CHILDREN SUFFERED WAR TRAUMA IN SARAJEVO
Former head nurse in the pediatric surgery ward in the Kosevo Hospital described the terrible effects the artillery and sniper terror campaign pursued by the Bosnian Serb army had on Sarajevo’s youngest residents. Karadzic responded by claiming that Kosevo was a ‘large military camp’ and the hospital itself a ‘place where Serbs were tortured’. ‘Have you any conscience at all?’ the witness asked Karadzic
Fatima Zaimovic, witness at the Radovan Karadzic trial
As the trial of Radovan Karadzic continues, former head nurse in the pediatric surgery ward in the Kosevo Hospital in Sarajevo Fatima Zaimovic took the stand. Zaimovic talked about the suffering of the children of Sarajevo during the forty-four months of the terror campaign pursued by the Bosnian Serb forces.
Prosecutor Ann Sutherland tendered into evidence Fatimovic’s consolidated statement based on her previous evidence in the Stanislav Galic case. Galic, former commander of the VRS Sarajevo-Romanija Corps, was sentenced to life in prison.
The prosecution also tendered into evidence the diary in which the witness wrote about the traumas of the Kosevo hospital patients during the siege of Sarajevo. The witness also recorded the information about the 331 children treated in the pediatric surgery ward for injuries they sustained in artillery or sniper attacks. A small number of those children were injured by phosphorus shells or sustained burns in gas explosions.
Describing the results of the shelling and sniper attacks, Zaimovic said that the children arrived traumatized by the very nature of their injuries, and constant fire from the hills around Sarajevo aggravated the children’s condition. As she explained, the children would tremble at the sound of each shell; they would wet their beds in fear, cry and scream, begging the nurses to keep them safe. ‘It was particularly difficult when the hospital staff had to move the children to the basements and corridors where conditions were absolutely inadequate’, the witness explained, adding that some of the small patients in the pediatric surgery ward couldn’t walk.
The prosecutor singled out a number of entries from the witness’s diary about the children injured in the incidents listed in the indictment against Karadzic. They include the shelling of about 200 persons watching a football match at Dobrinja on 1 June 1993, the shelling at Alipasino Polje on 22 January 1994 when six children were killed, the targeting of the Markale town market on 5 February 1994 and the incident in the Safet Zajko Street on 25 May 1995.
Zaimovic explained that in 1992 alone, 163 wounded children were brought to the hospital. Nine of them died in the ward. Some of the 331 children treated in Zaimovic’s ward survived and some were sent for treatment abroad because of severity of their injuries, the witness recounted. ‘All those children are mostly always here close by me’, the witness added quietly. According to Zaimovic, the children wounded in Sarajevo were treated in other city hospitals in addition to the one where she worked.
In his cross-examination, Karadzic called evidence to prove that Sarajevo was a ‘fortress and a military stronghold’, that Kosevo was a ‘large military camp’ and the hospital itself a ‘place where Serbs were tortured’. ‘You keep fabricating things to engender even more hatred among people’, the witness replied to Karadzic’s claims. Zaimovic reminded Karadzic that his forces fired on the children in Sarajevo like clay pigeons during the siege. ‘Have you any conscience at all?’ the witness asked Karadzic at one point.
Fatima Zaimovic’s cross-examination continues tomorrow.