Ratko Mladic’s defense counsel covered a number of topics in the cross-examination of Aernout Van Lynden: from the deployment of the BH Army infantry and artillery, technical aspects of artillery and sniper attacks to the search for the Green Berets and the Mujahideen. Van Lynden was a war correspondent for the Sky News network. The judges cautioned Mladic for making loud comments in court and warned him to refrain from insulting witnesses

Aernout van Linden, witness at the Ratko Mladic trialAernout van Linden, witness at the Ratko Mladic trial

A number of issues was covered in the cross-examination of Aernout Van Lynden. Many of them, according to the prosecution and the judges, would need to be addressed by a military expert rather than a war correspondent for the British TV network Sky News. Branko Lukic, Ratko Mladic’s lead counsel, asked questions about the use and deployment of artillery, how various surfaces affected the accuracy of rounds and the use of snipers. Lukic even asked the witness if he had ever been a ‘tank crew member’.

At the beginning of the hearing, Mladic’s defense counsel noted that Van Lynden never ‘personally’ saw anyone actually get hit by a sniper and that he didn’t know the victims’ and shooters’ religion. The defense lawyer put it to Van Lynden that had been a ‘lot of armed civilians’ in Sarajevo. Van Lynden confirmed this suggestion. The witness also confirmed that the former military hospital was located close to the line of conflict and the Marsal Tito barracks. TV crews used the top floors of the military hospital to record the round-the-clock shelling of the city. The military hospital was hit in ‘exchanges of fire’ and wasn’t targeted deliberately, Van Lynden confirmed. The defense lawyer also put it to the witness that mortars were fired from positions close to the hospital, and that multiple rocket launchers, deployed all over Sarajevo, fired at Serb-held positions. Van Lynden replied that he had ‘never seen’ such fire and that he would ‘certainly film’ rocket launchers if he saw them.As Van Lynden noted, ‘nobody reported to me about the sites in the city where the BH Army soldiers operated’.

The defense counsel put it to Van Lynden that the ‘Muslim authorities’ prohibited civilians from leaving Sarajevo and Srebrenica. Van Lynden said Sarajevo had been a ‘war zone’ and ‘you couldn’t walk across the front lines just like that’. As Van Lynden said, he spent just one day in Srebrenica in November 1992 and didn’t report from the enclave but from Gorazde. In Gorazde Van Lynden saw civilians crossing the Serb-held lines in search for food on a daily basis. The mention of Gorazde caught Mladic’s attention. During that part of the cross-examination, Mladic constantly made loud comments, wrote down questions on papers and sent them to his defense lawyers.

The defense counsel asked the witness about his meetings with the ‘criminals’ Juka Prazina andMusan Topalovic Caco. He also asked Van Lynden about the Green Berets units and the Mujahideen. The witness did see some BH Army’s special units, such as the Black Swans, but in his opinion, the Green Berets were just ‘a figment of the Bosnian Serbs’ imagination in Bosnia and Herzegovina’. As Van Lynden noted, he met a Japanese man who introduced himself as a ‘Japanese Chetnik’. Van Lynden also saw Russian volunteers in Grbavica. The BH Army denied there were any Mujahideen among its ranks. Van Lynden denied he knew about the contents of a US Congress report about the arms deliveries from Iran to the government troops in Sarajevo.

Finally, the defense counsel tried to show that there was ‘lack of discipline and disobedience vis-à-vis the orders from the top’ in the VRS. The claim was too general, the witness said, explaining that he didn’t spend enough time with the VRS troops to know that.

As Van Lynden was re-examined by prosecutor Dermot Groome, he confirmed that the top floors of the State Hospital in Sarajevo had been evacuated because the doctors thought they weren’t safe enough. Patients were moved to three lowest floors as they weren’t exposed to direct fire from Serb positions. As the witness said, when he visited an artillery position near Sarajevo he didn’t get the impression that the Serbs felt they were under threat and that the Bosnian forces could respond by firing at that position. In his answers to the prosecution, Van Lynden insisted he didn’t think he had been biased in his reports from Bosnia. As Van Lynden said, ‘I suppose I would never tolerate’ any attempts to influence his reporting.

Van Lynden brought to the attention of the Victims and Witnesses Unit the insults leveled at him yesterday by the accused Mladic in court. The Trial Chamber let Mladic know that he ‘cannot make comments about witnesses during the trial’ and warned the accused that he would be removed from court if he continued with his unruly behavior.

Mladic’s trial continues tomorrow with the evidence of Lord Carrington’s former personal envoy in BH, Colm Doyle.