that
13 whatever choice they would have been offered, they were afraid and they
14 couldn't make proper decisions. That's why it was agreed that the men
15 should be -- should cross over to Serbia.
16 A number of able-bodied men who were in Zepa crossed the Drina
17 River, arrived to Serbia and were then accommodated in collection centres
18 Sljivovica and Mitrovo Polje, I think. Those men were later taken to
19 third countries, America, Norway, Scandinavian countries, Australia.
20 They were scattered all over the world. Then they invited their families
21 to join them, and they started new life in those foreign countries.
22 So what am I trying to say here? You imposed conditions that
23 those men could not return to Bosnia and Herzegovina, so that they went
24 to third countries instead. When they went abroad and when they started
25 their new lives, well, who would return to Zepa then?
1 Q. Thank you, Mrs. Palic.
2 A. Just one more thing. Where were they supposed to come back? I
3 want to remind you that if you look at the big house that belonged to my
4 parents, together with auxiliary buildings and other things, it was a
5 large property. Today there is only a small weekend house consisting of
6 two rooms. And there are many similar houses in Zepa. This is the
7 so-called process of rebuilding. There is nothing in Zepa. There are no
8 factories. There are no jobs. There is nothing in Zepa. And when you
9 were chasing us away, you knew very well how to do that.
10 Q. Thank you, Mrs. Palic. Could I ask you to make your answers
11 slightly shorter so that I can manage to finish this cross-examination.
12 Now, as for the events, there was a witness yesterday who
13 testified about crossing over to Serbia. You said that it was agreed
14 that they would cross to Serbia. Do you know who agreed that, where and
16 A. I think that Milosevic expressed the willingness to accept the
17 men from Zepa under the auspices of UN and I assume the Sarajevo
18 authorities. Nobody from Zepa was involved in that.
19 Q. Thank you. So if it was done under the auspices of the UNHCR and
20 the Sarajevo authorities, does that mean that the Serbs took those people
21 to Australia? Ah, yesterday's witness said that he returned after three
22 months. Were they able to return whenever they wished to return?
23 A. Where did he return after three months? After -- no. To Zepa?
24 Nobody returned to Zepa before 2001.
25 Q. Thank you, Mrs. Palic. You have to bear in mind that we had a
1 witness here whose job is to issue permits for the return to Zepa, and he
2 said that he personally issued 300 such permits which enabled people to
3 return to Zepa.
4 I think that we should speak only about things that we know
5 about, and we should be more brief.
6 Do you happen to know that more than 300 families returned to
8 A. I don't think that it was that many. A number of them returned,
9 but not that many. But the return did not start prior to 2001. People
10 couldn't dream about going back to Zepa then.
11 Q. Thank you. People returned whenever they wanted, as you yourself
12 said. But tell me this: Does this agreement enable everybody to come
13 back after the hostilities? Is that ethnic cleansing? If the agreement
14 says that people can come back after the hostilities, and if that is also
15 something envisioned by the Geneva Conventions?
16 A. Yes. The Dayton agreement created the possibility for that, but
17 the Serbian authorities did not create such responsibility. In Zepa they
18 did not create jobs. They didn't give us the school. They didn't give
19 us the electricity. They didn't give us the most elementary conditions
20 for life. There are things on a declaratory level and then there are
21 things in reality.
22 As for the Serbian authorities, the Dayton agreement is always
23 declaratory when it suits them but in actual fact it has an actual effect
24 only when it suits them as well. Also, you yourself in this agreement
25 mentioned a number of things only on the declaratory level, but in real
1 life, there was no return because there were no conditions fit for life.
2 JUDGE FLUEGGE: Mr. Tolimir, I stopped you because you were
3 overlapping again. Please wait with your next question until the
4 translation has finished. Now, again your question, please.
5 MR. TOLIMIR: [Interpretation]
6 Q. Mrs. Palic, please tell us, this agreement signed by the
7 representatives of the Muslim and Serb side, does it allow for the return
8 of people after the hostilities? Take the last sentence in item number
9 7. Take a look at the last sentence in item number 7.
10 A. If you're referring to this document, that's what's written in
11 it, but I have to say it once again, this is a document dictated by
12 Ratko Mladic. He used it for his own purposes. The influence on the
13 contents of this document was not in the hands of Hamdija Torlak.
14 Q. Thank you. Yesterday at page 4, line 14 -- or more generally, on
15 page 4, line 14 onwards, you spoke about Hamdija Torlak. First you said
16 that your husband was trying to buy time through negotiations, that that
17 was the reason why he sent the negotiators. Now, that means that he gave
18 them the mandate and instructions. Then, further on you said that
19 Hamdija Torlak arrived in Stitkov Dol. He entered the house, lied on the
20 floor, and remained silent. After some time, he let out a deep sigh, and
21 he said, "I had to sign the agreement. I had to sign the surrender of
22 Zepa." You could feel it in his voice. You could hear the voice of a
23 traitor, although we all knew that that was the situation that could not
24 have been avoided.
25 So I didn't actually intend to ask you this, but since you
1 mentioned it and you emphasise Hamdija Torlak, I have to ask you: Was
2 the agreement signed when you were in Stitkov Dol? Thank you.
3 A. Yes.
4 JUDGE FLUEGGE: Mr. Tolimir, this was not on the transcript of
5 yesterday but of today, just for the sake of the record. Please
7 THE ACCUSED: [Interpretation] Thank you, Mr. President. Can we
8 see page 7 of today's transcript, lines 19, 21, et cetera.
9 MR. TOLIMIR: [Interpretation]
10 Q. Mrs. Palic said:
11 "When I arrived to the mountain lodge, a boy arrived and told us
12 that the evacuation of civilians from Zepa had been agreed and that we
13 should prepare ourselves," et cetera.
14 My question is: Did Hamdija Torlak come to Stitkov Dol or to the
15 mountain lodge after the agreement on the evacuation of civilians had
16 been signed? I, of course, allow for the possibility that you made a
17 mistake about the dates, because you weren't very attentive to details at
18 the time.
19 A. Hamdija Torlak came to the house in Stitkov Dol. On that night,
20 we set out for the mountain, and just as we had arrived, that boy came to
21 tell us that we should go back because an evacuation was agreed.
22 Why did they return so quickly? You know that better than me.
23 But the fact is that I heard it with my own ears, that I was present. I
24 heard the man say that he was forced to sign that agreement. Although he
25 didn't want to do it, he said that he had to do it.
1 Q. Thank you. Did you, on the 24th -- were you in that mountain
2 lodge when the boy arrived to tell you that the agreement had been
4 A. Yes. I assume -- yes, yes. It's the 24th, because the
5 evacuation began in the afternoon on the 24th.
6 Q. Thank you. Does that mean that Hamdija Torlak, lying on the
7 floor, told you that he signed the evacuation or he was silent and didn't
8 want to say anything?
9 A. It was the night after that he told us that he didn't want to
10 sign it but had to sign it. That was the same night that we set out for
11 the mountain. Now, look, of course I'm quite tired right now and you're
12 trying to break my concentration. We are talking about the dates now.
13 First the 23rd, the 24th in the afternoon we went out. Then it was the
14 25th, 26th, 27th. I'm talking about the dates that determine the rest of
15 my life. The night before we left Stitkov Dol, you know it was the last
16 night. We went towards the mountain only during the last night, because
17 we didn't know that those conditions would actually be accepted, the
18 conditions that you imposed. Hamdija did sign them, and then I don't
19 know exactly what happened in the morning, and that's when we were told
20 that the evacuation would have been organised. And then when we
21 returned, we thought that we would see some Red Cross vehicles. We
22 thought that this part of evacuation had also been agreed, but I didn't
23 see any such vehicles.
24 Q. Thank you, Ms. Palic. Let us look at a footage from Zepa so that
25 we can actually see the picture, and perhaps that will help you recall
2 Do you see this person in the still?
3 A. Yes, I see him.
4 Q. Can you tell us who it is?
5 A. Hamdija Torlak.
6 Q. Thank you. He is putting his coat on his shoulders, and he's
7 about to sit at the negotiating table. We need to hear what he says, and
8 perhaps we should start playing from 25:44.
9 [Video-clip played]
10 MR. TOLIMIR: [Interpretation]
11 Q. Can you tell us what Mr. Torlak said in his first sentence when
12 he mentioned the government and when he said that they agreed that it was
13 best for the entire population to leave Zepa? Did you hear that on the
15 A. I did. But this is the same as the candy Mladic distributed in
16 Srebrenica before the cameras. You were taping Hamdija so that he would
17 be forced to say that we decided to surrender and we decided to leave.
18 Why were you not taping as you were destroying, burning what you did when
19 he came? What was the purpose of this?
20 JUDGE FLUEGGE: Mr. Tolimir. Mr. Tolimir, we need the document
21 number you are using at the moment. You didn't indicate.
22 THE ACCUSED: [Interpretation] Thank you, Mr. President. This is
24 JUDGE FLUEGGE: Thank you.
25 THE ACCUSED: [Interpretation] The 19th of July, 1995. At
1 26 minutes, 5 seconds, to 26 minutes, 26 seconds. This is the only part
2 we'll be referring to given the shortness of time.
3 Can we keep playing, please.
4 [Video-clip played]
5 THE ACCUSED: [Interpretation] Stop here, please.
6 MR. TOLIMIR: [Interpretation]
7 Q. Ms. Palic, could you hear Mr. Mladic's first sentence? What did
8 he say he would make possible?
9 A. I did hear him.
10 Q. Did he say that he would allow a freedom of choice?
11 A. He did. But I need to repeat, this was taped for Mladic's
12 purposes. I repeat, why was Mladic not taped issuing orders to kill,
13 butcher, burn, et cetera? This was recorded for his needs, and you are
14 relying on it now.
15 As for any freedom of choice, since 1992, as of the moment you
16 surrounded Zepa with tanks, we never had any freedom of choice.
17 I need to remind you that what you are trying to do is ironic.
18 You know better than me what your aims and intentions were, and now
19 you're asking me to acknowledge your goodness? You killed. You torched.
20 People went missing. There's nothing you didn't do, and now you're
21 discussing freedom of choice as if we were idiots.
22 Q. Thank you, Ms. Palic. I apologise. We are showing you the
23 footage of a meeting, and Mladic never issued orders such as kill, burn,
24 and slaughter. If you have something to that effect, you need to show it
25 to us, of course. Otherwise, let us continue with the footage, please.
1 [Video-clip played]
2 THE ACCUSED: [Interpretation] Stop, please. Thank you.
3 MR. TOLIMIR: [Interpretation]
4 Q. Did the wounded leave first from Zepa in keeping with the
5 agreement reached by Mladic, Kulovac, and Torlak, and do you know whether
6 Mr. Kulovac took the wounded out?
7 A. He did. If I can remind you, Dr. Benjamin Kulovac never used to
8 smoke. He did not enjoy that vice. I knew him well. He was a friend of
9 mine. But here you can see he's extremely nervous and that all this is a
10 situation that is well set up.
11 THE ACCUSED: [Interpretation] Let us shows the rest of the
12 footage to Mrs. Palic and she can see if we forced Mr. Kulovac to smoke
13 and whether we staged anything.
14 [Video-clip played]
15 MR. TOLIMIR: [Interpretation]
16 Q. [No interpretation]
17 A. Good forbid. I don't even want to hear his name.
18 Q. Very well. In that case, we should see the footage of the 25th
19 of July. This one was of the 19th of July. From 26 minutes to 26
20 minutes, 26 seconds. Next we'll see P740, the evacuation on the 25th of
21 July, 1995, that is to say, the day Ms. Palic left Zepa, from 36 minutes
22 40 seconds to 37 minutes 50 seconds?
23 JUDGE FLUEGGE: Mr. Elderkin.
24 MR. ELDERKIN: The correct reference to the day Ms. Palic left
25 Zepa, I understood from her earlier testimony she left on the 24th of
1 July but Mr. Tolimir has just stated that the evacuation on the 25th was
2 the day she left. If he could confirm the correct day, perhaps.
3 JUDGE FLUEGGE: Ms. Palic, could you please repeat the day of the
4 evacuation and when you left the village of Zepa.
5 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] On the 24th, in the evening. That
6 is when I left Zepa. That is what I recall, and that is what I made
7 notes of. On the 25th, we were in Kladanj, and during that day we
8 travelled on, eventually reaching Visoko on the 26th. That's in my
9 diary. I may have gone wrong by a day, but I think it was on the 24th.
10 I think this is the footage showing Avdo coming back that day.
11 THE ACCUSED: [Interpretation] Thank you. I do not dispute
12 Ms. Palic's words. I just wanted to show the footage of the 25th of July
13 showing the evacuation. And she may well have left on the 24th. I have
14 no issue with that.
15 Can we please play now from 36 minutes, 18 seconds.
16 [Video-clip played]
17 THE ACCUSED: [Interpretation] Stop, please. We stopped at 36:45.
18 MR. TOLIMIR: [Interpretation]
19 Q. Can you see whether these soldiers are away from the bus on the
20 opposite side of the road next to the destroyed building?
21 A. But do you know what the distance is? Ten metres.
22 Q. Thank you. Now have a look at who's next to the bus at the
23 distance of 1 metre.
24 THE ACCUSED: [Interpretation] Let's keep playing from 36:45,
1 [Video-clip played]
2 MR. TOLIMIR: [Interpretation]
3 Q. Do you recognise your husband in this still, and do you know if
4 he was there during the boarding process on the same day when you were
5 there, or is this another day perhaps?
6 A. I don't know. I don't see myself here. I suppose this was on
7 the day he returned. He was close by. Whenever the people were upset,
8 he was there to help them during the evacuation.
9 Q. Thank you.
10 THE ACCUSED: [Interpretation] Let's keep playing so that
11 Ms. Palic could identify certain people and remind herself of the events.
12 [Video-clip played]
13 THE ACCUSED: [Interpretation] Thank you. Please stop.
14 MR. TOLIMIR: [Interpretation]
15 Q. Did you see these two men with sheets of paper in hand, and, if
16 so, can you recognise them?
17 A. I recognised Mehmed Hajric as the person in the white shirt. I
18 didn't recognise the person on the right-hand side though. Mehmed Hajric
19 was the president of the Zepa War Presidency.
20 Q. Thank you.
21 THE ACCUSED: [Interpretation] Let's keep playing from 37 minutes
23 [Video-clip played]
24 THE ACCUSED: [Interpretation] Thank you. Stop, please. We
25 stopped at 37:40.
1 MR. TOLIMIR: [Interpretation]
2 Q. Can you see the man in uniform with a patch on his right upper
4 A. I can see him, but I don't see the patch.
5 Q. Thank you. Did UNPROFOR members wear uniforms similar to this
6 one? Could he have been an UNPROFOR member?
7 A. I don't know his face. I don't know the man, so you're asking in
9 Q. Thank you.
10 THE ACCUSED: [Interpretation] Let's keep playing from 37:40.
11 [Video-clip played]
12 THE ACCUSED: [Interpretation] Stop, please, at 37:50. We won't
13 be using the footage any more.
14 MR. TOLIMIR: [Interpretation]
15 Q. Can you tell us whether Mr. Hajric was conducting the evacuation
16 with the help of UNPROFOR members because we saw one of them with a UN
17 patch, and were they closer to the people than the VRS soldiers who as
18 you said were standing some 10 metres away?
19 A. Well, there's a difference in position, but it all took place
20 within a perimeter of 10 metres. If this was indeed a Ukrainian soldier,
21 between him and your soldiers the distance was 10 metres judging by the
22 footage. You showed the corner of the cafe building where I saw you
23 standing with your soldiers when I arrived in Zepa. At that point in
24 time, the bus was behind the building where the staff was, whereas when I
25 was leaving, the buses were lined along the street between the UNPROFOR
1 base and the hospital. So this is such a small area. This is an attempt
2 to confuse a person who's not familiar with the location itself.
3 Q. Thank you, Ms. Palic. Can you tell us whether you know if any
4 lists were made based on which you were put on buses so that it would be
5 ensured that you finally arrived in the territory you were trying to
6 reach, and was this done by the representatives of the Zepa authorities?
7 A. No one registered me. When I enter the bus, I didn't see anyone
8 making lists. I know that on another convoy on another day that people
9 were listed. Some acquaintances of mine told me, because they were on
10 that convoy. I didn't inquire much. They just told me that lists were
11 made on that convoy. However, there were no lists on our convoy.
12 Q. Thank you. You said that at page 10, lines 10 to 12. Let's look
13 at D173 next.
14 JUDGE FLUEGGE: [Previous translation continues] ... Before we
15 leave from this video. Please keep it. Keep the video on the screen,
16 please. We would like to go back to 37 minutes, 40 seconds, if that is
17 possible. Yes.
18 Judge Nyambe has a question.
19 JUDGE NYAMBE: No, actually, I don't have a question. I would
20 just like, if possible, for the video to move to show this individual in
21 uniform completely, a little bit up, because there is this unclear patch.
22 I just want to go up in the position in which he is. Thank you.
23 [Trial Chamber and registrar confer]
24 THE ACCUSED: [No interpretation]
25 JUDGE FLUEGGE: We don't receive interpretation. Perhaps your
1 microphone is off.
2 THE ACCUSED: [Interpretation] Thank you. Could we please go back
3 from 37:40 to 37:30, and then we'll see the entire frame.
4 [Video-clip played]
5 THE ACCUSED: [Interpretation] We have now seen the arm above this
6 blurred band, and we saw the -- the patch.
7 Could you please continue playing.
8 [Video-clip played]
9 JUDGE FLUEGGE: Thank you. I think this is fine. We should now
10 continue. You asked for the document D173. It should be, please, placed
11 on the screen.
12 Mr. Tolimir.
13 THE ACCUSED: [Interpretation] Thank you. Let us display
14 paragraph 16 of this document, which is on page 3. Thank you.
15 MR. TOLIMIR: [Interpretation].
16 Q. This is the statement of Mr. Joseph. Have you heard of him?
17 Thank you.
18 A. Yes. Mr. Joseph is a witness. Actually, he understood -- he
19 helped me understand what was happening in Zepa after my departure.
20 Mr. Joseph arrived at Zepa after I had left, I think, because when we
21 spoke once, we concluded that I must have left before he arrived with
22 somebody else from the United Nations. I know the man very well, because
23 I melt him on a couple of occasions when I needed a witness who -- who
24 saw Avdo being arrested.
25 Q. Thank you. Let us see what he says in paragraph 16.
1 "We created written lists of the evacuees, and as far as I can
2 recall, we had separate lists for each vehicle. I handed over those
3 lists later either to UNHCR or someone in UNPROFOR. We also tried to
4 place one UNPROFOR soldier to each vehicle, but I'm not sure if we
5 managed to do it all the time during the evacuation."
6 Here's my question: Do you believe that Joseph indeed did that?
7 He also came to testify here, and he was sent to Zepa by General Smith to
8 take part in the evacuation and see to it that everything goes as it
10 A. Well, I told you when I was getting on the bus, I saw nobody
11 registering people. I'm not familiar with this type of situation.
12 That's one thing. And another, I have information that some people on
13 the following day, who were part of other convoys, were registered.
14 That's what I learned afterward. Those persons on those convoys were
15 registered, and there were lists of people. And then I think that
16 Mr. Joseph and I weren't there at the same time. This is what we
17 concluded at one point. Whether that's really the case, well, I don't
18 know. I can't go into that now. But any way, I wasn't registered by
19 anybody, but I do have information that some other people were registered
20 who were on subsequent convoys.
21 Q. Thank you. That's not all that important. Maybe they didn't
22 want to interview you at the time because you were a well-known
23 personality. Maybe that person from the Zepa authorities put your name
24 on a list because they wanted you to arrive in the free territory, and
25 they didn't want to expose you.
1 A. But where are those lists? Has anybody ever seen them?
2 JUDGE FLUEGGE: Please wait. Please wait.
3 MR. TOLIMIR: [Interpretation]
4 Q. Ms. Palic, please read the second sentence of paragraph 16. It's
5 in the second line. Thank you. It says:
6 "I later handed over those lists either to UNHCR or someone in
8 A. But you said that somebody from the Zepa authorities drafted
9 those lists, and now we see that it reads they were handed over to
10 UNPROFOR and so on.
11 Q. Thank you, Ms. Palic. It really is not my intention to say
12 anything false. We've just seen Hajric. Have you seen him holding a
14 A. Well, as far as I personally am concerned, you may not be stating
15 false things bluntly, but you are telling the same old story again about
16 the allegedly good intentions of the Serb army. But what were you doing
17 in Zepa in the first place unless you wanted to kill people, burn down
18 the place and destroy it?
19 Q. Thank you, Ms. Palic. Since this is the kind of language you're
20 using, you're forcing to go me show some documents that clearly show what
21 your husband did when it comes to burning and slaughtering. But before
22 that, let me ask you whether you know that the VRS conducted sabotage and
23 terrorist activities against Zepa.
24 A. Not only that they did that, but it was so frequent in 1992,
25 1993, 1995. On a number of occasions they massacred people. And I think
1 I would need quite some time to enumerate these sabotage raids, as you
2 call them where you slaughtered -- well, let me give you one example
3 Brezevo Ravno. They massacred people in their sleep, and there's a
4 series of such situations.
5 Q. Ms. Palic, I don't want to oppose you. Be free to say whatever
6 you want to say. But do you know whether there were sabotage groups from
7 Zepa going into the territory controlled by the VRS? Thank you.
8 A. I wish to make one thing perfectly clear. When you surround a
9 place, encircle it and isolate it, only if everybody there is dead you
10 must -- you can expect that they will not try to find a way out of their
12 It's a fact, and I know, and it happened at least twice in my
13 presence, and I -- I also mentioned it yesterday, but I'll repeat, not
14 only were we isolated without medication, without clothes, footwear,
15 food, the greatest problem was the hunger which reached its peak in late
16 autumn and in winter. People were hungry. I remember two such
17 situations when some men came to Avdo and said, "Let's go attack Borike,
18 because my child is hungry." And others put forward other reasons.
19 People were already fed up with waiting to starve to death or be killed
20 by Kusic's shells. But Avdo didn't let them go on such raids. And it
21 wasn't Kusic who saved Borike and Han Pijesak and the other places in the
22 surroundings. It was Avdo, because he didn't let them attack the Serb
23 villages. It is their right to live in their homes. We don't want their
24 homes, but we were not letting them have ours. And Avdo didn't let them
25 leave the territory to maybe steal a cow or something which would have
1 meant survival. Whether he was fully successful in that, I don't know,
2 but he did his best to bring that about, and you know that perfectly
4 Q. Thank you, Ms. Palic. I apologise, but I am now really forced to
5 show document D62, because of your answers. It's a document signed by
6 your husband. This is a court of law. If you are saying to me you know
7 perfectly well this or that, then I'll have to show you this document.
8 This is a document of the BH Army drafted on 26th June 1995.
9 THE INTERPRETER: Interpreter's correction: 28th June.
10 MR. TOLIMIR: [Interpretation]
11 Q. It was signed by your husband; we'll see that on the last page.
12 Can we turn the page immediately so everyone can see. You will see his
13 name in the signature block. It says "Commander, Colonel Avdo Palic."
14 Let's go back to page 1, please.
15 He's submitting a combat report, and he says in the first
17 "Based on the Order of the Deputy Commander of the 28th Division
18 Srebrenica, Major Ramiz Becirevic, strictly confidential number,"
19 so-and-so, "dated 20 June 1995," which means June 1995, "on measures to
20 be taken for the execution of sabotage actions aimed at afflicting losses
21 upon the aggressor in terms of troops and equipment, and in general, at
22 turning Chetnik forces away from Sarajevo.
23 "Upon receipt of the orders given me by brigade commanders,
24 Major Zulfo Tursunovic and Ibrahim Mandzic, and by the assistant for
25 intelligence in the division, Captain Ekrem Salihovic, I reviewed the
1 overall situation with respect to this kind of combat action, and based
2 on earlier instructions issued to the Chief of Staff
3 Major Ramo Cardakovic by the Chief of General Staff Brigadier General
4 Enver Hadzihasanovic, I decided, together with Tursunovic and Mandzic, to
5 proceed as follows."
6 And then in paragraph two it reads:
7 "Form a number of sabotage groups." And I'll refrain from
8 reading on to save time.
9 You'll see that nine sabotage groups were formed, and they are
10 given exact tasks, and their targets are mentioned, such as Zljebovi and
11 so on, Rijeka, the former administrative building of Romanija Sokolac,
12 communication centre Solilo, the Chetnik fortification and observation
13 post, Crna Rijeka where the Main Staff was and so on. And now if we look
14 at the last paragraph on this page --
15 THE INTERPRETER: Interpreter's note: The following page in
17 Q. -- "some 90 Chetniks were killed, dozens were taken prisoner and
18 a significant quantity of infantry armaments were seized," and then he
19 goes on to list what exactly. And then Velimir Mrdjan is mentioned, born
20 in 1975.
21 THE ACCUSED: [Interpretation] It's on the following page in
23 JUDGE FLUEGGE: We have it on the screen now.
24 MR. TOLIMIR: [Interpretation]
25 Q. And so on. And he requests additional instructions how to
1 proceed, and he says that their own losses amount to two killed. And in
2 the last but one paragraph he says, "By carrying out the sabotage actions
3 the -- the Chetniks have strengthened their positions and are grouping in
4 the areas of," so-and-so.
5 My question is: Did your husband with this group of officers
6 from the Operations Group or 28th Division, as it says, with Tursunovic
7 and Mandzic and Salihovic, organise these nine sabotage groups and send
8 them to conduct activities in VRS territory? Thank you.
9 A. I'm not familiar with all these details. I don't know what they
10 did and how. I remember that they did have this one prisoner of war,
11 Velimir Mrdjan. You are mentioning some places, but this is the
12 territory of Zepa.
13 At that time, Zepa territory was already being shelled from these
14 positions where -- of the Chetnik forces. That's one thing.
15 I don't want to go into the details if this happened and how
16 because I cannot give information on that, but I do remember that
17 prisoner. By the way, that prisoner was treated humanely. Whatever I
18 cooked -- and he was wounded, and his soldiers left him behind, and
19 now -- it's coming back to me now.
20 Why did his comrades leave him behind? This was your sabotage
21 action, and you left behind this soldier who was treated in Zepa, and
22 then he was released in accordance with the Geneva Conventions which seem
23 to have been unknown to you but Avdo knew them very well.
24 Q. Thank you. But do you know that this document was taken prisoner
25 with the communications documents where that group carried out its
1 attack? He was taken to Zepa, he wasn't left where his workplace was to
2 be treated there and he was released only after an agreement was signed
3 and when the evacuation began, he was the first on the bus with the
5 A. Take a look at the date. That all happened while you were
6 already attacking Zepa. Take a look at the date.
7 Q. I can see the date but --
8 A. Beginning in March we were shelled from Serb positions. During
9 the last 10 to 15 days before the attack and before the fall of
10 Srebrenica, those attacks were very, very intense. There was no peace in
11 Zepa any more. You couldn't move around freely.
12 Q. Thank you.
13 JUDGE FLUEGGE: [Previous translation continues] ... This
14 document, just put it on the record, is from the 28th of June, 1995.
15 Please carry on, Mr. Tolimir.
16 THE ACCUSED: [Interpretation] Thank you, Mr. President.
17 MR. TOLIMIR: [Interpretation]
18 Q. Was there food in Zepa one month before combat activities, on the
19 26th of June when your husband wrote this document?
20 A. I really don't know. Are you doing that on purpose, playing with
21 dates? It wasn't the 26th, it was the 28th of June. I don't know
22 whether you do that on purpose or whether you're trying to confuse
23 somebody. I myself am pretty tired now.
24 There was food in Zepa after the arrival of UNPROFOR. There was
25 food. The food in Zepa was distributed in accordance with needs. That
1 means that all citizens received equal shares, and at the time, there was
2 no hunger.
3 Q. Thank you. You're correct, this was on the 28th of June. That's
4 when your husband wrote this report. He sent his groups earlier.
5 However, a moment ago, you said that they had to attack because there was
6 no food. Wasn't this particular attack carried out regardless of the
7 food situation?
8 A. But this is not about that. This is about combat activities of
9 Serbian forces around Zepa that commenced in March 1995. Just before the
10 fall of Srebrenica, at least 15 days before, we were not able to move
11 around freely. This wasn't a protected area, safe zone any more. You
12 were shelling, and people were dying.
13 Q. Thank you, Ms. Palic. I would like to take a look at D52, D5-2.
14 This is a document originating from the BiH Army, the 2nd Corps command
15 in Tuzla. It is dated the 8th of July, 1995, in Tuzla. This is
16 information on combat results of the units and commands of the
17 28th Ground Army Division of the 2nd Corps of the BiH Army.
18 My question is: Was your husband part of the 28th Division of
19 the 2nd Corps of the BiH Army? Thank you.
20 A. I don't know. I know that it was the East Bosnia Light Mountain
22 Q. Thank you. Now let us take a look at the first sentence where it
24 "The soldiers of the 28th Ground Army Division located in
25 Srebrenica and Zepa, although completely encircled and facing big
1 problems relating to survival and the obligation to protect free
2 territory, decided to contribute as much as possible to the fight against
3 the aggressor and stepped up their activities deep in the PZT,
4 temporarily occupied territory. An additional reason for the activities
5 of the members of the 28th Division was to prevent enemy forces from
6 sending additional troops to the Sarajevo theatre of operations from the
7 area around Srebrenica and Zepa by causing losses, primarily the loss of
8 manpower, which will force the aggressor to tie up troops in the wider
9 area of Srebrenica and Zepa."
10 My question is does this show that there was no attack on Zepa
11 and Srebrenica, but the other way round, that the attacks were carried
12 out from Srebrenica and Zepa? Does this document show us what I just
13 define? A moment ago you told us that there was fighting between Muslim
14 and Serb forces and that the Serb forces started the attack, and now we
15 see that it's something different.
16 A. This is a document that you submitted to me here, and I am
17 telling that you from March 1995 onwards, because I remember that time
18 very well, that's when I gave birth to my second daughter, literally
19 speaking from the day my second daughter was born, I spent all the time
20 in the shelter. I remember that time very well. Shelling was going all
21 the time. And then just before the fall of Srebrenica, it was very
22 intense shelling. There was not -- you couldn't say it was a safe zone
23 any more. The freedom of movement, we didn't have.
24 Now, you submit us this document, and I on my part want to tell
25 the Trial Chamber that the Serbian forces shelled Zepa and killed people
1 there. Specifically, they killed Ziga Nesud, they killed Nemis Hodzic.
2 These are just the names I happen to remember right now.
3 So they were killing, shelling. They made incursions. Now
4 you're talking here about the territories that belong to the territory of
5 the Zepa municipality.
6 Q. Thank you, Mrs. Palic. Take a look at the first point in this
7 document where it says:
8 "60 Chetniks were liquidated and according to unconfirmed reports
9 the aggressor suffered even greater losses and had many wounded."
10 And then they list what they seized and then slightly below, it
12 "In the village of Visnjica, large quantities of ammunition were
13 seized, but the soldiers were exhausted and could not remove it, so the
14 ammunition was destroyed, as were all the facilities that the aggressor
15 could have used for military purposes."
16 My question is did you hear that the whole of the village of
17 Visnjica was burnt? Did you hear that on radio of Republika Srpska? And
18 did we present this on the 8th of July, and was it signed by the
19 commander, Delic?
20 A. You are asking me about things that are outside the bounds of my
21 knowledge. I really know nothing about these details. You can keep
22 talking about those villages until tomorrow if you want, but what I know
23 and what I claim here is that Avdo's army never killed civilians.
24 Soldiers, they killed and they were the soldiers that were attacking
25 Zepa, that encircled Zepa, that kept positions around Zepa and
1 continually shelled us. As for the civilians, Avdo's army never killed
2 civilians with Avdo's knowledge. And you know that, if you want to admit
3 it. I know that myself.
4 Q. Thank you, Mrs. Palic.
5 JUDGE FLUEGGE: Mr. Tolimir, we must come to an end for today.
6 We're at the end of the third session, and we have to adjourn. You may
7 continue your cross-examination tomorrow. We will resume at 9.00 in
8 Courtroom I.
9 Ms. Palic, please be -- I would like to thank you that you were
10 able to stand this examination, and the court usher will assist you after
11 we have risen.
12 We adjourn.
13 --- Whereupon the hearing adjourned at 1.44 p.m.
14 to be reconvened on Thursday, the 28th day
15 of April, 2011, at 9.00 a.m.