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Karadzic: Fear in Sarajevo People’s Faces

20. July 2010.00:00
A former commander of UNPROFOR’s Sarajevo sector told the trial of Radovan Karadzic that he was told by international observers that the non-Serb population was deported from territories controlled by Bosnian Serbs during the war.

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Hussein Ali Abdel Razek, the commander of UNPROFOR in Sarajevo in 1992 and 1993, said the deportation of the non-Serbian population and ethnic cleansing were among “the topics and problems” discussed at his meetings with Bosnian Serb leaders.“The Bosnian Serb representatives never said the ‘ethnic cleansing’ term, but I heard them say almost all the time at numerous meetings that it was difficult to live together with Muslims,” said Ali Abdel Razek, who began his testimony on July 19.

The witness told the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, ICTY, that living conditions for civilians in the city were “very hard”, adding this observation was reflected in the reports written by United Nations members.

“All UN reports addressed the difficult and painful situation and abrupt degradation of living standards as well as the difficulties citizens faced on a daily basis, like the lack of basic items like food and medicines. They also mentioned the fear that could be seen in people’s faces as they were extremely afraid of snipers,” Ali Abdel Razek said.

Karadzic, the former Supreme Commander of the Republika Srpska armed forces, is charged with genocide and crimes against humanity. In addition, he is charged with having committed, planned and ordered, in collaboration with other people, the persecution of Bosnian Muslims and Croats on political and religious grounds in 20 municipalities in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

He is also charged with participation in a joint criminal enterprise with the aim of conducting a sniper and shelling campaign targeted against the civilian population in Sarajevo with the primary goal of spreading terror.

Answering Karadzic’s questions, Ali Abdel Razek said he did not know that the Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina placed artillery positions on skyscrapers in Sarajevo, but he confirmed that those forces were sometimes blamed for attacks on humanitarian convoys.

“As soon as we received information about any kind of incident, we contacted the command of the Bosnian or Serbian side. I personally know that a letter was sent to Bosnian leaders in relation to misuse of forces, which were placed in the vicinity of civil facilities, which then suffered severe consequences of counter-attacks,” the witness explained.

He said he got the impression during meetings with Karadzic that he “truly wanted to improve the situation in the field”, adding he had never considered the Serbian side “as an aggressor in the war”.

“This was a civil war conducted between neighbours and neighbouring settlements. We found ourselves in the middle of those combats. I did not discriminate against any of the conflicting parties. I described the situation realistically. I was not concerned with what was happening alongside the frontlines, but to civilians in the city,” said Ali Abdel Razek.

The next hearing will take place on July 21.D.Dž.

This post is also available in: Bosnian