WITNESS: SARAJEVO WAS WORSE THAN BEIRUT
As he testifies for the seventh time before the Tribunal, Sky News war reporter Aernout Van Lynden recounts how the accused told him one evening in September 1992 that ‘Sarajevo is a Serb city’. According to Van Lynden, the accused said that Muslims were Turks and it was ‘impossible’ to live with them. The accused told the witness that the problem could be solved if a wall like the one in Berlin could be built to divide the Serb and Muslim parts of the city
Aernout Van Linden, witness at the Radovan Karadzic trial
‘It looked like a ghost town’, war reporter Aernout Van Lynden said at the trial of Radovan Karadzic describing the situation in Sarajevo in late May 1992. The streets were deserted and there was no food. The elderly and the young tried to evade the snipers, crossing the city streets as quickly as they could. ‘This was worse than Beirut’, added the witness. Before covering the war in BH, the witness reported from Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan and other war zones worldwide.
Van Lynden covered the war in Sarajevo and later in other parts of BH for the British network Sky News, which broadcast all over Europe at the time. In the examination-in chief, the prosecution tendered into evidence several news reports from the besieged city of Sarajevo showing the suffering of civilians and the destruction of the city by the artillery and sniper terror campaign run by the Bosnian Serbs. The prosecution also tendered into evidence a consolidated statement of the witness, who already testified at the trials of Slobodan Milosevic, Stanislav Galic, the Vukovar Three, Milan Martic and Momcilo Perisic.
The witness spent some time in September and October 1992 on the other side of the frontline, in Pale and on Serb-held positions around the city which gave an excellent view of Sarajevo. In one of his reports, the witness said Ratko Mladic was ‘the scourge of Sarajevo’, a man who ‘lived in line with his name’, never doubting that ‘he is right and the whole world is wrong and that his people have been defamed’. Unlike his fellow journalists from the Pale TV who criticized him for this description of the VRS commander, Mladic liked being called the ‘scourge of Sarajevo’ and took Van Lynden out for dinner.
Describing his informal meetings with the accused, Van Lynden said that the former Bosnian Serb leader told him one evening in September 1992 ‘over a glass of white wine’ that he considered Sarajevo was a ‘Serb city’, that Muslims were Turks and it was ‘impossible’ to live with them. Karadzic said the problem could be solved by building a wall like the one in Berlin, dividing the Serb and Muslim parts of the city. The witness said he was taken aback by this comment, in light of the fact that less than three years before that, the Berlin wall was torn down as a symbol of division.
In his cross-examination, Karadzic called Van Lynden’s war reports ‘biased and unverified’, putting it to Lynden that they were ‘amended’ before they were aired. The witness rejected this claim. Karadzic also tried to prove that he had in fact advocated ‘the Brussels-type solution’ for Sarajevo. Denying that he ever said that building a wall could be a solution for the ‘Sarajevo issue’, Karadzic said, ‘I consider Muslims to be Serbs, not Turks’, adding he didn’t drink white but red wine. He then showed the witness various documents of the BH Presidency and the Defense Ministry from June 1992. The documents speak of ‘great victories’ achieved by the Territorial Defense and ‘grave losses’ inflicted on the enemy. According to Karadzic, Sarajevo was ‘not under siege’ but ‘surrounded’ by the Serb forces.
The Trial Chamber gave Karadzic 7 hours to cross-examine Van Lynden; Karadzic had asked for 14. Van Lynden’s cross-examination continues tomorrow.
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