MLADIC'S WITNESS: BH ARMY VIOLATED LAWS OF WAR
At Ratko Mladic’s trial, Colonel Milorad Sehovac has claimed that the BH Army violated international rules of warfare because it failed to evacuate civilians from combat zones. The prosecutor remarked the witness was personally involved in criminal activities, including the murder of Franjo Vrgincic in Brcko. According to the prosecution, Sehovac is not a credible witness
Colonel Milorad Sehovac, war-time commander of the 2nd Sarajevo Brigade, testified at Ratko Mladic’s trial. Sehovac's unit held positions facing Hrasnica and Dobrinja, neighborhoods in Sarajevo. In his statement to the defense, the witness claimed that the BH Army in Sarajevo was by far stronger than the VRS. The BH Army 1st Corps had between 44,000 and 64,000 soldiers, in comparison with 22,000 to 25,000 troops in the Sarajevo-Romanija Corps. The objective of the Serb army was to ‘block’ the BH Army in Sarajevo and to 'protect its territory and population'.
When Sehovac carried out various operations, when his troops fired or returned fire from Sarajevo, he never thought that those actions 'were part of a systematic attack on civilians', as alleged in the indictment against Mladic. According to the witness, there were no exclusively civilian areas in Hrasnica and Dobrinja. He and his brigade took every measure they could to 'reduce civilian casualties' in the enemy territory, the witness noted. Sehovac said that his superior command did everything it could to ensure that the SRK soldiers were familiar with the Geneva Conventions.
In his evidence Sehovac said that the VRS fired a 250-kg air bomb on Hrasnica in response to a BH Army attack. The objective was to destroy the Aleksa Santic school, which was used by the BH as a plant where they produced shells. From his observation post three kilometers away, the witness saw that the bomb impacted at a site 20 to 30 meters from the target. When defense counsel Ivetic asked Sehovac if the bomb had been fired in line with international rules of war, Sehovac confirmed it. 'We were taught that the warring side that was planning and organizing operations had to evacuate civilians from the combat zone’. The BH Army failed to do it, Sehovac added, stressing that it was an 'obvious example of violations of the laws of war'.
Prosecutor Peter McCloskey noted in the cross-examination that the witness failed to mention in his statement the details pertaining to his military career at the beginning of the war. Sehovac was chief of staff of the VRS 1st Posavina Brigade in Brcko at that time. The prosecutor put it to him that he never mentioned this detail in his CV, as Sehovac was one of those who committed crimes in the Brcko area. According to the testimony of a witness in the case against Momcilo Krajisnik, Sehovac ordered the murder of Croat Franjo Vrgincic.
The murder was mentioned in the judgment of Momcilo Krajisnik which was handed down by Judge Orie's Trial Chamber. Judge Orie is the presiding judge at Mladic’s trial. Krajisnik’s judgment specified that Sehovac first told Vrgincic to take off his shoes, and then ordered his subordinates to kill Vrgincic. The prosecutor showed a photo of a mass grave with a bare foot belonging to Vrgincic protruding from the ground.
Sehovac claimed that 'it was all a lie'. According to Sehovac, at the time of the murder he was in a village about 20 km from Brcko. The witness was then asked if he heard about the mass grave where Vrgincic’s body. The mass grave was located near the 1st Posavina Brigade headquarters. ‘I have not heard about it or seen it’, Sehovac replied.
In his statement to the defense the witness also said that the VRS 'didn't shell the tunnel underneath the airport runway because it was close to the UN troops'. The prosecutor then confronted the witness with a report by UN military observers which states that on 7 May the VRS fired mortars on the tunnel entrance. Ten persons were killed and many were wounded in the attack, according to the report. The UN argued that it was the 'bloodiest violation' of the NATO ultimatum of 9 February 1994. Air strikes on the VRS were considered as an option after this incident.
Sehovac said that it 'could in fact be true'. This prompted the prosecutor to suggest that he was 'not a reliable witness': his claim to Mladic's defense that the VRS never attacked the tunnel was patently untrue. Sehovac told McCloskey that the VRS did fire on the airport, but not on the UN troops located nearby. This differs from what Sehovac had previously stated to the defense.
After Milorad Sehovac completed his evidence, the defense called Dragan Milanovic, former platoon commander in the Cerezluk neighborhood in Foca.
- Case : Mladic
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