Former 4th Corps commander Milosav Gagovic commented on Ratko Mladic’s war-time statements about ‘razing half of Sarajevo to the ground’ if the JNA military barracks came under attack. Gagovic said that the accused ‘made a threat with an empty gun’ despite the evidence showing that 5,000 to 10,000 shells fell on the city in the days after Mladic made the threat

Milosav Gagovic, defence witness at Rako Mladic trialMilosav Gagovic, defence witness at Rako Mladic trial

According to Ratko Mladic’s defense witness Milosav Gagovic, the war in Sarajevo began with a ‘witch hunt’: the BH leadership orchestrated the killing of Serbs. The killers were Muslims paramilitaries. From 10 May to 1 June 1992, General Gagovic commanded the JNA 4th Corps. After that, Gagovic personally signed an order renaming the 4th Corps the Sarajevo-Romanija Corps of the Republika Srpska Army. At the trial of the former Corps commander Dragomir Milosevic, Gagovic said that he ‘could not rule out the possibility that the signature had been falsified’.

As he answered the questions by defense counsel Ivetic, the witness said that the media reports before the war ‘distorted the picture’ as to the number of artillery weapons. The media claimed that Serbs had ten times the actual number of artillery pieces, and at the same time, that there was no artillery in the city. The truth was that 54 artillery pieces were deployed in May 1992 in the hills around Sarajevo, and 34 artillery weapons were deployed in the city, Gagovic claimed. For as long as he was there, civilians in the city were not targeted from the Corps positions.

Prosecutor Bibles read out the transcript of an intercepted conversation of 11 May 1992 between Gagovic and Mladic, who were in the military barracks in Lukavica, and General Baros who was in the Marsal Tito military barracks. Mladic says that Sarajevo is ‘blocked’ and that Muslims ‘will cease to exist’ if anyone ‘hurts as much as a hair on the head’ of a JNA soldier. A report from a meeting with UNPROFOR on 20 May states that Mladic threatened to ‘raze half of the city to the ground’ if the Marsal Tito military barracks came under attack. As Gagovic explained, this was an example of Mladic’s penchant to ‘threaten with an empty gun’ because he ‘didn’t have the means to destroy a single house let alone half of the city’.

Two intercepted conversations between the witness and a colonel by the name of Vukovic were played in the cross-examination. Gagovic says, ‘fire on those guys there, pal, you can’t go wrong there’ and adds, ‘fire everything you have on the densely populated neighborhood of Velesici’. Today Gagovic explained that in the first conversation he ordered the attacks on enemy units in a wooded area to prevent a Muslim breakthrough towards Rajlovac. The purpose of the attack on Velesici was to prevent the attacks from the city. Presiding judge Orie recalled that the Trial Chamber had admitted into evidence exhibits showing that on 14 May 1992, at the approximate time when the conversations were intercepted, 5,000 to 10,000 shells fell on Sarajevo. Gagovic resorted to the same argument he had used at the beginning of his testimony: this was yet another example of the ‘distorted’ picture of the purported Serb domination.

The witness claimed that he was offered to assume the command of the Sarajevo-Romanija Corps, but he said ‘thanks but no thanks’ and returned to Serbia, where he soon retired. Gagovic thus avoided the fate of the two former Corps commanders, Stanislav Galic and Dragomir Milosevic: Galic was sentenced to life and Milosevic to 29 years in prison for the artillery and sniper terror campaign against the Sarajevo citizens. This is one of the four joint criminal enterprises Ratko Mladic is charged with.

As the hearing continued, former Bosnian Serb prime minister Vladimir Lukic began his evidence.