As the cross-examination of Richard Higgs, prosecutions mortars expert, drew to a close, Mladic’s defense strove to prove that there were many flaws in the investigation of artillery incidents. As a result, reports drafted by the local police, UNPROFOR and UN military observers weren’t reliable. Higgs doesn’t see why he shouldn’t believe the reports and stands by his findings

Richard Higgs, witness at the Ratko Mladic trialRichard Higgs, witness at the Ratko Mladic trial

Richard Higgs, prosecution mortar expert, completed his evidence at the trial of the former VRS Main Staff commander Ratko Mladic. As alleged in the indictment, Sarajevo was shelled using mortars during the war. In his replies to the defense, the British expert stood by all of his conclusions in the analysis of mortar incidents listed in the indictment against Mladic.

Mladic’s defense tried to prove that a number of errors were made in the investigation of the incidents. Consequently, no reliable conclusions about the origin of the mortar fire could be drawn from the reports of the local police, UNPROFOR and UN military observers. In the defense’s view, this is clearly reflected in the contradictory findings of the investigators about the caliber and the direction of shells. In some cases, investigations were carried out well after the incident. Higgs refused to budge, saying he didn’t see why he should not believe the reports he had examined. He stuck to the conclusions from his expert analysis.

Defense counsel Branko Lukic used video recordings to prove that two stabilizers were found in Markale in August 1995, not one as the prosecution alleged. After he saw the recording and examined the photos the witness said that he stood by his earlier conclusion that only one stabilizer was depicted in the video. The fact that the body and fins show the same damage in the photos supports the conclusion about a single stabilizer, Higgs explained.

Prosecutor Adam Weber noted in the re-examination that the defense counsel had tried to confuse the witness in the cross-examination when he put it to the witness that incorrect firing tables had been used for the Markale incident from February 1994. As regards the second Markale incident which occurred on 28 August 1995, the prosecutor asked the witness some general questions about the type of ground where mortars can be mounted. The indictment alleges that the shell that caused the second Markale incident was fired from the VRS position on Mount Trebevic.

Higgs said that a mortar could be placed on almost any type of terrain. A 120-mm mortar should preferably be mounted on a flat surface, about four square meters in size. Higgs explained that a mortar could as well be placed on steep ground, but this required more time and effort because a mortar must then be dug into the ground for stability.

The trial of Ratko Mladic continues on Monday, 11 November 2013.