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COURTSIDE: Sarajevo Trial

UN commanders tell how bombardment "suited both sides".
By Mirna Jancic

Lieutenant-General Francis Briquemon and General Sir Michael Rose, commanders of UN forces in Bosnia in 1993 and 1994, last week gave evidence against General Stanislav Galic, the Bosnian Serb army commander charged with terrorising civilians in Sarajevo.


Briquemon told the court that the bombardment of Sarajevo had "suited both sides [in] the conflict". From the Bosnian point of view, he said, the cessation of shelling threatened to remove the country from the international agenda. The Serbs, for their part, targeted the capital to force Muslims to sign agreements.


He said the shelling of the capital could have been predicted when Bosnian troops launched offensives against Serb positions. Both sides had responded to each other's attacks by aiming at military targets although civilians had also been hit, Briquemon said.


The witness described UN Security Council resolution 836, which established so-called safe areas including Sarajevo, as "confusing" and said it did not make life easy for the UN, which lacked the troops to execute its mission.


The lieutenant-general said the shelling of the Sarajevo safe area was soon "unavoidable" as the Bosnians had made themselves targets by preparing offensives behind the UN front line.


However, Briquemon added that the widespread destruction of the city he found on his arrival in Sarajevo was unacceptable.


General Rose was then questioned on the infamous Markale market place incident, in which dozens of civilians were killed by a shell. The defence accepts an explosion took place, but has disputed all other claims.


The witness said two independent analyses of the crater could not demonstrate conclusively which side fired the projectile. In another incident, when four shells hit a queue of people waiting for humanitarian aid in the suburb of Dobrinja, it was established they had come from Serb positions.


The tribunal heard that the UN had complained to the Serb headquarters in Pale, but Rose could not recall receiving an official reply.


Rose said that the Bosnian side did not share his interpretation of the conflict as a civil war. But when the defence tried to point out that the Serbs had wanted the 1994 ceasefire to be accompanied by an end to hostilities, Rose told the court that the Serbs were the aggressors and could not be described as peace-mongers. At that time, an end to the war would have suited the Serbs, as they then held 70 per cent of the territory.


Like Briquemon, Rose testified that the image of Sarajevo as a tortured city suited the Bosnian presidency, which at times had prevented UN forces from repairing the damaged electricity supply. They exploited the media as part of their "war technique", he said.


Mirna Jancic is an IWPR assistant editor.


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