A protected witness called by General Ratko Mladic’s defense argues that the shelling of the Markale town marked was arranged at a meeting of the former Bosnian Muslim political, military and religious leadership to provoke a ‘military intervention of the international community’

Ratko Mladic in the courtroomRatko Mladic in the courtroom

In a bid to contest the responsibility of the former commander of the VRS Main Staff for the crimes in Sarajevo and Srebrenica, Ratko Mladic’s defense called a witness who testified under the pseudonym GRM 116 and with image and voice distortion to protect his identity. During the war in BH, the witness was a member of the police unit called the Pearls and was in charge of security of the BH Presidency members and building.

In his testimony, that at times sounded like something out of a movie, the witness shifted the blame for the worst of crimes Mladic is charged with to the Bosnian Muslim political, military and religious leaders – including Alija Izetbegovic, Mustafa Ceric, Sefer Halilovic and Naser Oric. According to the witness, Izetbegovic was a ‘very devout person’ and mufti Ceric 'influenced his thinking and actions to a large extent'.

The witness claimed that during the war he was present during many meetings of the political and military leadership in the National Bank building. Izetbegovic, his son Bakir and son-in-law Jasmin stayed there for ‘security reasons’. The witness claimed that he had been so close to Izetbegovic and his colleagues that ‘he was able to hear every word they said’. Also, the witness noted, they ‘didn’t make any efforts to hide anything’. According to the witness, the Bosnian Muslim leadership thus made no effort to keep secret from him their plans to deploy heavy artillery near kindergartens and hospitals and to open sniper fire from the positions. This would provoke the Serb troops to return fire, allowing the Bosnian Muslims to blame them for civilian victims. The witness explained that ‘Alija and Ceric knew well that they couldn’t measure up tothe Serbs'. As a result, the witness said, the Bosnian Muslims did everything to ‘provoke a military intervention of the international community’.

The witness argued that one such move was the shelling of the Markale town market on 5 February 1994. The shell killed 66 persons and wounded more than 140. According to the witness, Ceric told Izetbegovic that ‘either way we are losing 50 or 70 men each day to no effect’. All of them, Ceric explained, ‘will go to heaven’ and that was ‘sacrifice for the right cause’. Izetbegovic "smiled" at first but later agreed that it was the right thing to do’ because ‘there is no alternative to a united Bosnia and Herzegovina’. Sefer Halilovic and Mustafa Hajruhalovic Talijan implemented the idea. According to the witness, Halilovic and Hajruhalovic ‘conceived a plan to place some mortars towards Spicasta Stijena'. A shell fired from those mortars would thus be mistaken for ‘the Serb fire from the Mrkovici direction’.

As he was questioned by Judge Moloto, the witness stated that the plan worked on the second try. The first time Halilovic and Talijan purportedly ‘miscalculated the distance’ and the shell fell on ‘a roof’ near the town market.

A similar scenario was used in the Srebrenica region, where Alija Izetbegovic colluded with Naser Oric, BH Army commander in that part of BH. According to the witness, Oric was ordered to ‘form groups of three or four men to provoke unrest in the villages in order to make the Serbs respond with shelling’.

Tomorrow the prosecution will cross-examine Mladic’s defense witness.