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16 December 2014
News

Witness: Attempting to stop the NATO bombing

Radoša Milutinović BIRN BiH Haag

At the trial of Ratko Mladic in front of The Hague tribunal, Pale television journalist Snjezan Lalovic said that he recorded UNPROFOR troops tried on Jahorina mountain in the spring of 1995 to prevent further NATO air strikes on the Bosnian Serb Army (VRS).

Lalovic testified that unknown people in uniforms sent him to the radio relay facility at Jahorina and that they did not mention General Mladic. He claimed that the prisoners were not mistreated.
 
The indictment, among other things, charges commander of the Bosnian Serb Army Ratko Mladic of taking 200 UN military observers hostage after NATO attacked the VRS by plane in late May 1995.
 
Lalovic testified that uniformed personnel “said to him” to record members of UNPROFOR at the relay on Jahorina “because there is a threat that the facility could be targeted.” He confirmed that he drove two members of the “blue helmets” – one Polish and the other Brazilian - to Jahorina with an off-road vehicle which “uniformed faces” gave to him.
 
The witness, however, denied that he worked under order of the police and Bosnian Serb Army, claiming that from the officers he got “information” what will happen, “not an order.”
 
During the cross-examination the prosecutor presented to the witness a statement in which General Mladic threatened to the UNPROFOR commander Rupert Smith that he will “watch the killings of UNPROFOR members on television if he continues bombing.”
 
Suggesting that Mladic warned on the possible further suffering of the “blue helmets” from NATO bombing, Lalovic said: “I was with them and I could also have been killed.”
 
“We held them, in fact we were with them at Jahorina for a short while. We saw NATO planes and feared that they will attack that objects. That, in the fact, was a trick to show that they are up there and that these people who were transferred are safe,” the witness said.
 
TV reports that the witness made was about how they were tied yo certain targets. “We were exposed to the bombing from the largest military alliance and these TV reports were supposed to stop NATO from bombing Serb-led entity Republika Srpska.
 
At the question of the judge Alphons Orie on whether he considered the tying of the UNPROFOR members at Jahorina as “mistreatment”, Lalovic replied: “We can agree that any kind of tying is some form of mistreatment, I implied that no one was beating them.”
 
Asked by the same judge why he even went to Jahorina, he said: “I got an editorial assignment to record members of the UNPROFOR who were tied to these facilities.”
 
Another defence witness Marjan Jesic said that Muslim paramilitary formations attacking Prijedor on 30 May 1992 caused war in that city. In that attack Jesic was wounded in the head.
 
According to the indictment against Mladic, Prijedor was one of seven municipalities in which the persecution of Muslims and Croats reached genocidal proportions. Mladic is also accused of genocide in Srebrenica, terrorising the population of Sarajevo with long-term sniper attacks and shelling during the war in BiH.
 
The trial continues on December 17.
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