The indictment against Ratko Mladic alleges that modified air bombs (also known as ‘sows’) were used by the Serb army to attack Sarajevo and that they were extremely unreliable and inaccurate. Nikola Mijatovic, former chief of staff of the Ilidza Brigade, argued that the trajectory of the ‘sows’ could be easily controlled. The slight deviations from course were caused by meteorological conditions. Mijatovic also claimed that the order to launch an air bomb on Hrasnica because this is where the ‘greatest casualties and physical damage can be inflicted’ didn’t mean that civilians should be attacked. Only enemy soldiers were the intended targets

Nikola Mijatovic, defence witness at Rako Mladic trialNikola Mijatovic, defence witness at Rako Mladic trial

After Branko Radan, former municipal official from Novo Sarajevo, completed his evidence, Ratko Mladic’s defense called Nikola Mijatovic. He started his military career as the security officer in the Ilidza Brigade and was then appointed the chief of staff. In his statement to the defense team, read out in court by defense counsel Ivetic, Mijatovic said that his brigade, which was part of the Sarajevo-Romanija Corps, ‘never had the intention to terrorize civilians in the Muslim part of Sarajevo’. According to Mijatovic, they only targeted combat positions and command posts of the BH Army. Mijatovic estimated there were about 1,000 such targets in the city.

Also, Mijatovic claimed in his statement that the BH Army manufactured ammunition in civilian facilities, primarily schools. Although UNPROFOR warned them against it, the BH Army often shelled the Serb army and civilians in Ilidza, Mijatovic said. According to Mijatovic’s sources, 460 Serb fighters and about 400 civilians, most of them children, were killed during the war in Ilidza. Mijatovic claimed that the BH Army shelled the power substation in Blazuj. As a result, the power and water supply to the city was cut off. Serbs were unfairly blamed for that.

The witness didn’t deny that his brigade used modified air bombs because there was a shortage of artillery ammunition, but he contradicted the prosecution’s argument that modified air bombs were extremely inaccurate and dangerous for civilians in the city. In his statement, Mijatovic explained that the trajectory of the bombs – colloquially known as ‘sows’ – could easily be controlled. Slight deviations were caused by meteorological conditions, as is the case with all artillery ammunition.

In the examination-in-chief, Mladic’s defense lawyer showed Mijatovic an order issued by the Sarajevo-Romanija Corps to the witness’s brigade on 6 April 1995 to launch an air bomb on Hrasnica or Sokolovic Kolonija, selecting the ‘most profitable target where the greatest casualties and physical damage can be inflicted’. Mijatovic said that the order referred ‘solely’ to military targets and ‘absolutely ruled out’ any attacks on civilians. Mijatovic said he knew it because he knew that the Bosnian Serb Army was ‘committed’ to full compliance with the Geneva Conventions and laws of war. ‘We were not allowed to open fire even on uniformed people if they were unarmed, let alone on civilians’, the witness was adamant.

One day after the order was issued, one air bomb hit Hrasnica, killing a woman and injuring three other persons. The physical damage to civilian buildings was great. The incident is listed in the indictment against Mladic. The witness claimed the enemy military positions and the command in Hrasnica were the targets. In his statement to the defense team, Mijatovic commented on another incident from the indictment: the air-bomb attack on the civilian building in Safeta Hadzica Street on 26 May 1995. Mijatovic said that the attack occurred amid a heavy offensive of the BH Army in which both sides were constantly firing on each other.

This was the third time Mijatovic has testified before the Tribunal. He has already testified at the trials of Dragomir Milosevic and Radovan Karadzic. The witness will continue his evidence in Ratko Mladic’s defense on Monday.