Former Bosnian Serb leader, Radovan Karadzic, has called his first defence witness in his long-running trial for crimes committed during the 1992-95 Bosnian war.
Radovan Karadzic’s defence began with the testimony of a Russian officer, Colonel Andrei Demurenko, who was in charge of the UN protection forces, UNPROFOR, headquarters in Sarajevo in 1995.
Demurenko testified that the Republika Srpska Army could not have fired a projectile that killed 43 and wounded 75 people at the Markale open market in Sarajevo in August 1995.
“Markale were not hit by a mortar grenade. It was a terrorist act on the streets of Sarajevo,” said Demurenko.
He suggested that a mine exploded at Markale and made a crater that looked like a mortar shell crater.
According to the indictment, which charges Karadzic with having terrorized civilians in Sarajevo through indiscriminate shelling and sniping, the projectile that killed 43 and wounded 75 persons at Markale on August 28, 1995, was fired from the Bosnian Serb positions surrounding the city.
Karadzic is also charged with the genocide in Srebrenica, persecution of non-Serbs and taking the UN peacekeepers as hostages.
“The chance that a mortar shell hits a small street is one in a million, particularly if it had hit the same small street a year ago. This is completely impossible,” Demurenko said, referring to the first explosion at Markale in February 1994, when 66 people were killed and 140 wounded.
Demurenko said that he arrived at the market two hours after the explosion. Upon his return to the Headquarters, he was surprised to hear that a representative of international forces issued a statement accusing Bosnian Serbs, although the investigation was still underway.
Demurenko said that the results of the UNPROFOR’s investigation were correct, but it was wrongly concluded, on the basis of those results, that the projectile was fired from the Serb positions.
“Through the investigation they only determined the angle under which the grenade hit the ground and the direction from which it came. On the basis of that they immediately pointed their fingers at so-called aggressors,” said Demurenko, who conducted his own investigation.
He said that he calculated that the projectile could have been fired from three Bosnian Serb positions around the city or from as many positions held by the Bosnian army, which were closer to the city.
Demurenko then visited the three Bosnian Serb positions and determined that it was not possible to use a mortar at all. Those positions were located “on cliffs, on slopes or in the forest”, the witness said, mentioning that he did not find any traces of projectile firing at any of those locations.
During the cross-examination the prosecutor, Alan Tieger, said that Demurenko wrongly understood the direction determined by UNPROFOR’s experts from France due to different measurement units.
The witness responded by saying that it “was not important” and that he used a geographical map, containing the firing directions marked by the French investigators. He said that he examined all possible positions of mortars.
Before calling his first defence witness, Karadzic addressed the Trial Chamber and said that he should have been awarded for his actions in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the war, instead of being indicted.
The prosecution is due to continue cross-examining Demurenko on Wednesday, October 17.
To the media in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the arrest of Radovan Karadzic, indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, ICTY, for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, was a true sensation, and one to be exploited day after day.
In July 1995 Srebrenica was shelled and occupied by the Army of Republic of Srpska,VRS, despite being declared a protected area by the United Nations. More than 7,000 people were killed, the victims of genocide.