Ismet Svraka continues his evidence at the trial of Radovan Karadzic. The witness described ‘his last stroll’ to the Markale town market on 28 August 1995 when he was seriously injured in the explosion of a mortar shell

Ismet Svraka, witness at the Radovan Karadzic trial Ismet Svraka, witness at the Radovan Karadzic trial

Ismet Svraka from Sarajevo began his evidence late last week. Today Svraka described his ‘last stroll’ to the Markale town market on 28 August 1995 when he was seriously injured in the leg and abdomen when a mortar shell exploded there. The indictment against Radovan Karadzic alleges that the mortar shell was fired from the Bosnian Serb army positions. The prosecution today played several clips recorded in the aftermath of the Markale explosion. The video shows the witness with his back to the camera, sitting on the ground awaiting help.

The witness watched the footage of the Markale aftermath and explained that when the shell exploded he was near the entrance with two of his friends. As he recounted, the shell came out of the blue and impacted about three meters from the place where he was. ‘The first thing I thought was – I’ve been hit too’, the witness recalled. The first thing he did was to feel his face with his hands to see if his head was intact. Only then did the witness open his eyes and started breathing.

The first scene the witness remembered after the explosion was the face of the driver who took him to the Kosevo hospital where he was treated. His left leg was amputated above the knee, two toes on the right leg had to be removed and he had serious abdominal injuries. In the hospital, the witness learned that the two friends he had met at Markale had been killed on the spot.

Karadzic’s cross-examination was unexpectedly brief. Karadzic said he had a great deal of ‘respect’ for what the witness had been through; his questions had to do with the witness’s position vis-à-vis the impact site and the witness’s injuries. Before leaving the courtroom, the witness thanked the prosecution for calling him to testify at the Karadzic trial. ‘I would like you to call me when Mladic is here’, the witness said to the judges.

Irish lieutenant-colonel John Hamill was called to the witness stand after Ismet Svraka completed his evidence. From May to June 1993, Hamill was a UN military observer in the VRS-controlled part of Sarajevo. In February 1994, Hamill returned to Sarajevo. As a UN technical adviser, he was involved in the investigation of the first Markale massacre, on 5 February 1994. The transcript of Hamill’s evidence at the trial of the former Sarajevo-Romanija Corps commander Stanislav Galic was admitted into evidence. Karadzic devoted most of his cross-examination to the technical details of determining the incoming angle of mortar shells and the direction from which they were fired.

The trial of the former Republika Srpska president continues tomorrow with the evidence of British journalist Martin Bell. Bell was also injured by a sniper as he reported from Sarajevo.

Ismet Svraka, witness at the Radovan Karadzic trial
John Hamill, witness at the Radovan Karadzic trial