COURTSIDE: Sarajevo Trial

UN commander describes “terror” of Sarajevo shelling

COURTSIDE: Sarajevo Trial

UN commander describes “terror” of Sarajevo shelling

Lieutenant-Colonel Richard Mole, a former UN military observer in Sarajevo, returned to the witness stand last week to give further evidence in the trial of Stanislav Galic, the Bosnian Serb general charged with terrorising the capital’s civilians.

Mole had previously told the court that he had personally warned the general about the way his troops were indiscriminately firing at the city. Last week, he described the December 1992 shelling as “terror” and said the destruction was not limited to the frontlines but affected the whole city. Galic should have known about the inappropriate activities of his subordinates, Mole added.

The general's defence has suggested a 64 km long frontline is too long for any commanding officer to be able to monitor all his troops' activities. But the witness said it was Galic's duty to know and examine how his officers used their ammunition.

The defence is expected to start presenting its case, which is likely to argue that the Serbs had targeted legitimate positions, in the next two months.

The witness told the court that neither side had fully observed ceasefires during his tenure and that the Bosnian presidency had at times stopped civilians from leaving Sarajevo to maintain international concern in the city’s suffering.

In the case of battles for the city suburb of Nedzarici, Mole confirmed that the Bosnian side used so much force against the Serbian positions that the local Serb commander asked for UN protection. He also said Bosnian army command and logistics were positioned behind the front line in the city, making them legitimate targets.

Mole said his observations were limited in scope due to the UN's restricted mandate. It was not an intelligence service and did not have accurate data on all legitimate targets. Its duty during his four-month tenure was simply to monitor weapons on all sides.

Colonel David Fraser, an UNPROFOR military assistant, later testified that the UN analysed shelling targets during the year after his arrival in April 1994 and established that most of them were civilian.

Fraser told the court that he was convinced Galic knew all about sniping activity against the civilians, as their intensity usually diminished following protests. In any case, the witness said, sniper fire was a more logical military activity than shelling, as the former could involve aiming at a specific target rather than risking the massive collateral damage imposed by the latter.

He also claimed that Sarajevo’s “desperate” citizens told him conditions had been better under the Nazi occupation. When Bosnian forces fired at Serb positions, he said, Galic's Sarajevo-Romanija corps would retaliate massively.

Another witness from UN ranks, Lieutenant-Colonel Christian Bergeron, also said he believed Galic knew exactly what was happening. This witness attended several meetings with him and gained the impression he was in control of all activities around Sarajevo.

Bergeron was also present when his UN colleagues analysed the shelling of 200 civilians watching a football game in the suburb of Dobrinja on June 1, 1993. They established that the projectiles were fired from Serb positions. Twelve people died and around 100 were wounded in the attack.

Mirna Jancic is an IWPR assistant editor.

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