COURTSIDE: Sarajevo Trial

Defence denies Bosnian Serb commander targeted non-combatants during Sarajevo siege

COURTSIDE: Sarajevo Trial

Defence denies Bosnian Serb commander targeted non-combatants during Sarajevo siege

Saturday, 19 January, 2002

In the trial of General Stanislav Galic, former commander of the Sarajevo-Romanija Corps of the Bosnian Serb army, the defence last week asserted he was not guilty of crimes against civilians in Sarajevo.


Lawyers for Galic argued that there were no true civilians in the city, as they and military personnel were interchangeable.


The general is not charged for conducting a military operation in and around Sarajevo, but for the manner in which the operation was conducted, resulting in the killing of civilians whom he was obliged to protect under the Geneva conventions.


Two Sarajevo doctors, Alija Mulaomerovic - wartime director of the Sarajevo emergency service - and Jusef Hadzir, last week testified that civilians comprised over 90 per cent of victims of shelling and sniper-fire, especially in the first year of the war before the Bosnian army had been established and the city defences organised.


The defence disputed that they could be considered civilians, quoting a statement from a British officer in UNPROFOR, Thomas Roy, who said "the problem was that the civilians, including women and children, sometimes wore fatigues, while soldiers were in civilian clothes".


The defence claims any responsibility for "civilian victims" lay with the Sarajevo authorities side for not evacuating them.


After Dr Hadzir, who ran an improvised wartime hospital in the suburb of Dobrinja, described the shelling of a football game on the Muslim holiday of Bayram in 1993, when 13 or 14 people were killed and 10 times more wounded, the defence produced a Dobrinja brigade document from the Bosnia army archives saying "six fighters lost their lives, while 56 were wounded" in the shelling.


According to the defence, soldiers were legitimate targets, even when they were playing an ordinary game of football with civilians at a sports stadium.


To support the claim that the majority of victims were armed, the defence referred to remarks made by Dr Mulaomerovic about victims of the fighting in the Sarajevo suburb of Pofalici in spring 1993, when the Bosnian Serb army tried to cut the city into two.


In an exchange between him and the defence counsel Mara Pilipovic from Belgrade, the latter sought to prove that the majority of victims in Sarajevo were armed participants in the conflict.


Defence counsel: "Do you know who was involved in that fighting?"


Witness: "The fighting took place between those who were defending the city, and those who were attacking everything in the city."


Defence counsel: "Who according to you were the ones defending the city? How did they present themselves and what characterised them? Concretely, did they have uniforms?"


Witness: "Those were the citizens of Sarajevo. Simply the citizens who were defending their town."


Defence counsel: "Who, according to you, was the other side?"


Witness: "The other side were those who were attacking the city and the citizens."


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


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