News 05 Oct 12

Mladic’s Trial: Witness Recalls Sarajevo Siege

At the trial of Ratko Mladic, the former commander of UNPROFOR said that civilians were killed mostly by “non-selective shelling and sniper fire” that the Army of Republika Srpska subjected the city to.

Justice Report
BIRN
The Hague

Egyptian Major General Husein Abdel Razek, who was the commander of the UNPROFOR’s Sarajevo sector between August 1992 and February 1993, testified that the shelling and sniper fire was especially fierce in the first three months of his mandate.

He said that he was receiving reports from the UN military observers about attacks on the city “under siege”, in which civilians were being wounded and killed.  He said he raised the issue with Mladic and the Bosnian Serb political leadership.

“I raised the issue of constant shelling and sniper attacks frequently in meetings with Radovan Karadzic, generals Mladic and Stanislav Galic, Momcilo Krajisnik and Biljana Plavsic. We heard a lot of promises from them, but problems on the ground remained... The situation has never changed,” recalled the witness.

Mladic, the wartime commander of the Republika Srpska Army, is charged with the persecution of non-Serbs which reached the scale of genocide in seven municipalities. In addition, he is charged with the Srebrenica genocide, terror against civilians in Sarajevo and taking UNPROFOR soldiers hostage between 1992 and 1995.

Radovan Karadzic, the then President of Republika Srpska, is currently on trial for crimes committed in Bosnia and Herzegovina, while Galic, Krajisnik and Plavsic were convicted by the Hague Tribunal in second instance verdicts.

According to Abdel Razek, in reaction to constant protests from the UNPROFOR officers, leaders of Bosnian Serbs would deny responsibility for the attacks or claim that Bosniak forces were attacking their own people, saying that Bosnian Serb forces only defended themselves.

The agreement reached at the London conference for heavy artillery to be put under the UN control, said the witness, was never implemented by the Republika Srpska leadership.

Karadzic explained it by saying: “There are too many Muslims and we have only these weapons here.”

Abdel Razek claims that Mladic was behind that decision, since Serb political and army leaders acted in a “coordinated and harmonious manner.”

The witness described Mladic as a “strong commander and leader, whom the subordinate officers respected.”

Abdel-Razek said that the commander of the Sarajevo Romanija Corps, General Galic, once told him he would resume with sniper attacks in the territory of the Sarajevo airport as long as civilians were moving in the area.

Abdel Razek added that Galic – sentenced by the Hague Tribunal to life imprisonment for crimes committed in Sarajevo – was acting strictly on army orders.

In the meetings with UNPROFOR, Serbian leadership spoke sincerely of its policy of ethnic cleansing, said the witness.

Asked in February 1993 what the final goal of the Bosnian Serb leadership was, Karadzic responded to Abdel Razek: “Muslims would be removed from Serb territories because we cannot live together.”

The witness recalled that in late September 1992 several hundred Bosniaks and Croats were expelled from Grbavica, which was under Serb control at the time.

Abdel Razek will be cross-examined by Mladic’s defence on Friday, October 5.

 

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Background

Srebrenica: Genocide Reconstructed

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.

War in Bosnia

Key dates and events in the Bosnia war.

Ratko Mladic: The Force Behind the Srebrenica Killings

The Bosnian Serb commander’s role in the genocide committed in Srebrenica is described in detail in many indictments and verdicts pronounced before local and international judicial institutions.

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