News 01 Feb 13

BBC Reporter Recalls Sarajevo Horrors

Wartime Sarajevo correspondent Martin Bell told Ratko Mladic’s trial that the Bosnian Serb leadership used the city’s siege for political gain.

Denis Dzidic

Veteran British journalist Bell told Mladic’s Hague trial this week that, of all the wars he has reported on, the Bosnian conflict made “the least difference between civilians and soldiers”, when it came to “taking targets”.

“This was a war waged in the centre of an industrial city. Most of the time there was no electricity, gas or water, so the people lived in primitive conditions. I learned that elderly people even died of hypothermia,” said Bell.

He said that the Bosnian Serb leadership used the siege of Sarajevo as political pressure in an attempt to extort the best possible outcome of the conflict.

Former Bosnian Serb Army commander is charged with terrorising civilians in Sarajevo through systematic shelling and sniper attacks, committing genocide in Srebrenica and seven other municipalities, persecuting Muslims and Croats throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina and taking UN peacekeepers hostage.

Bell said that Bosnian Serb forces regularly attacked Sarajevo civilians and recalled that in January 1993, he saw a sniper shoot a man as he queued for water in the street.  

“This was the only water pump which was working and civilians were shot while they were waiting to get water,” said Bell.

“I would not say they were caught in the crossfire, but I would say they were deliberately targeted. The victims were on the side of the government in Sarajevo, so I conclude the fire came from the Bosnian Serb side,” he added.  

Mladic’s trial also heard this week from a French former UN protection force, UNPROFOR officer, who was deployed in Sarajevo in 1994 and 1995 and testified under the code name RM-120.

He said that Mladic designed the Bosnian Serb Army’s strategy in Sarajevo which included attacking civilians with grenades and the use of snipers.

RM-120 said he saw Bosnian Serb forces attack civilians and restrict the delivery of humanitarian aid to the city.

He said that UNPROFOR’s investigations showed that “66 sniping incidents” originated from Bosnian Serb-held territories, while the opposing Bosnian Army was responsible for six such incidents.

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