The Bosnian Serb army constantly shelled the city of Sarajevo with heavy weapons, says a former UN military officer.
At the trial of the former Bosnian Serb commander, Ratko Mladic, held on Wednesday, former UN military officer in Bosnia 1992, John Wilson, said that the city of Sarajevo was shelled on a daily basis by the Bosnian Serb forces, usually from 2 pm until midnight.
“The fire was very destructive, especially fire to urban areas. It was clear that it would cause a lot of casualties and civilian victims,” Wilson said.
Wilson recalled a meeting with Mladic, held on May 24, 1992, when the defendant threatened that he would “totally destroy half of Sarajevo” unless three Yugoslav People’s Army, JNA, military barracks were evacuated within 72 hours.
The witness said he took the threats seriously, as Mladic had “the power and means” to do it.
As the Marsal Tito barracks had failed to be evacuated within the deadline, due to Mladic's objection to leaving JNA weaponry to predominantly Bosniak forces, a heavy shelling of Sarajevo without any military goal followed on May 28, Wilson said.
Wilson said that, following protests by UN officials over the civilian victims of the shelling, Mladic took responsibility for the attacks, justifying them by saying that the Bosnian Serb forces opened fire in self-defence.
As Wilson was a military officer, he was questioned by the prosecution about structures of both Bosnian Serb and Bosniak armies.
“Serbs had a very professional army, they fought with tanks, and were equipped like any other professional army. The presidency [Bosnian Muslims] on the other hand had only rifles and some rocket artillery. Most of them were dressed as civilians, they were unorganized and unprofessional,” Wilson explained.
Mladic, who was arrested in May of last year, pleaded not guilty to charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and violations of the laws and customs of war during the Bosnian conflict between 1992 and 1995.
He is charged with genocide in Srebrenica in 1995 and seven other Bosnian municipalities in 1992.
Mladic is also charged with the expulsion of Bosniaks and Croats from municipalities under the control of the Bosnian Serbs, terrorizing Sarajevo citizens with a campaign of shelling and sniping and taking international soldiers as hostages in 1995.
The trial will resume on October 11 with cross-examination of Wilson.
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.