In his evidence at the trial of Radovan Karadzic, the court heard testimony of the former head of UN observers in Sarajevo John Wilson. Wilson described the artillery and sniper fire targeting Sarajevo as ‘indiscriminate, widespread and inappropriate’. Karadzic asked the witness if he had noticed that Karadzic ‘always did his best to avoid any civilian casualties in Sarajevo’. Wilson said he didn’t

John Wilson, witness at the Radovan Karadzic trialJohn Wilson, witness at the Radovan Karadzic trial

Retired Australian general John Wilson is testifying at the trial of Radovan Karadzic. In his evidence, Wilson said that the artillery and sniper fire the Bosnian Serb army opened on Sarajevo in May and June 1992 was ‘indiscriminate, widespread and inappropriate’. According to Wilson, he never saw such weight of fire in his military career, ‘especially not on civilian targets’.

In Wilson’s examination-in chief, the prosecution tendered into evidence Wilson’s amalgamated statement based on the testimony the witness had given at the trials of Momcilo Krajisnik and Momcilo Perisic. In this statement, the witness described the situation in Sarajevo in early 1992 and what he saw regarding the deployment of the military observers in BH. Wilson testified about observers’ reports on ethnic cleansing of Muslims in Eastern Bosnia and gave his impressions on the meetings with the representatives of the warring sides. Wilson met with Radovan Karadzic, too.

According to the summary read in the courtroom, in early 1992 General Wilson took over the team of liaison officers in the UN peace-keeping force in Croatia and BH. After their arrival in Sarajevo in late March 1992, Wilson took part in the negotiations to open the Sarajevo airport for humanitarian flights, to evacuate the JNA forces and to impose a no-fly zone over BH. Until December 1993, Wilson worked as a military adviser in the negotiating team headed by the special envoys of the international community, Vance, Owen and Stoltenberg.

In his examination-in chief, Wilson described a meeting on 25 May 1992, when the commander of the Bosnian Serb troops Ratko Mladic openly threatened he would ‘open heavy fire on Sarajevo’ if the JNA soldiers were not evacuated from the barracks in the city. According to the witness, Biljana Plavsic – who also attended the meeting – backed up Mladic on that. ‘I understood this as the formal position of the Serb leadership’, the witness said. As far as the witness knew, the Serb forces on the positions around the city had at least 200 mortars, tanks and other artillery weapons. In comparison, the forces of the BH Presidency had at their disposal only about ten ‘barrels’.

In the first part of his cross-examination, Karadzic tried to prove that the BH Army was opening fire from positions close to ‘sensitive objects’ such as hospitals when foreign delegations came to visit. Karadzic argued that the BH Army wanted to provoke Serbs and blame them for the attacks in order to make the international community intervene militarily. The witness confirmed that there were situations when the BH Army was asked to evacuate some mortar positions, but the witness noted that ‘one should not ignore fact’ that the Serb response in such cases was ‘completely out of proportion’. When the BH Army fired two projectiles, the Serb forces would respond with 200 shells.

Karadzic then asked the witness, ‘Did you notice that I always did my best to avoid all civilian casualties in Sarajevo’. The witness said he didn’t. Wilson said that Karadzic would usually reply to complaints about the treatment of civilians and the way that Serb forces’ were shelling the city by saying that either Serbs “have been provoked or they were doing it to defend the Serb population’. ‘You never denied that things like that happened’, the witness said. The witness added that Karadzic ‘on many occasions didn’t even try to do anything to stop such activities’ when he was asked to do it.

Karadzic will continue cross-examining John Wilson tomorrow. The Trial Chamber has granted Karadzic a total of seven hours for Wilson’s cross-examination.