Serb Forces "Deliberately Targeted" Civilian Crowds – Witness
A Bosnian police officer who investigated shelling and sniping incidents in wartime Sarajevo testified this week about the widespread use of machine guns during the siege, and said Serb forces targeted places where civilians gathered.
Prosecution witness Nedzib Dozo, testifying in the Hague trial of wartime Bosnian Serb army commander Ratko Mladic, described the machine gun, nicknamed the “Sower of Death”, as an automatic weapon of “immense firing power”.
“Were there multiple locations in Sarajevo where civilians were fired upon with this weapon?” prosecuting lawyer Adam Weber asked him.
“Of course,” Dozo replied. “There is not a single part of the city of Sarajevo that was not fired at from this weapon.”
Prosecutors allege that Mladic, commander of the Bosnian Serb army from 1992 to 1996, planned and oversaw the 44-month siege of Sarajevo that ravaged the city and left nearly 12,000 people dead. Mladic’s army is accused of deliberately sniping at and shelling the city’s civilian population in order to “spread terror” among them.
The indictment – which lists 11 counts in total – alleges that Mladic was responsible for crimes of genocide, persecution, extermination, murder and forcible transfer which "contributed to achieving the objective of the permanent removal of Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats from Bosnian Serb-claimed territory".
Mladic was arrested in Serbia in May 2011 after 16 years on the run.
Witness Dozo said the Bosnian Serb army “deliberately targeted locations where large number of citizens would gather”, and cited examples where civilians were hit while standing in line for bread or water, and also specific instances where children were hit while out sledging or playing sports.
He also discussed the suicide of a police officer, cited in a December 1992 report that was presented during proceedings.
“Yes, the commander was our colleague who had lost his entire family a few days before that. The shell fired from these Chetnik [Serb] positions killed his wife and two children,” Dozo said.
The prosecutor asked the witness whether he could estimate the number of shells that fell on Sarajevo’s old town, known as Stari Grad, between 1992 and 1995.
“I cannot give you even an approximate number,” Dozo said. “I can only say that thousands upon thousands fell on the Stari Grad area.”
During the cross-examination, Mladic’s defence lawyer Branko Lukic challenged the witness’s knowledge, pointing out that he did not have the same skills as ballistics experts at the scene of sniping or shelling incidents.
Dozo confirmed this was true, adding, “They were experts in their own fields and [the] only ones competent…. It was the domain of the ballistics expert [to] tell us what sort of shell or bullet was involved.”
The lawyer then asked Dozo if he had ever seen the weapon known as the “Sower of Death.”
“Only in photos,” the witness said.
Lukic continued, “Is that something special that only Serbs had, or is it a machine gun?”
The witness confirmed that the weapon was a machine gun, of a type he believed was manufactured in the former Yugoslavia.
Lukic asked whether Bosnian government troops were also equipped with this particular firearm.
“Maybe afterwards in the war, if they happened to seize one,” Dozo said.
The lawyer then asked a series of questions relating to the witness’s job as a police investigator looking into shelling and shooting incidents.
He asked him whether he ever saw the Bosnian government army firing “guns, tanks or mortars” from inside Sarajevo.
“No, I didn’t see that,” Dozo replied.
“Did you know where artillery pieces were positioned in the town of Sarajevo?” Lukic asked.
“I don’t know,” the witness answered. He also said he was unaware of locations around the city where the Bosnian government army positioned artillery.
The lawyer asked whether he ever “took into account” weapons fired by Bosnian government troops, to which the witness replied, “No, I never took into account such a possibility.”
Was Dozo aware that the United Nations Protection Force “reported about incidents when the [Bosnian government army] fired at [its] own population?” Lukic asked.
“I never heard that officially – perhaps in chit-chat,” the witness said.
Lukic asked Dozo how many of the investigations in which he took part involved dead Serb civilians.
“I can’t remember,” the witness said. “We didn’t keep a record based on whether the person was a Serb or a Muslim.”
The Mladic trial will resume on December 3.
Rachel Irwin is IWPR’s Senior Reporter in The Hague.