COURTSIDE: Sarajevo Trial

Video-recordings are used to reconstruct sniping attacks against Sarajevo civilians

COURTSIDE: Sarajevo Trial

Video-recordings are used to reconstruct sniping attacks against Sarajevo civilians

Tuesday, 22 February, 2005

The trial of General Stanislav Galic, the former commander of the Sarajevo-Romanija corps of the Bosnian Serb Army,VRS, was taken up last week by a reconstruction of sniping incidents in which Sarajevo civilians were killed in 1993 and 1994.


The prosecution claims Galic's forces "deliberately targeted civilians" and carried out a "coordinated and long-term campaign of sniper attacks on the civilian population of Sarajevo".


Thirty-two sniping incidents with precise data on the time and


place of incidents, identity and age of victims were listed in the annex to the indictment as an illustration.


Last year, those incidents were "reconstructed" in Sarajevo streets, and video-recordings of them were shown before the court last week as part of the testimony of survivors or eye-witnesses of the attacks.


The investigators, escorted by translators, cameramen, photographers, and in some cases the defence counsel of the accused general, had accompanied the survivors and eyewitnesses to the site of the crimes.


Victims available to give evidence were videoed at the scene, pointing out where they had been when they were hit. Eye-witnesses also pointed out where other victims were fatally wounded.


The investigator marked the spots with yellow crosses. Later, a tripod was erected over each cross and the camera lens fixed at the approximate height of the entry point of the bullet into the victim's body. A professional photographer then took photographs depicting a 360-degree view from that position.


The photographs were later joined with appropriate software so that a 360-degree image could be portrayed in court, which, with the use of a mouse, one can navigate in any direction, up and down, zoom in and pan back.


During the reconstruction in Sarajevo, the victims and eye-witnesses pointed in front of video cameras to the direction from which the bullets came. Before the court, that direction was determined on a panoramic photograph.


After circling a position on the photograph from where they thought a bullet came, which was usually tall buildings, it was established on which side of the frontline the snipers' positions lay, whether they were under VRS or Bosnian Army control.


In the cross examination, Galic's defence concentrated on whether any military installations, equipment or soldiers lay in the vicinity of the incident site. The defence argues that civilians were "accidental victims" or "collateral damage" of the conflict in Sarajevo.


Last week, Galic's defence received little, or no confirmation for its argument from the victims and eye-witnesses of sniping incidents.


Mirko Klarin is an IWPR senior editor at the war crimes tribunal and editor-in-chief of SENSE News Agency.


Support our journalists