Testifying at the trial of Radovan Karadzic, a former Bosnian Serb army officer denied that in 1992 the army expelled Bosniaks from the Sarajevo neighbourhood of Vrace, where his unit was stationed.
Bozo Tomic, an officer in the 1st Sarajevo Brigade of the Army of Republika Srpska – said that the army did not attack civilians from Vrace. He emphasised that he never received or issued such an order.
The former Bosnian Serb leader, Radovan Karadzic, is charged with the genocide in Srebrenica, the expulsion of non-Serbs from across Bosnia and Herzegovina and with terrorising civilians in Sarajevo with artillery and sniping campaigns.
Tomic said that his unit, which consisted mainly of local people, only defended their neighbourhood and “never opened fire deep into Sarajevo”, but only “at military targets at the demarcation line.”
He confirmed that once a group of Bosniak prisoners from the prison in Kula, sent by the higher command, was used for digging trenches at his unit’s positions in the Ozrenska street. Asked whether using prisoners of war for digging trenches was against the Geneva Convention, Tomic replied that their work was “completely safe”, and that only “arriving to the demarcation line was unsafe” due to the position’s exposure to nearby skyscrapers held by the Bosnian army.
During the cross-examination, the prosecutor, Katrina Gustafsson, confronted the witness with the claim that the Bosniaks were expelled from the Serb-run Sarajevo settlements. Tomic denied there were expulsions from his street, adding that he “assumed” that “somewhere else it did happen”, just like Serbs were expelled from parts controlled by the Bosniak forces.
However, he confirmed that his Bosniak and Croat “neighbours and friends”, who were “disturbed and scared”, left their homes in the Ozrenska street and crossed the river Miljacka into the city under Bosniaks’ control, suggesting that they did so in order to flee from the war efforts.
The witness denied the prosecutor’s claim that at the end of war in 1995 he demanded that the return of Bosniaks to Grbavica be prevented. Gustafsson then quoted Tomic’s words from the notes of the commander of the Army of Republika Srpska, Ratko Mladic, that “people want to stay at Grbavica only if it is guaranteed that the Muslims and their police and authorities won’t return.”
Tomic explained that he asked that “Muslim police and authorities, who would want to arrest us and abuse us, do not come,” not the “Muslims who had the right to return to their homes.”
Tomic denied that anyone from his unit shot at the city quarters across the front line, despite being shown documents to contrary by the prosecution. “There is no point in firing shells deep across while your frontline is threatened. No one in their right mind would do it,” said the witness.
The trial will resume on Wednesday, November 14.
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.