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ICTY: SERBS RESPONSIBLE FOR 1994 SARAJEVO MARKALE MASSACRE

December 12, 2005
International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia (ICTY)
Milosevic Trial – The Hague – Court Room One
Day 273, 16 January 2004.

Bosnian Serbs Responsible for Sarajevo Markale Massacre, Expert Testifies

Update: Serb General, Stanislav Galic, guilty for 1994 Sarajevo Markale Market Massacre

By: Judith Armatta

THE HAGUE – Berko Zecevic, an expert in designing ammunition who investigated the mortar shell that killed 68 and wounded 144 in Sarajevo’s Markale Marketplace on February 5, 1994, concluded that the shell could only have come from the Bosnian Serb Army (VRS) positions. His conclusion was presented in a report commissioned by the Office of the Prosecutor and introduced into evidence when he appeared in Court today.

The source of the 120 millimeter mortar shell that exploded in the middle of the busy market has been a matter of serious contention since it occurred. Initially, members of the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) said the shell was fired from Bosnian Government positions. From that, some concluded that the Bosnian Government was firing on its own people, to make it appear they were victims of Bosnian Serb aggression and gain international sympathy and, ultimately, international intervention on their behalf. A later, more indepth UNPROFOR report, however, noted a calculation error in the first UN report. Correcting the error led the UN to conclude that it was impossible to say which side had fired the shell.

Mr. Zecevic testified that, when he heard on television that authorities were unable to determine the source of the projectile, he offered his services as an expert to the judge investigating the incident. Working with two colleagues, their analysis revealed the direction from which the shell was fired and six possible locations from which it could have been fired (5 under VRS control and 1 under ABH (Army of Bosnia-Herzegovina) control). The site under ABH control was clearly visible to UNPROFOR personnel, who reported that no shell was fired from that position. The type of stabilizer fin (part of the projectile) found at the site was produced in one of two places, both under control of the VRS at the time. As a result of this and other technical measurements, Mr. Zecevic concluded the shell could only have come from one of the positions under VRS control.

While Mr. Zecevic’s experience and expertise in ammunition design and testing was impressive, the Accused questioned his objectivity based on his having worked for the ABH until shortly before the massacre. Mr. Zecevic insisted he conducted a professional and objective analysis, which was fully supported by facts and calculations that could be checked by any expert in the field. He added that his assistance to the ABH ended in July of the previous year. Before that, he worked for 17 years in the Research and Development Section of a major munitions factory in Bosnia. The factory was part of the former federal Yugoslavia’s interdependent military-industrial complex. When the JNA dissolved, the system was reorganized and Mr. Zecevic left.

An earlier witness, former UN officer David Howland, told the Court that UN investigations could not determine the source of the particular shell that exploded in the Markale Marketplace on February 5, 1994, but UN records showed that almost 100% of shells landing on the ABH side of the confrontation line were fired by the VRS. He also testified that, while the BHA sometimes provoked fire at civilian targets, it did not fire on its own people (the citizens of Sarajevo of all ethnicities).

During his cross examination, Milosevic read out a portion of the dissenting opinion in the Galic trial, where Judge Nieto-Navia concluded that the prosecution in that case had failed to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the Bosnian Serb forces were responsible for the shell that exploded in the Markale Marketplace on February 5, 1994. He found support for his conclusion in the Special UN Team’s official findings communicated to the UN Security Council that “there is insufficient physical evidence to prove that one party fired the mortar bomb.” As Judge May noted, that is one judge’s view and nothing more. He might also have pointed out that the majority in the Galic case found beyond a reasonable doubt that the shell was deliberately fired from VRS-controlled territory, after extensively reviewing expert opinions, including Mr. Zecevic’s and the UN’s, as well as eye witness evidence.

The conclusions in the Galic trial are not binding on the judges in the Milosevic trial. Here, as there, the judges will have to make a thorough review and analysis of all evidence submitted — by both the Prosecution and Defence — before making up their own minds. The question remains whether the matter will ever be finally resolved.

Mr. Zecevic also provided expert testimony that the source of significant quantities and types of ammunition used by the VRS against the citizens of Sarajevo came from Serbia. His conclusion was based on an analysis of unexploded ordnance in Sarajevo. The Prosecution produced numerous documents, showing that Mr. Zecevic’s former factory, military production enterprises in Serbia, the JNA/VJ and the VRS/RS took over and adapted the former federal Yugoslav military production network. Under it, as a number of the documents showed, Serbia and the JNA and its successor the VJ supplied weapons, ammunition and needed raw materials to the Bosnian Serbs. This practice violated the UN arms embargo. And, as Mr. Zecevic told the Court, “[I]t means that the country [Serbia/FRY – Federal Republic of Yugoslavia] was directly taking part in the killing of people who were unarmed,” i.e. the citizens of Sarajevo where the unexploded ordnance was found. The documents, together with Mr. Zecevic’s testimony, add yet more corroboration that Serbia was supporting the war by the RS against the Government of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The Prosecution has long since succeeded in establishing that Serbia supplied the Bosnian Serbs with significant quantities of weapons and military equipment without which they could not have waged war. Milosevic faces a formidable task to discredit this evidence.

keywords: ICTY, International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia, Berko Zecevic, UNPROFOR, Sarajevo Markale Marketplace Massacre, Markale Marketplace Massacre Sarajevo, Sarajevo Markale Massacre, Markale Massacre, Markale Sarajevo Massacre, Srebrenica Genocide, Srebrenica Massacre, Bosniaks, Bosnian Muslims, Bosnia-Herzegovina

  1. Anonymous
    February 23, 2006 at 9:48 pm

    what does this prove?

  2. François
    July 8, 2007 at 1:07 am

    To be sure, you do not need to determine the origin of a particular shell when you know that the Serbs shot hundreds of thousands shells on Sarajevo and murdered 10,000 civilians there.

    That is why only Serb propaganda gave so much importance to that particular 120 mm mortar shell and contended that the Bosnian government had shelled its own populace to attract Western compassion.
    Yet, the Bosnian government didn’t need to invent a particular mortar shelling, given the other thousands that occurred all the time.

    A plausible argument would be that the Serbs didn’t do it because it was not in their interest to kill so many people at a time.
    This disregards the fundamental fact that 120 mm mortars are not precise weapons –and the shooters didn’t have the sophisticated laptops which are used nowadays to improve their aim. Thus, committed as they were to murdering some 10 Sarajilije per day, the Serbs couldn’t avoid killing too many once in a while.

    On the other hand the Bosnian government couldn’t shoot enough mortar shells to be sure to kill a large amount of its own citizens without getting caught in the act and being completely discredited.

    Thus the Serb propaganda claim that the Bosnian government shot the Markale shell(s) was never believable, despite their best efforts. Most likely, however, is that they had a propaganda campaign ready to blame the Bosnian government should such an accidental “overkill” occur.

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