On the morning of 12 July, panic increased even more when the Bosnian Muslims saw members of the Bosnian Serb Forces coming in from all directions. During the course of the day, some houses surrounding Potočari and haystacks were set on fire by members of the Bosnian Serb Forces. By that time, between 25,000 and 30,000 Bosnian Muslims were in Potočari, of whom 5 to 10% were able-bodied men. The humanitarian situation was catastrophic; there was not enough water, food, or medicine for the Bosnian Muslims, and there were insufficient toilet facilities. The heat was stifling. Some women gave birth. Some people died, while others committed suicide or attempted to do so. During the night between 12 and 13 July, gunfire was heard in the vicinity of the UN Compound.
Bosnian Muslims in Potočari were beaten and sexually assaulted by members of the Bosnian Serb Forces. Some were taken away from the facilities in Potočari and did not come back. Such abuses continued on 13 July. Early in the morning of 12 July, further to an order issued by Mladić to Borovčanin in Pribićevac during the night of 10 to 11 July 1995, joint units of the Bosnian Serb Forces took control of OP Papa at Yellow Bridge. The units involved consisted of MUP members commanded by Borovčanin—the 1st PJP Company from Zvornik, the Jahorina Recruits led by Duško Jević and 1st Company Commander Mendeljev Đurić, as well as a mixed company of the Janja MUP—and Bratunac Brigade soldiers. At OP Papa, these forces seized the DutchBat members’ helmets, flak jackets, weapons, and an APC, and disconnected them from contact with their operations room. The DutchBat soldiers were held at gunpoint and detained until 9 p.m. Members of the Bosnian Serb Forces, including members of the Jahorina Recruits,17191 proceeded along the road towards Potočari. They fired rounds which landed in the vicinity of the UN Compound. Bosnian Serb soldiers deployed in attack formation towards the UN Compound, proceeding until they were stopped by the red and white tape used by DutchBat to demarcate the area where the Bosnian Muslims were. DutchBat soldiers posted themselves around the compound and the factories. Members of the Jahorina Recruits were deployed around the UN Compound. Some Bosnian Serb soldiers, including the Drina Wolves, walked around the premises. Borovčanin saw members of the Bratunac Brigade MP conducting “certain check-ups” for military-aged Bosnian Muslims. Some Bosnian Serb soldiers were cursing the Bosnian Muslims. By 1 p.m. that day, the Bosnian Serb Forces had taken control of Potočari. Around the time vehicles for the transportation of the Bosnian Muslims arrived in Potočari, the DutchBat soldiers who were stationed near the bus premises were threatened with weapons by members of the Jahorina Recruits led by Đurić, and had to surrender their weapons, vests, armoury, and communication sets. 11 DutchBat soldiers and a DutchBat doctor were detained for a few hours at a place next to the bus premises. Following repeated protests to Đurić, they were finally released and sent back to the UN Compound. On the morning of 13 July, Rave saw Mladić in Potočari and told him that members of the Bosnian Serb Forces had stolen DutchBat’s weapons and material. Mladić assured Rave that he would instruct his soldiers not to steal anything from DutchBat soldiers.
Transportation from Potočari between 12 and 21 July 1995
Provision of vehicles and fuel
On the evening of 11 July, Mladić ordered Petar Škrbić to requisition buses for “an evacuation”. Before 10 a.m. on the morning of 12 July, he placed an urgent call to the RS Ministry of Defence, requesting an order to its Sarajevo and Zvornik secretariats to mobilise at least 50 buses to be sent to the stadium in Bratunac town (“Bratunac stadium”) by 2:30 p.m. that day. Pursuant to this request, the RS Ministry of Defence ordered these secretariats to immediately procure buses and send them to the designated location by the designated time. Following these orders, the RS Ministry of Defence further issued an order to all Ministry of Defence departments in Zvornik, Milići, Vlasenica, Šekovići, and Bratunac, to cancel all regular bus services until further notice, if necessary, so that buses and drivers could immediately report to the “Sports Centre” in Bratunac. In compliance with the Ministry of Defence orders, vehicles were indeed mobilised that day, which paralysed regular passenger transport.
Meanwhile, the Drina Corps also responded to Mladić’s order. At 7:35 a.m. on 12 July, Krstić, in his capacity of Chief of Staff of the corps, instructed Lieutenant Colonel Rajko Krsmanović, the Drina Corps Chief of Transportation, to mobilise 50 buses in total from Pale, Višegrad, Rogatica, Sokolac, Han Pijesak, Vlasenica, Milići, Bratunac, and Zvornik, and send them to the Bratunac stadium by 5 p.m. that day. Also on the same morning, Živanović issued an order to his subordinate brigades that all
available buses and minibuses belonging to VRS units were to be secured for the use of the Drina Corps and sent to the Bratunac stadium. He also gave instructions about locations for fuel distribution, and stated that the Drina Corps command had sent a message to the RS Ministry of Defence asking for private buses to be mobilised. The subordinate brigades complied with this order and sent the vehicles as requested. Pursuant to Mladić’s order, at 10 a.m. that morning, the Drina Corps command informed the Main Staff that buses it had requested from the Drina Corps units had been secured, noting that the command did not know the final destination of the transportation at that time. On the same morning, Vasić reported to the RS MUP that 100 trucks had been provided for transport. Earlier that morning, at around 8 a.m., a meeting had been held at the Bratunac Brigade Command, where Mladić, Krstić, Deronjić, and Vasić, among others, were present, and “tasks were assigned to all participants” Mladić asked Davidović, Simić, and Aleksandar Tešić—the Secretary of the Secretariat of National Defence in Bratunac—, all of whom were also present at this meeting, what to do with the Bosnian Muslims from Srebrenica. Mladić stated that “there were many of [Bosnian Muslims from Srebrenica and] we need quite a few vehicles”. Mladić went on to instruct Tešić that buses and trucks be mobilised immediately to transport about “20,000 residents, today or tomorrow.” Meanwhile, the VRS was encountering problems with acquiring enough fuel. For instance, the Drina Corps command requested additional fuel: 10,000 litres of diesel and 2,000 litres of petrol. Furthermore, the Bratunac Brigade was monitoring fuel disbursements to buses and trucks on 12 and 13 July. In line with the order to provide vehicles for transportation from the Srebrenica enclave, on the same day, the Drina Corps command issued an urgent order to the Zvornik and Bratunac Brigades, instructing that traffic at the Konjević Polje intersection and on the Konjević Polje Bratunac Road be regulated, and that priority should be given to the “buses for evacuation”. As instructed, the Zvornik Brigade implemented the order, sending its MP detachment to Konjević Polje. At some point on 12 July, UNMO Joseph Kingori saw Mladić in Potočari and told him about the UN’s intention to remove the population from Srebrenica on buses. Mladić responded that he already had his own buses and that he would transport the people to Tuzla to “join their brothers there”. Soon after, the buses started arriving. Around 2 or 3 p.m. in the afternoon, Colonel Lazar Aćamović, the Drina Corps Assistant Commander for Rear Services, came to see Franken, said that he was responsible for the transportation of the civilians, and asked for transportation and fuel; however, DutchBat did not have any fuel. On 13 July, the RS Ministry of Defence sent similar orders to the Sarajevo and Zvornik secretariats, as well as to the Bijeljina secretariat this time requesting the immediate mobilisation of transportation vehicles and drivers from designated municipalities, either to be sent to the Bratunac stadium or to be on call. The problem with fuel persisted; Vasić noted that they needed ten tons. At about 10 to 11 a.m. on 13 July, Aćamović arrived at the UN Compound and spoke to DutchBat officers about the DutchBat convoy coming from Belgrade bringing diesel, rations, and water for DutchBat. Aćamović wanted the diesel to be shared with the VRS and for buses to be used for the transportation of the Bosnian Muslims in Potočari. Franken and Janković agreed that 30,000 litres of diesel from DutchBat would go to the VRS in Bratunac. At the end of 14 July, a convoy arrived with diesel. After the transportation of the Bosnian Muslims out of Potočari had ended, Franken received orders that as soon as DutchBat obtained fuel, it should be provided to the VRS. Fuel was provided to the VRS on 16 July.
Arrival of vehicles, the boarding process, and the separation of men
On 12 July, buses and trucks started arriving in Potočari. They aligned themselves along the road outside the UN Compound facing the direction of Bratunac. There was a heavy presence of Bosnian Serb Forces. Some of them were drunk and some had German shepherds with them. At around 12:40 p.m., the transportation of the Bosnian Muslims in Potočari began. The process was filmed by personnel from the press centre of the Drina Corps command. The Bosnian Muslims were led to the vehicles from the area where they were assembled. DutchBat soldiers and members of the Bosnian Serb Forces formed a human chain, holding hands together, standing in the road between the Bosnian Muslims and the vehicles, letting people pass, and stopping them when a given bus was full. While most of those who were taken to the vehicles were women, children, and elderly men, some military-aged men were able to get onto them. The first convoy consisted of more than ten buses and several trucks. About 50 to 60 people were boarded onto each bus. After the first convoy departed, while women and children were heading towards the vehicles, men and boys were separated by members of Bosnian Serb Forces and taken to the White House, a building located about 150 metres away from the entrance to the UN Compound from where they could have been seen. Bosnian Serb soldiers with guns stood near the buses. When a woman tried to run to her brother when he was separated from her, a soldier caught her by the hair, pushed her, and kicked her. Those who tried to hide or withdraw to the back of the group were threatened with weapons and physically forced to board the vehicles. They were also kicked and hit. Many fainted because of the heat and the crowd. At one point, outside the UN Compound, Karremans saw Mladić, who told him that Aćamović would be responsible for the transportation of the Bosnian Muslims. Karremans instructed his soldiers to co-ordinate among themselves to provide support to the Bosnian Serb Forces. In accordance with Mladić’s instructions at the end of the third meeting at the Hotel Fontana, at some point on 12 July Davidović and Simić travelled to Potočari with the first batch of bread, water, and medication. After the same meeting, Popović was also instructed by Mladić to go to Potočari and to distribute bread and water to the Bosnian Muslims. While members of the Bosnian Serb Forces were distributing these items, Mladić arrived and addressed the crowd. He told them that anyone wishing to be transported would be transported to Kladanj, and anyone wishing to stay could stay; that women and children would be transported first; and that they would not be harmed. As Mladić was addressing the crowd, his soldiers distributed bread, water, and sweets.This scene was filmed.