Former general manager of the State Hospital in Sarajevo Dr. Bakir Nakas is testifying at the trial of Radovan Karadzic. In his evidence today, Dr. Nakas said the hospital was so riddled with bullets and shells that foreigners called it the ‘Swiss cheese hospital’

Bakir Nakas, witness at the Radovan Karadzic trialBakir Nakas, witness at the Radovan Karadzic trial

Dr. Bakir Nakas repeated at the trial of Radovan Karadzic what he said in his previous evidence at the trials of generals Stanislav Galic, Dragomir Milosevic and Momcilo Perisic. The shells and sniper bullets that had hit the State Hospital in Sarajevo came from the Bosnian Serb positions, he testified. Sarajevo was under siege by the Bosnian Serbs.

In the examination-in chief, the prosecutor tendered into evidence the witness’s written statement based on his previous evidence about the sniping and shelling of the State Hospital and their impact on the hospital staff and patients – mostly civilian victims. As Dr. Nakas’s said, the southern side of the hospital was primarily exposed to artillery and sniper fire; it was so riddled with bullets and shells that foreigners called it the ‘Swiss cheese hospital’.

Dr. Nakas explained that the southern facade of the hospital faced the VRS positions at Vrace and on the slopes of Mount Trebevic. As the witness said, sometimes people could see from the hospital a shell being fired; it left a trail of smoke behind it. It seemed to Dr. Nakas that Serbs wanted to destroy the vital parts of the hospital. In most cases, shells targeted the load-bearing columns in the building, the surgical unit and technical facilities of the hospital.

In the cross-examination, Karadzic nonchalantly labeled Nakas’s claims as ‘rumors and gossip’. Karadzic argued that the ‘Muslim forces’ opened fire on the State Hospital while the JNA troops were still in it. According to Karadzic, fire was opened from the Magribija Mosque, the purported location of an ammunition depot, and from the Unis skyscrapers nearby. The Green Berets units, the HOS, police and other ‘Muslim forces’ were deployed in the immediate vicinity of the hospital, Karadzic said.

Karadzic used written statements of former employees of the military hospital – pharmacist Vesna Pagon, cleaning lady Nada Sehovac and administrator Tomislav Tausan – in an effort to impeach the witness. Pagon accused Nakas that he was ‘an Islamic fundamentalist’. Sehovac said that Nakas transferred her to another job motivated by ethnic intolerance, while Tausan claimed that the hospital had been surrounded by the Muslim forces until 10 May 1992 when the JNA withdrew. Tausan said that he saw that arms were delivered and distributed in the Magribija Mosque.

Dr. Nakas rejected all those allegations against him, saying they were false. He was an atheist, he said, and not a member of the SDA or any other party.

Quoting the interview the witness had given to the magazine Dani, Karadzic laughingly noted that the war hospital was ‘an eternal source of funny and weird stories’. Karadzic related Nakas’s description of a boy who hopped on to the hospital one-legged, holding his other leg, shattered by a shell, in his hands. Dr. Nakas said that he found it offensive when the accused claimed it was funny, repeating that he had seen it personally and that the story was ‘completely true’. The boy’s leg was saved, he has made a full recovery and now lives in Sarajevo, Dr. Nakas added.

After Nakas completed his testimony, the prosecutor called Alma Mulaosmanovic Cehajic. On 27 February 1995, the witness was in a tram when she was injured by sniper rounds fired from the VRS-controlled territory. Several other persons were also injured in the incident. Mulaosmanovic Cehajic, who already testified about the event at the trials of generals Dragomir Milosevic and Momcilo Perisic, continues her evidence tomorrow.

Bakir Nakas, witness at the Radovan Karadzic trial
Alma Mulaosmanovic Cehajic, witness at the Radovan Karadzic trial