Ismet Svraka from Sarajevo testified at the trial of Ratko Mladic today. The explosion of a shell at the Markale market on 28 August 1995 left Svraka permanently disabled. Svraka’s left leg was amputated above the knee, he lost two toes on his right foot and he sustained a serious abdominal injury. The consequences of his injuries are obvious, Svraka said, but ‘still, you have to go on living’

Ismet Svraka, witness at the Ratko Mladic trialIsmet Svraka, witness at the Ratko Mladic trial

Ismet Svraka from Sarajevo got his wish from December 2010 after he had completed his evidence at the trial of Radovan Karadzic: to be called once again to The Hague to testify about the Markale massacre ‘when Mladic is here’.

Svraka arrived in court on crutches because his left leg had been amputated above the knee after he had been wounded in the explosion of a mortar shell at the Markale market. As alleged in the indictment, the shell was fired from the positions held by the Bosnian Serb army. Svraka also lost two toes on his right foot and he sustained a serious abdominal injury. Svraka said that the consequences of his injuries were obvious and permanent because, as he put it, the amputated leg will not grow again. ‘Still, you have to go on living,’ he said.

The witness recalled that the shell exploded as he was standing in front of the market entrance talking to his two friends, Ramo Herceglija and Ibrahim Hajvaz. Herceglija and Hajvaz were killed on the spot. The witness heard the explosion but didn’t remember falling down on the ground. When he realized he was breathing, Svraka opened his eyes but didn’t see anything until the moment he was put in a car. Svraka remembered the driver who told him ‘don’t be afraid, grandpa’ and some of the drive to the Kosevo Hospital, where he received medical treatment.

As he watched in court the horrible scenes of the aftermath of the explosion at the Markale market, Svraka was able to recognize himself. He was sitting on the sidewalk in front of the market entrance with his back to the camera, propping himself on his hands against the ground among a pile of dead and wounded people.

Mladic’s defense counsel Miodrag Stojanovic insisted in the cross-examination that the witness didn’t hear the ‘whiz’ of a shell flying in. The defense counsel put it to the witness that the explosion may have been caused by a land mine. Svraka confirmed that he had heard only the detonation but added that in the war in Sarajevo he had learned that the whizzing sound could be heard only when a shell flew over, not when it impacted in close proximity. In Svraka’s opinion, a mortar shell hit the Markale market, as evidenced by the marks in the asphalt. ‘They are called the Sarajevo roses, the places where the shells killed people’, the witness explained.

The defense counsel asked the witness to tell him from which direction the shell had arrived. Svraka assumed that the shell might have come from the direction parallel to the street but finally concluded that he didn’t know where it had come from. ‘I didn’t fire it’, the witness said.

Before Ismet Svraka’s testimony, the prosecution called a witness who testified with protective measures, under the pseudonym RM 082. His evidence proceeded for the most part in closed session. The witness’s written statement was admitted into evidence. The witness described the training of the SDS members by the JNA, the elimination of non-Serbs from the VRS ranks, the failure to punish the perpetrators of crimes, the implementation of the strategic goals, the relationship between the VRS and the paramilitaries and various military operations by the Serb army. The defense will cross-examine the witness as the trial of Ratko Mladic continues tomorrow.