Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change
Courtside: General Galic Trial
Defence witnesses for Serb general Stanislav Galic, accused of bombarding Sarajevo, last week argued that the shelling was in response to enemy provocation, not an attack on innocent civilians.
"We opened fire on positions of (the Bosnian) army when they first opened fire on us,” a defence witness, identified only as DP-6, told the court.
You will have to ask them why they opened fire, said the witness, identified only as a former Bosnian Serb soldier serving in Galic’s Sarajevo-Romanija corps.
Another former Serb soldier, like the first protected and named only as DP-4, said, "We had orders to respond to fire and take care not to attack civilians, women, children or any unarmed persons without uniforms.”
DP-4 said Serb troops in trenches were told they were being observed by the international community and ordered to take care not to give the observers any opportunity to criticise the Serbian army.
The witnesses said civilian victims were mostly the result of mistakes by gunners and imprecise artillery.
And the witnesses said it was not only Serb shells that missed their targets, saying even the French UN troops were guilty, with their gunfire on one occasion killing two civilians in the yard of the city hospital.
Witness DP-10 said Muslim shells were of such poor quality that they could miss by many hundreds of yards, possibly falling on their own side of the front line in error.
Prosecutor Mark Ierace said during a cross-examination that Galic had not investigated civilian deaths, as was his duty.
He said the problem was not the fact that he did not receive information about civilian deaths from his subordinate officers, but in his failure to carry out an investigation after receiving protests and complaints from UNPROFOR (United Nations Protection Force), which he obviously had received.
Defence witnesses were unable to confirm that within the Sarajevo-Romanija corps there had ever been an investigation into shelling of civilian areas. Part of what the prosecutor is trying to prove is that Galic is guilty, not necessarily of ordering shelling of civilian areas, but of failing to investigate such cases, putting him in breach of his duties as commander.
UNPROFOR officers giving evidence for the prosecution said they repeatedly complained to Galic and other commanders about Serb shells landing on civilian targets in the city.
Prosecutors say that gunners under the command of Galic fired indiscriminately, or with great recklessness, down on the city.
Vjera Bogati is an IWPR special correspondent in The Hague and a journalist with SENSE News Agency.
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