Although the indictment alleges that numerous crimes were committed against civilians in Ilidza, Mladic’s defense witness Nikola Mijatovic has argued there were no crimes in that municipality in Sarajevo. For that, Mijatovic said, he was grateful to ‘his brother Serbs’

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

The indictment against Ratko Mladic alleges that the non-Serbs in Ilidza in Sarajevo were persecuted and that there was a detention facility in the municipality, the Kula in Butmir. As alleged in the indictment, modified air bombs were fired on the civilian areas in Sarajevo from Ilidza. Nikola Mijatovic, a former officer in the Ilidza Brigade, contradicted those allegations, saying that in the entire territory of the municipality there were ‘no war crimes and no rapes'. As Mijatovic noted, this made him ‘proud and grateful to my Serb brothers’.

In the cross-examination, the witness said that such impeccable conduct was the result of the strict disciplinary measures and standing orders to the troops in the Sarajevo-Romanija Corps to observe Geneva Conventions and international laws of war. No such orders have been found, but the witness insisted they had been issued. In fact, Mijatovic said, the fact that those orders have not been found is ‘very telling’.

There was no need to conduct any investigations when Sarajevo was shelled from the Serb positions, Mijatovic said. ‘The shelling was never random’, because the Serb forces only returned fire. Mijatovic went to explain the procedure: scouts sent in reports to the unit commands about the Serb positions that had come under fire and then the commands decided whether to respond with artillery fire.

According to the indictment against Mladic, two modified air bombs were fired from the positions held by the Ilidza Brigade in the spring of 1995. The first bomb was fired on 25 May 1995 and hit a building in Safeta Hadzic Street, and another one hit family homes in Hrasnica on 7 April 1995. A woman was killed and many civilians sustained major and minor injuries. In his statement to the defense team the witness said that the first bomb had been fired during a ‘Muslim offensive’. The witness said that the offensive began in June 1995, in other words, well after the civilian building had been hit. Mijatovic claimed there was a typo in the statement. As for Hrasnica, Mijatovic claimed in the cross-examination that a large number of ‘potential military targets’ – such as BH Army unit commands and artillery positions – were located there.

In the examination-in-chief, the witness claimed that modified air bombs were quite accurate. This prompted prosecutor Groome to remind him that the bombs were propelled by rocket motors that could fail if the bombs ran out of fuel in flight. The witness confirmed the prosecutor’s suggestion. The cross-examination on that issue then continued in closed session.

In defense counsel Ivetic’s re-examination, Mijatovic said that ‘some deviation’ was expected when artillery rounds were fired, and air bombs were no exception. In an effort to bolster his argument, Mijatovic said, 'At shooting competitions, the contestants will not all hit bull's eye all the time'.

Mijatovic completed his testimony today. Mladic’s defense is expected to call a new witness tomorrow.