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Sarajevo Trial Hears Siege Tactics

Trial of General Dragomir Milosevic told of Bosnian Serb shelling campaign towards end of the Sarajevo siege.
By Tim Clark
A witnesses testifying this week at the trial of General Dragomir Milosevic suggested the Bosnian Serbs’ use of mortars was intended to spread terror among Sarajevo citizens during the last two years of the 1992-1995 siege.

Milosevic took over command of Bosnian Serb forces deployed around Sarajevo from General Stansilav Galic on August 10, 1994. Galic was recently sentenced on appeal to life imprisonment for his role in the 1992-95 siege of Sarajevo.

Milosevic is indicted for continuing a campaign of shelling and sniping aimed at killing and terrorising the civilian population of the city.

Prosecution expert witness Richard Higgs, a senior technical mortar advisor for the British army, was called to give evidence relating to reports made by the Sarajevo police, UNPROFOR and UN military observers who conducted the on-site investigations of shelling incidents during the siege of Sarajevo.

Higgs compiled expert reports on two mortar incidents: one on June 18, 1995, when a mortar struck a line of civilians waiting for water distribution in Marka Oreskovica Street, and one on August 28 the same year, when a mortar shell landed in Mula-Mustafe Baseskije Street, outside the entrance to the Markale market.

Higgs testified that the reports made at the time concurred with his own investigations and that the most probable origin of fire was in Bosnian Serb-held territory.

Prosecutor Alex Whiting asked Higgs to give his expert opinion on whether there was any military advantage to be gained from the firing of mortars into the area.

“You cannot gain any definite military advantage from firing a single round,” answered Higgs.

“Firing a single round into a built up area or close to areas where civilians are present would be more along the lines of terrorising the population and causing civilian casualties rather than any military objective.”

Milosevic’s lawyer Branislav Tapuskovic suggested that Higgs was providing psychological analysis of the incidents - evidence that he was not qualified to do. The claim was refuted by the trial judge Patrick Robinson.

Prosecution witness Vekaz Turkovic, who worked with the Sarajevo police at the time, collecting evidence at crime scenes, gave an account of his activities during the Sarajevo siege.

“Perhaps 80 per cent of my professional activities involved shelling and sniping,” he told the court.

With testimonies like Turkovic’s, the prosecution is trying to prove that the sniping and shelling campaign Milosevic is charged with was deliberate and widespread.

The indictment against Milosevic also alleges that troops under his command used modified air bombs to spread terror in Sarajevo in 1995.

The prosecution this week called Milomar Soja, a former Bosnian Serb army member in the Ilidza Brigade. Soja worked to modify the electronic system of the air bomb launchers during his time with the VRS to improve their reliability and stop launch failures.

Milosevic’s defence claim these bombs were used only against legitimate military targets, such as Bosnian army positions in Sarajevo. But Soja told the court this week he believed the air bombs were “inaccurate and unreliable” and were prone to exploding and missing targets.

The trial continues next week.

Tim Clark is an IWPR contributor.

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