Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

COURTSIDE: Sarajevo Trial

Shelling is said to have been used as an instrument of psychological war.

The prosecution in the trial of General Stanislav Galic, former commander of the Bosnian Serb Sarajevo-Romanija Corps, claimed last week the siege of Sarajevo was designed to destroy the city or cleanse it of its Bosniak population.

Canadian officer Patrick Handerberry, a UN military observer, testified that General Galic and his liaison officer Major Indjic had openly outlined this goal to him and another UN military observer at a meeting in December 1993.

"As a soldier I knew Serbian forces could not destroy the town, but could cause a lot of damage," Handerberry, commenting on Galic's words, told the tribunal. "His comment about cleansing the town of Bosniaks... was the first time that I personally heard one of the high officers saying something like that."

The defence says Galic did not know his forces were firing on civilians in Sarajevo because he had not received a single protest against the shelling or the sniper attacks. It claims that the UNPROFOR complaints were "too general in their character" and were mostly sent to the Bosnian Serb army headquarters - not the command of the Sarajevo-Romanija Corps.

The prosecutor intends to prove that UN military observers submitted protests directly to Galic and Major Indjic. Ten UN military observers have testified over this in the last two weeks.

Handerberry alleged that Major Indjic, with whom he was in regular contact, once confessed that the Serbs opened random fire on the city, which he said "was not good, but had to be continued".

The witness said it was a part of broader plan to exert psychological pressure on the civilian population. The trial continues.

Vjera Bogati is an IWPR special correspondent at The Hague and a journalist with SENSE News Agency.