COURTSIDE: Tuta & Stela Case

BBC journalist describes the destruction of Mostar.

COURTSIDE: Tuta & Stela Case

BBC journalist describes the destruction of Mostar.

Thursday, 17 November, 2011

The BBC journalist Jeremy Bowen testified at the trial of two former Bosnian Croat commanders, Mladen Naletilic "Tuta" and Vinko Martinovic "Stela", accused of crimes in 1993 against the Bosnian community in Mostar, south-west Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Bowen said the difference between the battle for Mostar and other conflict zones in Bosnia was its intensity. He said 60,000 people, mostly Bosniaks, confined in a very limited area, had endured almost constant shelling.

The journalist did not testify directly against the two accused but described the overall situation in the war-torn town, which the Bosnian Croats claimed as capital of their self-proclaimed state of Herceg-Bosna.

Bowen entered Bosniak-controlled east Mostar in summer and autumn 1993 and made a documentary about the suffering of civilians besieged by the Bosnian Croat militia, HVO, and their Croatian army, HV, allies.

The siege lasted from May 1993 until February 1994 when a US brokered agreement ended the Bosniak-Croat conflict.

Bowen said the inhabitants faced the choice between fighting and dying. Little humanitarian aid reached the east of the town and owing to the lack of basic medicines, many people died from shell-inflicted wounds.

The journalist's film showed people who had been wounded or killed by the HVO bombardment, which he said was almost constant and broken only by pauses of a few hours.

Bowen compared the level of destruction in Mostar to that of Vukovar, in eastern Croatia, which he had witnessed in 1991. The trial continues.

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

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