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28 January 2011
News

Karadzic: 'Human Shields' Chained to Buildings

BIRN BiH Hague
Testifying at the trial of Radovan Karadzic, a former UN observer says that members of the Republika Srpska Army, VRS, held him in detention for 18 days in 1995.


Hague Prosecution witness Janusz Kalbarczyk, a former United Nations military observer, recalled having heard “airplanes shelling the Pale area” on May 26, 1995, adding he was captured by VRS members a short time later.

“Ten minutes later three military policemen arrived by car at our command post in the vicinity of Pale. They ordered us to put our hands up and told us we were arrested. They then threatened us by saying they would shoot us if NATO conducted new air strikes,” Kalbarczyk said.

The witness said that ten minutes later more “Bosnian Serb soldiers” came and drove him and a few other UN military observers towards the centre of Pale.

“They gave us two minutes to pack up our things before they handcuffed us, two by two.

"Upon our arrival in the centre of Pale, we found ourselves in a marketplace, where we saw many civilians and some soldiers, who looked very excited. They mocked us and treated us in an aggressive way. One of the civilians even approached me and spit in my face. It was a very dangerous time,” Kalbarczyk said.

Radovan Karadzic, former President of Republika Srpska and Supreme Commander of its armed forces, is charged with taking part in a joint criminal enterprise with the aim of capturing UN peacekeepers and forcing NATO to restrain from conducting air strikes on military and strategic targets held by Bosnian Serbs.

Karadzic is on trial before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, ICTY on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and violation of the laws and customs of war, as well as the capture of more than two hundred UN staff in the period from May 26 to June 19, 1995.

Kalbarczyk said that he was taken, together with other UN observers, from the centre of Pale to “a location which had been targeted in air strikes conducted earlier that day”.

“We arrived at the only building that was still standing in that area. I was chained to it with handcuffs. It was easy for me to see that Serbs expected new attacks to take place and they were using us as human shields to protect the places of strategic interest to them,” Kalbarczyk explained, adding he was taken to a VRS military barracks four and a half hours later.

Kalbarczyk said that VRS members held him and “a large group of UN observers” in the military barracks, near Pale, and they were not allowed to leave the building until June 13, 1995.

“We were told that our status would not change unless the parties managed to reach an agreement or, in other words, until NATO stopped conducting air strikes. In that way, any further air strikes conducted by NATO would result in a tragedy,” Kalbarczyk explained.

During the course of his testimony Kalbarczyk said he would never forget the 18 days he had spent in detention, adding he "would not wish it on anyone”.

The trial of Karadzic is due to continue on January 31.

D.Dz.

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