News 20 May 14

Bosnian Serb Forces ‘Never Targeted Sarajevo Civilians’

Former Bosnian Serb Army officer Predrag Trapara testified in the defence of his ex-commander Ratko Mladic in The Hague, saying that his unit did not intentionally fire on civilians.

Justice Report
BIRN
The Hague
Ratko Mladic in court.

Trapara, the former commander of the First Sarajevo Motorised Brigade of the Bosnian Serb Army, told Mladic’s trial at the international tribunal on Tuesday that his troops only defended their positions from attacks by the Bosniak forces from Sarajevo.

He said that he never received an order, or had any intention, to terrorise the population of Sarajevo, or to cause civilian casualties.

According to Trapara, he constantly received orders from his command to fire only at enemy troops and only targeted Bosnian Army position where he was “sure there were no civilians”.

He claimed however that the Bosnian Army “abused” civilian buildings in the Lukavica settlement of the capital by using them as military positions.

Mladic is on trial for genocide in Srebrenica and seven other municipalities, the persecution of Bosniaks and Croats throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina, terrorising the residents of Sarajevo through a lengthy campaign of shelling and sniping, and taking UN peacekeepers hostage.

Trapara denied claims by the Hague prosecution that Bosnian Serb Army stopped the convoys with humanitarian aid getting through to civilians in Sarajevo, using them as a tool of warfare.

Prosecutor Milber Shin asked the witness whether he knew that members of the Sarajevo-Romanija corps of the Bosnian Serb Army committed war crimes.

Trapara replied: “There were war crimes, but the perpetrators were not from the corps, but ‘volunteers’... I believe that there were no war crimes on our part.”

The prosecutor challenged the credibility of the witness by asking whether he was arrested in Sarajevo in the autumn of 1991, during the transportation of a large amount of weapon and ammunitions, and Trapara did not deny it.

Mladic opened his defence on Monday by calling former Bosnian Serb Army officer Milo Sladoje, who also denied that his forces intentionally shot at civilians in Sarajevo.

Sladoje said that the Army “exclusively defended itself” from attacks by Bosniak forces launched from the city.

Mladic’s trial continues on Wednesday.

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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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