SHELLING ‘IN EXTREME NECESSITY’, ARMING ‘SPONTANEOUSLY’
Former member of the Sarajevo-Romanija Corps Staff Ratomir Maksimovic contends that Sarajevo was shelled from Serb positions ‘only in extreme necessity’; civilian casualties were ‘collateral damage’. Maksimovic denied that the Corps armed paramilitary groups fighting under his command. Karadzic then called two other witnesses
Radovan Karadzic’s defense case continued with effort to challenge the prosecution’s evidence on crimes committed by the Bosnian Serb army against the citizens of Sarajevo. The first to appear as a witness was Lieutenant Izet Golic, former member of the VRS Rogatica Brigade. From the spring to the fall of 1992, Golic was in the Sarajevo battlefield. Colonel Ratomir Maksimovic, former member of the Sarajevo-Romanija Corps command, testified after Golic. The last witness was Zdravko Salipur, who was a member of the war-time authorities in Novo Sarajevo municipality.
All three witnesses said in their statements to the defense that before the war, Muslims armed up and prepared for the conflict. The Serbs responded by organizing guards and then ‘a people’s army’ in the form of the Sarajevo-Romanija Corps. The exclusive goal was to defend the territories inhabited by Serbs. Weapons were used only if the BH Army attacked, the witnesses claimed. Contrary to the allegations in the indictment that the VRS was responsible for the artillery and sniper terror campaign against civilians, the witnesses maintained that the Bosnian army was in fact guilty of such conduct because it attacked the Serbs around Sarajevo and ‘its own people’ in the city.
After the summary of Lieutenant Golic’s statement was read out, it took only about 15 minutes for him to complete his evidence. Golic claimed that before firing any shells, the VRS identified a military target, fired a test round and then adjusted fire. Golic was in charge of 120-mm mortars and argued that their margin of error was 50 meters.
This was followed by a brief examination-in-chief and the cross-examination of Colonel Maksimovic. Prosecutor Edgerton first put it to the witness that the paramilitary units – such as the groups run by Chetnik warlords Slavko Aleksic and Jovo Ostojic – operated under the SRK aegis. In response, the witness explained he was supposed to be called as Vojislav Seselj’s defense witness; in his statement to Seselj’s defense, he ‘gave a positive opinion’ of Aleksic, insisting that he didn’t commit any crimes and only defended a small area around the Jewish Cemetery. As for Ostojic, Maksimovic said that he had spent just about a month in the Sarajevo area with his group. Ostojic didn’t commit any crimes either, Maksimovic insisted. Although a VRS document from April 1994 states that the witness ordered that weapons be issued to Ostojic’s men, today he denied it. As Maksimovic explained, this ‘was a spontaneous occurrence’. The weapons ‘spontaneously’ reached Ostojic’s men through the brigades in Vogosca and Ilijas.
Maksimovic was shown documents and a BBC report indicating that in late May 1993 the city center and other residential areas of Sarajevo were heavily shelled; there were many civilian casualties. Maksimovic replied that it was ‘propaganda’, although he didn’t deny there were civilian victims in the city. As Maksimovic said, they were ‘collateral damage’ of the SRK attacks on military targets. The SRK only attacked in ‘extreme necessity’. The witness claimed that Serb civilians around Sarajevo were in the same position as the people in the city besieged by the VRS: the only difference was that nobody reported on their plight.
Zdravko Salipur’s examination-in chief was very brief and focused on the Sarajevo maternity ward. As Salipur said, the media reports that the Serb artillery had destroyed the facility at the very outset of the war were untrue. Salipur’s son Ratomir was born there on 20 April 1992. Salipur’s cross-examination continues tomorrow.
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