Ratko Mladic couldn’t restrain himself and had to voice his opinion of British general Rupert Smith in court. ‘He is not a peace keeper but a British hawk’, Mladic shouted at the end of the hearing. UNPROFOR in BH was not a ‘peace-keeping force’ for a simple reason that there was no peace in BH to keep, Smith said in the cross-examination

Ratko Mladic in the courtroomRatko Mladic in the courtroom

‘He is not a peace keeper, but a British hawk’, Ratko Mladic shouted from the dock at one point, after the judges had left the court. The ‘British hawk’ is a prosecution witness General Rupert Smith, UNPROFOR’s last commander in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

In the cross-examination, Mladic’s defense tried to paint General Smith as a ‘hawk’ who sided with the Bosnian Serbs’ enemies in 1995. The defense criticized Smith for using his position as the commander of the UN peace-keeping force in BH to threaten only Serbs with NATO air strikes and leave the other warring sides – the BH Army, the Croatian Defense Council and the Croatian Army – alone. Defense counsel Dragan Ivetic insisted that in his previous evidence before the Tribunal the witness himself denied that UNPROFOR was ‘a peace-keeping force’.

In his reply to Ivetic’s suggestion, General Smith said that the main reason for his position was that ‘there was no peace in BH to keep’. The witness stressed that after the fall of Srebrenica in July 1995 it was decided at the London Conference to respond with force to any further attacks on the safe havens. This was the basis for the air strikes launched by NATO and the Rapid Reaction Force against Serb positions, General Smith added.

Then defense tried to contest UNPROFOR’s final report on the Markale incident of 28 August 1995, by putting it to the witness there was no evidence to conclude that the shell which killed 43 and wounded 75 Sarajevo citizens was fired from the VRS positions. Defense counsel Ivetic brought up the transcript of a conversation between Mladic and Smith immediately after the Markale incident. Mladic claimed that the Muslim side was responsible for the incident and that the intention was to discredit the Bosnian Serb army.

As General Smith remarked, this is not the first time he hears such accusations. Yet, he has never been shown any evidence to corroborate them. The witness fully trusted the UNPROFOR members who investigated the scene of the incident. Based on their findings, Smith formed his opinion on who was responsible for the incident: this was his job. The witness dismissed the defense’s suggestion that he made the decision to launch air strikes. ‘It was up to me to call in air strikes and eventually I did it’, General Smith explained.

General Rupert Smith’s cross-examination will continue on Monday, 28 January 2013.