A former BBC wartime reporter testifies at the trial of Radovan Karadzic and says that civilians were the main target of attacks during the siege of Sarajevo, adding most of them were killed by snipers and shrapnel from grenades.
Martin Bell, a BBC journalist who reported from Sarajevo during the nearly four years of war in Bosnia, told the Hague Tribunal that the population was exposed to danger on a daily basis during the course of the siege, adding that shelling incidents happened every five minutes on average.
â€œIn most cases the citizens of Sarajevo were exposed to the conflict activities. Civilians were killed non-selectively as they struggled to survive in the city. Most of the recordings I made show people being wounded by sniper bullets and shrapnel from grenades while queuing for water or humanitarian aid. They exclusively killed civilians, women and children,â€ Bell said.
The witness repeated his earlier statement that the population lived in â€œunbearable conditionsâ€ during the course of the siege because they were hungry and lived in great fear for several years.
Radovan Karadzic, former President of Republika Srpska and supreme Commander of its armed forces, is charged before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia with genocide and other crimes committed on the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1992 to 1995.
Among other things, the Prosecution charges Karadzic with the shelling and sniping of Sarajevo with the purpose of â€œkilling, mutilating, wounding and terrorizing civiliansâ€. The indictment alleges that thousands of civilians were killed or wounded in the shelling and sniping campaign.
â€œIn my career I reported from 15 countries caught in armed conflicts. I never witnessed such a great amount of fear among people as in Sarajevo. They constantly lost weight and their faces even turned gray because of the fear. They had no way to escape. They were trapped in a war that seemed endless,â€ the witness said.
During the course of cross-examination Bell repeated that the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina was different from any other war in the areas he had visited in terms of its â€œviolenceâ€ and non-selectivity in the killing of soldiers and civilians, as well as violations of the Geneva Convention and customs of war.
Although the indictee asked him to do so, Bell was not able to define the character of the conflict during the course of his testimony.
â€œThe history of the peoples in Bosnia and Herzegovina is rather complex. The conflict did look like a civil war, but I cannot characterize it as such.
“I was trained to report fairly. When I wrote about Serbs, I kept saying that you lived your truth as no other people in the world, even calling upon the Kosovo battle that took place in 1389. However, there is no excuse for killing civilians,â€ the witness said.
During the course of his testimony Bell said that, as a reporter, he often went to the Serb base in Pale and spoke to Serb soldiers.
He also conducted an interview with Karadzic during the course of the war. Bell explained that Karadzic had proper relations with foreign reporters until August 1994.
But Bell said after that date no foreign reporters were allowed to go to Pale.
The cross-examination of this witness is due to continue on Wednesday, December 15.