A former Chief of the UN Mission of Military Observers in Bosnia and Herzegovina, testifying at the trial of Radovan Karadzic, says that Sarajevo was a dangerous city “held under severe fire by Bosnian Serb forces” in the spring of 1992.
John Wilson, former Chief of Mission of the UN Military Observers in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Counselor with the UN and EC International Conference for the former Yugoslavia, said the Bosnian Serb forces surrounded Sarajevo and fired “large-caliber projectiles and mine-thrower shells” at the city in March, April and May 1992.
“Sarajevo was not a city in which you would walk in a relaxed way as a tourist. It was a dangerous place. You would move around the city only if it was absolutely necessary. The fire targeted at the city came almost exclusively from Serb forces, as Muslim and Croat forces had almost no large-caliber arms,” Wilson said.
Karadzic is on trial before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia as the former Supreme Commander of the Republika Srpska armed forces, for genocide, crimes against humanity and violation of the laws and customs of war.
Among other things, Karadzic is charged with a shelling and sniper campaign targeted against civilians in Sarajevo with the aim of spreading terror.
During cross-examination Karadzic asked the witness if the shelling of Sarajevo was a reaction by Bosnian Serbs to provocations by the Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the city, which Wilson confirmed.
“However, I consider that the reactions by the Serb forces were disproportionate. They were of broad scope and inappropriate, bearing in mind the actions undertaken by the Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It sounds reasonable for the forces based in Sarajevo to provoke a reaction. It was done successfully, as it inevitably resulted in disproportionate and widely spread fire by Serb forces targeted at the city,” Wilson said.
Karadzic said that “a proportionate reaction” would mean the military operations would continue forever with no possibility of one side winning or of reaching the end of the war.
“A proportionate response is a Geneva Convention principle, because you must be convinced that the force you are using is proportionate and adequate in comparison to the threat you are fighting against. If you are going to have collateral casualties, you should have a legal counselor who would advise you whether you should shoot at a certain target and, if yes, which weapons to use,” the witness said.
Wilson said that sniper fire, in 1992, was “a common thing in Sarajevo”, adding that a sniper “located at Serb positions” once shot at his bedroom. Karadzic said the witness could only assume from which position the fire had been opened.
Prior to the beginning of witness Wilson’s examination Trial Chamber Chairman O-Gon Kwon said he did not consider the indictee’s assessment of time needed for cross-examination of the witness to be reasonable, adding that the Chamber would “limit the time allocated for witness examination in advance”
from now on.
The cross-examination of Wilson is due to continue on Tuesday, June 22.