Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Milosevic Defence Tries to Raise Doubts About Sarajevo Massacre

A witness in Dragomir Milosevic trial says the Markale massacre was not the Serbs’ fault.
By Rebekah Heil
A retired Russian army colonel told the Hague tribunal last week that the shell that hit Sarajevo’s Markale market in August 1995 couldn’t have come from Bosnian Serb army positions.



Andrei Demurenko said he and his team put together a report in the days following the attack that concluded “the Serbs could not have done it”.



“This was no shelling attack. This was a terrorist attack”, he said.



However, responding to a question from judges, Demurenko stated that his investigation had not determined who had fired the shell.



Demurenko served as deputy commander in Sarajevo for UNPROFOR from January to December 1995. He was also in the Russian army for 26 years.



He was testifying as a witness for the defence of Dragomir Milosevic - the former commander of the Bosnian Serb Sarajevo Romanija Corps, SRK. He is charged with seven counts of crimes against humanity and violations of laws and customs of war. The indictment accuses him of terrorising the civilian inhabitants of Sarajevo from August 1994 to November 1995.



The August 18, 1995 attack on the Markale market was the second of two attacks on that area. Five shells hit the marketplace, killing 37 people and injuring 90.



Demurenko told the court he decided to conduct his own investigation after returning from a visit to the market and hearing comments made by the UNPROFOR spokesperson in Bosnia at a press conference.



“[He] said that this was just another example of an atrocity and a crime committed by the Serbian army, and they needed to be punished and condemned,” he said.



The witness said this was motivation for him to set the story straight.



“It was very important to maintain the principal of impartiality of the UNPROFOR. I set a task for myself to expose the lies of the spokesperson about the Serbs being the aggressors in that incident,” said Demurenko.



He testified that after hearing that statement and receiving two initial reports analysing the shell’s trajectory, he got permission to begin his own inquiry.



“I proposed to head an investigation, because it was absolutely inappropriate not to do anything similar, given what a tragic event had taken place, and [my commander] gave me his consent. He okayed it,” he said.



Normally, said Demurenko, it would not have been his job to do such an investigation, but since the number of casualties increased “hour by hour” he thought that it required a “non-standard approach”.



He said the weaponry used in the former Yugoslavia was of Soviet origin, meaning he was “familiar with the entire arsenal”.



Demurenko testified that he and his closest aides spent three days working on the report, from August 29-31. Their first step was to analyse the information given in the initial reports and either confirm or deny its accuracy.



The report, he said, also included personal inspections of all possible firing positions and photographs. They also prepared drawings of the angle of descent.



“Had the spokesperson stated that it was done by the Bosnian side, I would have still set the same task [for] myself – to state the truth and expose the lie. All lies need to be exposed. Establishing who had actually done it – that would be the next step,” Demurenko told the judges.



“I wasn’t trying to prove anybody’s guilt in this. I was trying to show that UNPROFOR is a professional group.”



Demurenko testified that he planned to submit the report according to standard procedure, but first met with his UNPROFOR commander’s assistant. The witness said that when the assistant realised that the report’s conclusions were different, he told Durmenko that it could not be published.



“Then I took my photographs and left,” he said.



When he could not publish it through standard military channels, Demurenko said he decided to go through the media. A video interview of the witness explaining his review was shown in court.



“This dilemma still troubles me,” he said. “I did something to get [my commander] into trouble.”



In a development later in the week, the tribunal-based news agency Sense said that, under cross-examination by the prosecution, the witness told the court that the report was “a collection of documents” which he kept in his “personal archive” in Russia.



Asked why he had not brought the report with him to The Hague, the witness said that when he “thought about how to corroborate the claims”, he realised that it contained some confidential UNPROFOR documents that he had taken with him to Russia “as a souvenir” after his tour of duty in Bosnia, the agency reported.



Sense said that when the presiding judge, Patrick Robinson, noted the chamber was “surprised” that the witness had not brought with him evidence of this importance, that “might lend some credence” to his testimony, Milosevic’s counsel Branislav Tapuskovic said that he had not have enough time to go to Moscow to talk to the witness in greater detail and instruct him to bring the documents with him.



The judges told him that it was his duty to get all the documents that might corroborate his witness’s claims, reported the agency.



Rebekah Heil is an IWPR reporter in London.