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Sarajevo Siege General Gets 33 Years

Bosnian Serb general whose troops besieged the city receives one of the toughest sentences issued by the tribunal.
The Hague tribunal this week handed down one of its toughest sentences so far, ruling that a former Bosnian Serb army general should serve 33 years in jail for his role in the last 15 months of the 1992-1995 siege of Sarajevo.

Dragan Milosevic was found guilty of crimes against humanity and of a violation of the laws or customs of war. He was convicted on five counts of terror, murder and inhumane acts conducted during a campaign of sniping and shelling which resulted in the injury and death of a great number of civilians in the besieged Bosnian capital.

Two counts of unlawful attacks against civilians were dismissed.

At the time relevant to the indictment, Milosevic was a commander of the Sarajevo-Romanija Corps, SRK, of the Bosnian Serb army which besieged Sarajevo over a 15-month period, up to the end of the conflict in November 1995.

Milosevic, 65, took up this post in August 1994. His predecessor, former Bosnian Serb army general Stanslav Galic, is currently serving life imprisonment for his role in the 1992-95 siege of the Bosnian capital.

More than 10,000 people were killed in the Bosniak-held part of Sarajevo in fighting and sniper attacks during the siege. Thousands more lived in unbearable conditions, without any electricity, and with scarce food and water supplies. Some witnesses compared the siege of Sarajevo to the siege of Leningrad during World War Two.

"The evidence discloses a horrific tale of the encirclement and entrapment of a city," said Judge Patrick Robinson in the summary of the judgment read out on December 11.

"There was no safe place in Sarajevo, one could be killed or injured anywhere and anytime."

The trial chamber also found that it was under Milošević’s command of the SRK that modified air bombs were deployed, noting that these were “inaccurate and served no military purpose”.

“Each time a modified air bomb was launched [Milosevic] was playing with the lives of the civilians in Sarajevo,” concluded the judges.

According to the trial chamber, the effects of those air bombs were “overwhelming, in terms of injuries, deaths, destruction and the psychological impact on the civilian population”.

Reading the judgment, Judge Robinson said that ”while the evidence shows that there were lulls in fighting between the armies and in the shelling of the city, it also shows that there was always a constant level of sniping”.

As one of the most horrendous incidents that took place during the time when Milosevic commanded the SRK, the judges highlighted the Markale Market massacre of August 28, 1995, which killed 34 civilians and wounded 78.

In the summary of the judgment, they said that one of the police officers who investigated the incident described what he saw as "the last, deepest circle of Dante's hell".

The trial chamber found that the market was shelled by the SRK, rejecting the defence’s argument that the massacre was staged by the Bosnian army, in order to attract the international attention and provoke NATO bombing of Serb positions around Sarajevo.

As commander of the SRK, Milošević “held a tight chain of command ensuring that he was …kept abreast of the activities of his units”, said the judges. They pointed out one particular order issued by Milošević on April 6, 1995 in which he instructed one of the brigades under his command to “immediately prepare a launcher with an aerial bomb and transport the bomb for launching… The most profitable target must be selected in [Sarajevo suburbs], where the greatest casualties and material damage would be inflicted”.

The trial chamber said that Milošević “made regular use of a highly inaccurate weapon with great explosive power: the modified air bomb”.

The court said “it is clear from the evidence that the SRK knew well that these weapons were indiscriminate and inaccurate”, and that they could only be directed at a general area, making it impossible to predict where they would strike.

The president of the Federal Commission on Missing Persons Amor Masovic says this judgment is important because it finally puts an end on Serb allegations that the 1995 Markale massacre was staged by the Bosnian army.

Merdijana Sadovic is IWPR’s Hague tribunal programme manager.

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