MORE EVIDENCE ABOUT VRS ‘DEFENSIVE’ OPERATIONS IN SARAJEVO
As have most of Radovan Karadzic’s previous witnesses, former VRS member contends that the Serb forces in the Sarajevo battlefield defended themselves and only engaged military targets in self-defense
As Radovan Karadzic’s defense case continued, he called yet another soldier from the Sarajevo battlefield. Bozo Tomic is a former member of the 2nd Battalion, VRS 1st Sarajevo Mechanized Brigade. According to the summary of the written statement that was admitted into evidence, the witness spent most of the war on positions in the Ozrenska Street sector, on Hrasno Brdo.
As have almost all of Karadzic’s previous witnesses, Tomic contends that the Serb forces didn’t expel non-Serbs from parts of the city they controlled, that the Serb troops didn’t open fire on civilians and that they did not receive orders from civilian and military higher-ups to do it. The witness’s unit only defended itself and engaged military targets along the separation lines in self-defense; his soldiers never operated in the depth of the enemy territory.
In the cross-examination, prosecutor Katrina Gustafson told the witness that the VRS, contrary to his claims, did conduct offensive operations. Prosecutor Gustafson confronted the witness with a conversation intercepted on 21 April 1992, in which Momir Garic from Vraca tells Nedjeljko Prstojevic in Ilidza that the Serb troops descended to Grbavica. Garic tells Prstojevic there is heavy fighting and that the Serb troops need reinforcements.
Tomic contends that his unit didn’t participate in the fighting. According to Tomic, this was not an offensive operation but an act of ‘self-defense’ on the part of the Serb people who lived in that part of the city. The witness told the prosecution that he knew Momir Garic and confirmed to Judge Kwon that Garic’s nickname was Momo. In his evidence last week, Momir Garic claimed that nobody called him Momo and that his nickname was Mocalo.
The witness also claimed that he and other members of his unit always complied with the provisions of the Geneva conventions and international law of war. This prompted the prosecutor to bring up VRS documents stating that Muslim prisoners from the Kula prison were taken to dig trenches and fortify bunkers at the front lines in the area of responsibility of the 2nd Battalion, risking life and limb.
The witness claimed that members of his work platoon ‘were not sitting ducks’; the Serb army was mindful of their safety. They were given food and cigarettes. The prisoners were told to ‘do their job and everything will be alright’, the witness said. Although the witness clearly said that the work platoon dug trenches, at one point Karadzic intervened, claiming that the witness had in fact said that the men worked on ‘roads and access routes’.
As the witness dismissed the suggestion that he had been in favor of not allowing Muslims return to Grbavica after the conflict, prosecutor Gustafson showed him General Mladic’s war diary. On 22 December 1995, Mladic wrote in his diary that at a joint meeting Lieutenant Bozidar Tomic wanted Mladic to ‘offer guarantees that Muslims will not return to Grbavica’. Tomic tried to deny it, saying that he actually asked Mladic to guarantee that the Bosnian police wouldn’t come to Grbavica. Tomic added that nobody could prevent the return; after the Dayton peace agreement was signed and the demarcation lines were drawn, everybody knew very well what belonged to whom. ‘We got next to nothing, and they got virtually everything’, the witness added sourly.
- Case : Karadzic
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- 2012-11-14 SARAJEVO SIEGE UPSIDE DOWN
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