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COURTSIDE: Sarajevo Trial

Counsel for Bosnian Serb commander describes Sarajevo sniper victims as "accidental victims".
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The defence in the trial of General Stanisalv Galic claimed that civilians killed and injured during the Bosnian Serb army's 44-month siege of Sarajevo were "accidental victims" and "collateral damage" of the conflict.


The prosecution has been trying to prove that the Bosnian Serb Sarajevo-Romanija corps, which Galic commanded between September 1992 and August 1994, pursued a military strategy "to kill, maim and terrorise the civilian population".


Victims and eye-witnesses of sniper attacks referred to in the indictment against General Galic testified last week.


Akif Mujanovic, who testified how his wife was killed by a sniper bullet while drinking coffee in her flat, said he felt safer on the front line than in the city. On the front line, he explained, they at least knew from which side a bullet would come. In the city, one could be hit at any time from any direction.


Judging by the last week's testimonies, the truces posed a special temptation to snipers, as the people left their homes, visited each other, walked more slowly than usual (usually they ran), and did not hide behind garbage containers and other improvised sniper barricades.


As the city would "liven up" and trams and buses begin to work, some snipers could not resist the temptation of such an "abundance of targets", witnesses said.


Mensur Jusic and a protected witness testified how during one truce in September 1993 they set out by tram to visit friends. At a crossroads, the tram was hit with a bursting bullet, which wounded four passengers including Jusic and the other witness's eight-year-old son.


The passengers lay down on the floor, there was blood everywhere, children cried and the tram driver accelerated to get away from the dangerous crossroads as soon as possible, the witness continued.


Although this took place during a truce, Galic's defence asked the witnesses whether uniformed soldiers were in the tram or its vicinity, whether any military objects or equipment were nearby and how far the site of the incident lay from the front line. The trial continues.


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