, THE HAGUE, May 4 – A final witness closed the prosecution’s case against ex-Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic on Friday, telling the Yugoslav war crimes court how he escaped the Srebrenica massacre.
The protected witness, only referred to as “KDZ071” is the last for the prosecution in the trial, which wrapped up its case by focusing on the July 1995 killings during Bosnia’s 1992-95 war.
After being rounded up by troops commanded by Bosnian Serb army chief Ratko Mladic around July 13, 1995, the witness said some 2,000 Muslim men were taken to a warehouse a few kilometres (miles) from Srebrenica.
There, the men were mowed down by Bosnian Serb troops who “laughed and joked” after the shooting stopped, the witness told the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
Speaking in an elderly voice the man, who was blocked from being viewed by the public gallery, said he spent 24 hours “under the dead bodies, before I sat up.”
Prosecutor Kimberley West earlier told the court the witness escaped the warehouse and “fled into a corn field”.
Once the most powerful leader among Bosnian Serbs, Karadzic, 66, faces 11 counts of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes for his role in the Bosnia conflict which left some 100,000 people dead and 2.2 million homeless.
He is particularly wanted for masterminding the killings that followed the Serbs’ capture of the eastern Bosnian enclave of Srebrenica in July 1995, deemed Europe’s worst atrocity since Nazi rule.
More than 7,000 Muslim men and boys were murdered over the course of a few days.
Cross-examining the man, Karadzic asked if he knew any Bosnian Serbs before war broke out and the witness said: “I knew a lot of them. If anybody told me that things like this would have happened, I would have not believed it.”
Karadzic, who is handling his own defence, asked the witness — who became increasingly agitated — about inconsistencies in a statement he made in 1995 over the colour of earth-moving equipment — ostensibly used to bury bodies.
“What colour?” the witness replied, adding “I was not interested in colours, I was trying to save my own life.”
After escaping, the witness and other survivors roamed the area looking for food, the man said, adding, “I saw some dead bodies in a river.”
“We were wondering around like cattle,” he added.
Karadzic was arrested on a Belgrade bus in July 2008, 13 years after he was first indicted by the ICTY for his part in the conflict.
His trial opened in October 2009, but has been hit by several delays since. The prosecution started presenting evidence on April 13, 2010.
Karadzic has pleaded not guilty to the charges. If convicted he could face life behind bars.
ICTY chief prosecutor Serge Brammertz said “about 70 percent” of the hearing was taken up by Karadzic cross-examining prosecution witnesses.
The ICTY’s rules now say Karadzic could ask for an acquittal on some of all of the charges. If his request is turned down, judges will set a date for his defence to start.
Prosecutors looked at joining Karadzic’s trial with that of his military alter ego Ratko Mladic — arrested on May 26 last year in Serbia after 16 years on the run.
They decided against it as Karadzic’s trial was already too far advanced. Mladic’s separate trial will now open on May 16.