A French officer, who served in UNPROFOR in 1995, testifies at the trial of Ratko Mladic about the sniper and artillery terror campaign against Sarajevo’s civilian population. The Serb side ‘didn’t have any ethical scruples’, the witness said, and considered it was ‘rational’ to randomly fire on civilians to accomplish its goals

Photography of the massacre at Markale market on 28th of august 1995Photography of the massacre at Markale market on 28th of august 1995

The trial of the former commander of the VRS Main Staff Ratko Mladic continued with the evidence of a French officer, testifying under the pseudonym RM 55 and with protective measures of image and voice distortion. According to the summary of the written statement based on the witness’s evidence in the cases against Dragomir Milosevic, Momcilo Perisic and Radovan Karadzic, the witness served in UNPROFOR in Sarajevo in 1995. The witness was able to observe that the Sarajevo-Romanija Corps continuously shelled the city and used sniper fire to target the civilian population.

According to the witness, sniper fire was an integral part of the functioning of the Sarajevo-Romanija Corps. The witness explained that it was perfectly ‘rational’ in light of the goal of the Serb forces, which was to establish ‘an impenetrable circle’ around the city where the enemy troops were concentrated, to ‘destroy the morale’ of the citizens and defenders of the city and to maintain ‘an advantage in morale’ over the enemy and the UN forces. The witness said that the Serb side ‘did not have any ethical scruples’ and obviously considered it was ‘rational’ to randomly fire on the population in Sarajevo.

The French officer witnessed the shelling of the Markale market on 28 August 1995. At the moment of the explosion, the witness was in front of the French embassy in Sarajevo and it took him less than 10 minutes to get to the crime scene. The prosecution played a video excerpt showing Markale immediately after the incident. The witness said that he had heard the explosion perfectly clear and that without any doubt it was caused by a mortar shell.

The witness also noticed that in 1995 the Serb troops used makeshift rockets. An officer in one of the Sarajevo-Romanija Corps brigades told the witness they were called ‘sows’. In the morning of 28 June 1995, the witness was standing in front of the UN HQ in the PTT building and saw a ‘sow’ hit the Sarajevo TV building. As the witness recounted, the bomb made a sound ‘like a locomotive’. Its trajectory was unstable, the witness said, adding that it flew so slowly that it could be seen with a naked eye.

At the beginning of the cross-examination, Mladic’s defense counsel Branko Lukic tried to contest the witness’s claim that the Sarajevo-Romanija Corps command controlled snipers. The defense counsel put it to the French officer that he didn’t have the opportunity to visit sniper positions and talk to snipers. Also, the defense counsel suggested that the UN didn’t have precise information on the ways in which orders were passed on and on the reporting system inside the corps.

The cross-examination of Witness RM 55 continues on Tuesday.