Radovan Karadzic’s defense witness contends that the BH Army had more heavy weapons in Sarajevo than the VRS Sarajevo-Romanija Corps. The witness also claims that the Serb forces never used ‘punishment shelling’ as a tactic. According to the prosecution, that was an ‘integral element’ of the artillery attacks on Sarajevo

Savo Simic, defence witness of Radovan KaradzicSavo Simic, defence witness of Radovan Karadzic

In his evidence last week, the witness claimed that the Serb forces in and around Sarajevo were surrounded ‘from within and from the outside’ by the enemy army. Today Savo Simic, former artillery chief in the 1stSarajevo Motorized Brigade, confirmed in the cross-examination that the goal of the Sarajevo-Romanija Corps was to prevent at any cost the de-blocking of Sarajevo. Prosecutor Tieger merely tender into evidence a VRS document he used to extract this confirmation from the witness, and didn’t press the issue why ‘de-blocking Sarajevo’ had to be prevented. Many of Karadzic’s previous witnesses claimed that Sarajevo ‘was never blocked’ or besieged.

Simic also contends that he and his unit never received orders to attack civilian targets in order to ‘punish’ the enemy forces for their actions in the Sarajevo battlefield or on other front lines. The witness says that he only opened fire on military targets, returning fire on the locations from which Serb forces had been attacked. According to the witness, it was up to the BH Army not to open fire from areas where there were civilians. By opening fire from these areas, the BH Army directly put these civilians in harm’s way, the witness claimed.

This prompted the prosecutor to read out a conversation intercepted on 22 May 1992. In the intercept, Ratko Mladic threatens ‘retaliation against the city’, announcing there would be ‘an earthquake in Sarajevo’ if a single bullet is fired on the military barracks or if a single Serb soldier gets hurt. As the prosecutor noted, ‘punishment was an integral element of the shelling of Sarajevo from day one’. General Mladic ‘may have said this to frighten the other side or to warn them to stop attacking and provoking Serbs at their positions’, Simic replied.

According to Simic, there was ‘parity’ between the warring factions in heavy artillery. It is true that at the beginning of the war the VRS was superior to the BH Army in that respect but other side ‘soon consolidated its ranks’ and obtained a large number of heavy weapons – tanks, cannons, multiple rocket launchers and other artillery pieces – from abandoned JNA military barracks in Sarajevo.

In his statement to Karadzic’s defense, the witness claimed that modified air-bombs were ‘as accurate as standard artillery’ and that they didn’t deviate from the intended trajectory. Simic said he based the conclusion on his own experience: he ‘observed the effect’ of air bombs twice in late 1994 on the Nisici plateau and in the Trnovo region. The air bombs were launched ‘in line with standard operating procedure’, using firing tables, the witness said. The prosecutor then showed the witness a TV report on the use of rocket launcher ramps with modified air bombs. The witness agreed with the prosecutor that apart from the two instances when he observed the modified air bombs being launched, he didn’t have any specific knowledge about firing modified air-bombs from multiple rocket launchers. The witness also confirmed he didn’t know if others used them.