BBC’s war correspondent Martin Bell confirmed in his evidence at Ratko Mladic’s trial that Serbs had been attacking Sarajevo in order to take it and that they ‘tightened the noose’ around the city to gain the upper hand at the peace talks. He was able to see that when he met with the Bosnian Serb leaders who, as he noted, were obsessed by maps

Martin Bell, witness at the Ratko Mladic trialMartin Bell, witness at the Ratko Mladic trial

After the French officer from the UNPROFOR command in BH completed his evidence, Ratko Mladic was allowed back in court to follow the testimony of BBC’s war correspondent Martin Bell. The accused was removed from court because he kept waving a book and photographs at the French witness, who testified under the pseudonym RM-120.

Martin Bell reported on the events in the former Yugoslavia from 1991, when the conflict broke out in Croatia until the end of the war in BH in 1995. He spent most of the time in Sarajevo, and produced a number of reports on the shelling and sniping against the civilian population.

Of all the conflicts he covered in the 35 years of his journalistic career, Sarajevo was the place where the attackers distinguished between civilians and military targets the least. In August 1992, he was wounded by shell shrapnel as he was reporting from the field. He then decided to forego risky crossings from one side of the front to the other.

As Bell said in his examination-in-chief, his approach to covering the war in BH was to be ‘fair, precise and accurate in my reporting’. He considered it of paramount importance to talk to the Bosnian Serb leadership, and was able to do so until August 1994 when all contacts with the Serb side were severed, ‘to my great regret’, as he said.

The prosecution showed in court a recording of Karadzic’s visit to the front lines at Mount Trebevic. Karadzic was accompanied by a BBC crew and other journalists during the visit that took place on 25 April 1992. Contrary to Karadzic’s claims that he had no wish to take the city but merely to defend the Serb settlements, the Bosnian Serb army attacked Sarajevo.

As the witness noted, the Serbs ‘tightened the noose’ around the city in order to gain the upper hand in the peace talks. He saw that when he met with Radovan Karadzic, Momcilo Krajisnik and Jovan Zametica, and UNPROFOR representatives. The Serb politicians were ‘obsessed by maps’ and carted them around wherever they went.

Martin Bell’s testimony will continue on Friday.