INSTITUTE FOR WAR & PEACE REPORTING
Ex-UN Officer Claims Sarajevo Trams Targeted
Former United Nations military official says
Bosnian Serb army chief threatened sniper fire if trams were allowed to
By Rachel Irwin - International Justice - ICTY
TRI Issue 667, 29 Oct 10
The chief-of-staff of the Bosnian Serb army said he
would "see to it" that trams in Sarajevo were targeted with sniper fire,
a Dutch general, who formerly served as a senior military official in
the United Nations in Bosnia, said this week during the trial of Radovan
"Are you sure you accurately remember what
[chief-of-staff General Manojlo Milovanovic] told you?" Karadzic asked
prosecution witness General Adrianus van Baal during the
"Are you sure he told you that the trams will be the
target of snipers?" Karadzic asked.
"I am 100 per cent certain," answered Van Baal, who
served as chief-of-staff to General Sir Michael Rose, who was the
commander of UN forces in Sarajevo during 1994.
Van Baal said he was in frequent contact with
Milovanovic, who was his counterpart in the Bosnian Serb army.
According to a summary of Van Baal's witness statement
read aloud by prosecutors, Milovanovic complained about trams being
allowed to operate in Sarajevo and said he would "see to it" that the
trams were targeted if the UN allowed this to continue. Van Baal stated
that the trams - and the civilians on them - were subsequently the
target of sniper fire.
"Is this a significant piece of information?" asked
Karadzic, who continues to represent himself.
"It was very important because General Milovanovic's
intonation and diction gave me the distinct impression that he could
influence what happened on the ground in Sarajevo regarding this
subject," answered Van Baal, who has testified in two previous trials at
"Did you inform your superior command about this?"
"Absolutely," replied Van Baal, who said that he had
"Why are there not any written traces of such a major
issue that violates the laws of war?" Karadzic asked. "[You] inform me
about every [humanitarian] convoy but fail to inform me about such an
"It was not my task to inform you," Van Baal
responded. "It was my task to notify my commander and ensure the
information reached the appropriate place [at the UN command] in
"Is there such a written notification?" Karadzic
"I don't have the information as to whether a written
document exists," Van Baal said.
When Karadzic pressed Van Baal on what exactly was
said, the witness maintained that Milovanovic said he would "see to it"
that trams were targeted.
"That means that he would use his own influence to
ensure this would in fact happen," Van Baal continued. "I can't imagine
this in another way."
Karadzic then requested that Van Baal turn over his
notes from the meeting, which Van Baal initially declined to do, but
later told judges that he would "think about it".
Karadzic subsequently filed a written motion
requesting that judges order Van Baal to produce his notes, with any
personal details redacted.
Prosecutors allege that Karadzic, the president of
Bosnia's self-declared Republika Srpska from 1992 to 1996, planned and
oversaw the 44-month siege of Sarajevo that ravaged the city and left
nearly 12,000 people dead.
Karadzic's army is accused of deliberately sniping and
shelling the city's civilian population in order to "spread terror"
The indictment - which lists 11 counts in total -
alleges that Karadzic was responsible for crimes of genocide,
persecution, extermination, murder and forcible transfer which
"contributed to achieving the objective of the permanent removal of
Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats from Bosnian Serb-claimed territory".
He was arrested in Belgrade in July 2008 after 13 years on the run.
The topic of humanitarian convoys was also discussed
in some detail this week. Several other witnesses - including Van Baal's
former commander Rose - have testified that the Bosnian Serb army
prevented the convoys from reaching needy civilians.
Van Baal said this was indeed the case, and told
prosecuting lawyer Carolyn Edgerton that the Bosnian Serbs would
constantly come up with new and "highly ingenious" grounds for blocking
He said that, among other reasons, the Bosnian Serb
army would claim that the convoys were being used to conduct illegal
trade and to smuggle "weapons and ammunition to the Muslims".
"I'm fully convinced this situation never occurred,"
Van Baal said.
As a result of the convoys being blocked, he said the
situation in the eastern enclaves became "increasingly desperate".
However, during the cross examination, Karadzic said
that his army's caution regarding the free passage of humanitarian
convoys was "legitimate and justified".
"Do you remember, General, that you were always being
given reasons and a basis on which a convoy was halted or denied
passage?" Karadzic asked.
"Yes indeed, we were always given reasons why that was
the case, but the reasons were not valid," Van Baal said.
He reiterated that there was "no evidence" of
ammunition and fuel being smuggled into the enclaves, nor was there
anything to suggest that UN soldiers were participating in a black
"What if I were to tell you that on the Serbian side
the perception was that . the Muslims [were] stepping up attacks within
the enclaves," Karadzic said. "Would that be a cause for concern . in
relation to the convoys?"
".The humanitarian [convoys] were for civilians and
had nothing to do with strengthening [military capability] in the
enclaves," Van Baal said. "The convoys would never include military
goods for the civilian population in the enclave."
"Did the Serb army request these examinations because
[it] was an evil army.or did they [have] the right to conduct
inspections . about what the other side might have been receiving in
that way?" Karadzic asked. "Were the Serbs evil or simply concerned?"
"I can only guess as to what was on the minds of the
Serbs," Van Baal answered. He noted that the UN agreed to a "visual"
inspection of the vehicles, but objected to "bodily searches" or
searches of particular possessions.
Later, Karadzic asked Van Baal about the alleged
agenda of the Bosnian government, a topic he has raised with numerous
witnesses throughout the trial.
"Were you aware that certain elements of the army in
Bosnia Hercegovina were intentionally enhancing shortages and.the
suffering of Sarajevo?" Karadzic asked. "The main purpose was to
victimise civilians and provoke sympathy from the international
community and draw NATO into the conflict. Were you aware of these
"Generally speaking, the situation in Sarajevo when I
arrived in 1994 was one of desperation and horror," Van Baal answered.
"People were 10 to 15 kilos lighter than a normal body weight.
"There were lots of dead and injured people. I never
noticed that the Bosnian Muslim government made any [attempts] to thwart
our efforts. They tried to ensure that goods were properly distributed."
"Please stick to my question," Karadzic said. "It
would be nice to chat but I don't have a lot of time.
"Was it known that the Muslim government was trying to
draw the international community into the war and carrying out incidents
that would aggravate and increase the suffering of citizens of
Sarajevo?" he asked.
"It was clearly the intention of the Bosnian Muslims
that the international community and the [UN] would [help resolve] the
conflict," Van Baal answered. "The second part [of your question] was
certainly not the case. I had no reason to think it was a policy."
The trial continues next week.
Rachel Irwin is an IWPR reporter in The Hague.