It was emotional testimony at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague on Monday. The first witness to testify at the trial of Ratko Mladic, Bosnian Muslim Elvedin Pasic, described what happened to him in the spring and summer of 1992—when he was only 14 years old.
by Lauren Comiteau in The Hague
Now 34, wearing a wedding band and speaking in perfect English, Pasic broke into tears several times as he recounted the attack on his Bosnian Muslim village and fleeing with his family. He recalled returning to his village with his mother, only to find their house destroyed and the remaining villagers mostly burned to death.
“The house was burned completely, nothing was left there,” he testified. “What’s left of the walls was stripped, all the furniture we had was completely gone…. I was excited because I knew we left the dog on a chain. It was shot,” he told the judges in tears.
The former military leader of the Bosnian Serbs, Mladic is accused of orchestrating those crimes and others—including the 1995 Srebrenica massacres and the 44-month long siege of Sarajevo. He has pleaded not guilty to the 11 counts against him—including genocide.
Sitting in the dock and looking more like his former self than the frail old man who first appeared in court after his arrest in Serbia last year, Mladic listened intently as Pasic—20 years after the events--repeatedly wiped away tears, recalling the last night he spent with his father and some 150 other people—running through the woods, being ambushed twice by Serb soldiers.
Eventually, Pasic testified, he was brought to a school with other young boys and women. The men—who had been seperated out—were brought later to the same school. But Pasic said he didn’t dare go see his father on the second floor.
“And I think there were a couple other people that same night, they went upstairs to see their relatives,” he said, barely audible through his tears. “I was afraid, I didn’t. I wish, I wish I would have went.”
He never saw his father again.
At one point the trial had to be adjourned to give Pasic a break. When he returned and was asked what happened to the men he had been with, he again broke into tears.
“Your honors, after being there that night, there is no doubt in my mind they were all killed.”
Prosecutors hope Pasic’s testimony will help prove that Mladic played a key role in the ethnic cleansing of many of Bosnia’s northern municipalities in the early years of the war.
Pasic will be back in the stand Tuesday as defense lawyers continue their cross-examination of the first out of an expected 160 prosecution witnesses.