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28 May 2013
News

Commander’s Discretionary Right

Radosa Milutinovic BIRN BiH Hague

Former Republika Srpska President Radovan Karadzic presents judges of The Hague International Tribunal with another ballistic expert Mile Poparic, who presents his findings and denies the responsibility of the Republika Srpska Army for sniper attacks against civilians in Sarajevo during the Bosnian war.

Although he announced Poparic an expert in infantry weapons, Karadzic examined the expert about mine throwers and multiple launch rocket systems first.

Former JNA officer Poparic explained that, according to JNA standards, it was allowed to fire up to 216 mine-thrower grenades in order to destroy an individual target.

In that context, Karadzic asked the witness to comment on the allegations that the VRS, which was under his superior command, opened “disproportionate fire” on Sarajevo, also asking him to explain what the disproportionate fire was.

Poparic responded by saying that it depended on a specific situation and that a commander had discretionary right to decide how many projectiles would be fired.

“In some situations one can use many grenades without it being classified as excessive fire,” the Defence’s expert witness said, adding that those were international standards.

The indictment alleges that Karadzic, former President of Republika Srpska, is charged with a terror campaign against the local population in Sarajevo by conducting shelling and sniping attacks.  

After Karadzic played a recording, which he found on You Tube depicting a multiple launch thrower of the Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina on Mount Igman, Poparic said that the “calibre of the weapon was 107 mm”, adding that neither JNA nor VRS possessed such weapons.

When asked by presiding Judge O-gon Kwon about the relevance of that statement, Karadzic’s legal counsellor Peter Robinson said that, according to the Prosecution’s charges, a projectile of that same calibre exploded in Alipasino Polje neighbourhood, Sarajevo, on January 22, 1994, killing six children.

Prior to that Prosecutor Caroline Edgerton objected to Karadzic’s questions, claiming that the topic had not been announced in advance according to the rules.

The most part of the hearing today was dedicated to the cross-examination of a previous Karadzic witness – former RS Prime Minister Vladimir Lukic, by prosecutors.

Lukic confirmed that crimes were committed against Muslims in Grbavica in 1993 and 1994, but he suggested that the crime perpetrators were not members of VRS, but “pilferers, who robbed people and tortured women”, adding that the local authorities did all they could to prevent and sanction those crimes.

Prosecutor Catrina Gustafsson presented the witness a sheet from a wartime diary kept by VRS Commander Ratko Mladic, quoting Lukic’s words that “some soldiers even raped Serb women in Grbavica” and that he helped some women leave the neighbourhood in order to protect them.

While confirming that he helped Muslim women leave Grbavica, Lukic said: “What would you do if a mother brought her 16-year old daughter and told you: ‘Please, save her’?”

The witness confirmed that “thieves robbed everybody” in Prijedor and that they “mistreated women and committed several individual murders”. “Our service identified 11 of them, indicted them and referred them to local judicial bodies. I do not know what happened afterwards”.

The trial of Karadzic, who is also charged with genocide in Srebrenica, persecution of Muslims and Croats throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina and taking UNPROFOR members hostage, is due to continue on May 29, when court expert Poparic will be examined. 

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