UN REPORT: SERBS RESPONSIBLE FOR 1995 SARAJEVO MARKALE MASSACRE
UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY
Fifty-fourth session, Agenda item 42
The situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina
15 November 1999, pages 94-95
Report of the Secretary-General pursuant to General Assembly resolution 53/35
439. On the day of the attack, the Force Commander based in Zagreb, who controlled the United Nations “key” to launch air attacks, was absent on personal business. The key had therefore passed temporarily to the UNPROFOR Commander in Sarajevo. The latter decided to initiate a request for NATO air strikes against the Serbs, calculating that force could be used to advantage. The goal of the “enforcement operation” would be to remove Serb weapons from within striking distance of the safe area of Sarajevo, and to lift the siege of the city. Two problems, however, prevented the UNPROFOR Commander from turning the key immediately. First, despite sustained efforts over two months to remove UNPROFOR troops from positions from which they could be taken hostage by Serb forces, a detachment of UNPROFOR troops was moving through Serb-held territory in eastern Bosnia, on its way out of Gora de. Second, UNPROFOR’s facilities in Sarajevo were, as ever, scattered across the floor of the valley in which Sarajevo lies, exposed to fire from Serb mortars and artillery in the surrounding hills.
440. The UNPROFOR Commander called Mladic to ensure that the movement of UNPROFOR troops out of Serb-held territory would not be hindered. Not wishing to arouse the Serbs’ suspicions, which could have led to the detention of the exposed UNPROFOR troops, the UNPROFOR Commander decided not to tell Mladic that UNPROFOR experts had confirmed that the mortar rounds had been fired by the Serbs, or that he was planning to launch an air campaign against the Serbs in response. Mladic was apparently satisfied, allowing the UNPROFOR unit in eastern Bosnia to proceed across the international border into the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, a manoeuvre which was completed in the same evening. Again concerned not to arouse Serb suspicions, the UNPROFOR Commander also made a statement to the press in which he was equivocal, both as to who had fired the mortar rounds and as to how UNPROFOR intended to respond. The press, and the Bosnian Government authorities, were, like Mladic, convinced that there would be no dramatic response to the massacre. The Government lodged a protest against what it described as the latest example of a pattern of UNPROFOR inaction.
441. The UNPROFOR Commander turned his key at approximately 2000 hours on 28 August, without consulting his superiors in the United Nations or any of the troop- contributing countries. (The Secretariat noted with concern that it had learned of the decision only six hours later, and had not yet received any information confirming responsibility for the mortar attack itself.) The UNPROFOR Commander did, however, speak several times with the Commander of NATO’s Southern Command, holder of the NATO key. The latter dispatched a message stating that, in the common judgement of the UNPROFOR Commander and himself, the conditions for the initiation of air strikes against the set of targets in the Sarajevo area had been met. He said that he and the UNPROFOR commander had agreed that air strikes would begin as soon as the weather and technical considerations allowed. He added that the air strikes would continue until, in the common judgement of the NATO and United Nations military commanders, the attacks on, or threat to, Sarajevo had ceased.