HOSPITAL IN THE LINE OF FIRE
In the cross-examination of Dr Milan Mandilovic, Ratko Mladic’s defense put it to him that the VRS didn’t intentionally attack the State Hospital in Sarajevo. Because the southern side of the building was hit so many times during the war, the hospital was nicknamed ‘Swiss cheese’. The defense contends that the hospital had unfortunately found itself in ‘the line of fire’: the Serb troops were in fact targeting the nearby BH Army positions and the police station. Both the BH Army and the police were legitimate targets, the defense argued
Milan Mandilovic, witness at the Ratko Mladic trial
At the trial of former commander of the VRS Main Staff Ratko Mladic for genocide and other crimes in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Dr Milan Mandilovic continued his testimony. As a surgeon in the State Hospital in Sarajevo, Dr Mandilovic performed on a daily basis surgeries on the victims of sniper and artillery attacks listed in the indictment against Mladic. In Mandilovic’s words, during the 44 months of the siege about 9,000 surgeries were performed in the State Hospital.
According to the summary of the witness’s written statement, 80 per cent of patients in the State Hospital were civilians. Of their number, 80 per cent were wounded in artillery incidents; the remaining 20 per cent were hit by infantry weapons. Mandilovic confirmed the authenticity of the medical files from the State Hospital, the Sarajevo University Clinical Center, the Institute of Forensic Medicine and the Dobrinja General Hospital that were admitted into evidence.
Mladic’s defense insisted that the southern side of the hospital, which was targeted most often, faced the front line. Miodrag Stojanovic put it to Dr Mandilovic that the VRS opened fire on the BH Army positions and the State Hospital was in the line of fire. The witness replied that the VRS troops were stationed on higher ground. If they wanted to fire on the BH defense line, they would have had to fire ‘downwards’, not horizontally towards the hospital, which was located about 400 meters from the front line, the witness explained.
Dr Mandilovic said there was a huge Red Cross flag on the hospital building. After some months, the flag was destroyed by shells, bullets and bad weather. The witness claimed categorically that there were no soldiers and weapons in the hospital and that fire was not opened on the Serb positions from the hospital compound. The infirmary of the Medical Battalion was stationed in the hospital compound but it was staffed by medics who were there to take care of the patients. The witness explained that the police station near the hospital was just an ordinary administrative facility and couldn’t be considered a military target.
After Dr Mandilovic completed his evidence, the prosecution called Munira Selmanovic from Novoseoce in Sokolac municipality. According to the summary of her written statement, admitted into evidence today, on 22 September 1992 the Serb forces ordered the villagers of Novoseoce to assemble in the Metaljka field. The witness and other women, children and the elderly, were taken to Sarajevo on buses. Before she left, the witness saw her husband and son alive for the last time; they were with about 40 other men from Novoseoce. Their remains were recovered from mass graves after the war. So was the body of a woman, Devla Karic, who had also been murdered.
Munira Selmanovic will continue her evidence after the court hears the testimony of a protected witness tomorrow morning. Witness RM 333 will testify via video link.