Two former UN peacekeepers told Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic’s trial at The Hague that his forces were probably responsible for a market attack that killed 43.
The two former UN protection forces, UNPROFOR officers testified that evidence showed that Bosnian forces could not have staged the deadly mortar attack on Sarajevo’s Markale open-air market on August 25, 1995, as Mladic has claimed.
Rupert Smith, former UNPROFOR forces commander in Bosnia and Herzegovina, told the Hague Tribunal that the international peacekeepers’ audio and visual radars did not show a mortar being fired from the vicinity of the city centre on August 25, 1995.
“That led us to believe that the mortar was fired outside of Bosnian Army range,” said Smith.
He added that he later concluded, based on an UNPROFOR investigation, that the mortar shell, which killed 43 civilians and wounded 75 more, was fired by the Bosnian Serb Army.
Mladic is charged with terrorising Sarajevo citizens through a campaign of shelling and sniping, with the Markale attack one of the incidents listed in his indictment.
He is also on trial for genocide committed in Srebrenica and seven other municipalities, the expulsion of Bosniaks and Croats, and taking UNPROFOR peacekeepers as hostages.
Smith also testified that he complained to Mladic in 1995 because of an increase in the number of sniper attacks. He said that Mladic “did not deny” he had control over the snipers.
Mladic’s also trial heard this week from a former French UNPROFOR officer who testified as a protected witness under the code name RM-055.
The witness said that the Bosnian Serb snipers in Sarajevo were “professional”, explaining that he considered that their goals were to “block the city” and “destroy the population’s morale”.
“This means that, for a sniper who did not have any ethnic scruples, it would be reasonable to use sporadic and random artillery and sniper fire against civilians,” he
Witness RM-055 also said that on August 28, 1995, he “clearly heard a mortar volley”, which hit the street in front of Markale market.
When he arrived at the scene of the explosion about ten minutes later, he said that “the last corpses and parts of human bodies were being carried away and the cleaning of the street had just begun”.
RM-055 confirmed that an investigation had determined that because of the angle of the mortar’s descent and the fact that none of UNPROFOR’s radars recorded it, the projectile came from a location about 1,300 metres away to the south-east.
“The division line between the Bosnian Army and Bosnian Serbs was between 800 and 1,000 metres from the explosion place at Markale, which means that the grenade must have been fired from a place between 300 and 500 metres behind the division line,” the witness said.
During cross-examination, Mladic’s defence suggested that the massacre was staged and that corpses of people who had been killed at other locations were placed amongst the bodies of the Markale victims.
The witness replied he did not know anything about these allegations.
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.
Key dates and events in the Bosnia war.
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.