THE HAGUE | 12.12.2007.


Dragomir Milosevic, former commander of the Sarajevo-Romanija Corps, was found guilty of the shelling and sniper terror campaign against Sarajevo and its citizens from August 1994 to late 1995. Milosevic was sentenced to 33 years in prison

General Dragomir Milosevic, former commander of the Sarajevo-Romanija Corps, was found guilty of murder and inhumane acts committed in the course of the 15-month long sniper and shelling terror campaign against the civilian population in Sarajevo from August 1994 to the end of 1995. Milosevic was sentenced to 33 years in prison for five out of a total of seven counts in the indictment charging him with violations of laws and customs of war and crimes against humanity. Counts 4 and 7, alleging illegal attacks against civilians, were dropped because this charge was covered in the charge of ‘terror’ against civilians in count 1. Milosevic was found guilty on that count.

In the summary of the judgment, the Trial Chamber noted that the evidence called at the trial presented ‘an horrific tale of the encirclement and entrapment of a city’. The Sarajevo-Romanija Corps, under the command of the accused Milosevic, ‘deliberately, indiscriminately and disproportionately’ targeted civilians and civilian areas from strategically located points on the high ground around Sarajevo. The Trial Chamber found that the terror campaign was conducted by ‘well-trained snipers’, mortar shelling and launching of modified air bombs. According to the Trial Chamber, the effects of those air bombs were ‘overwhelming, in terms of injuries, deaths, destruction and the psychological impact on the civilian population’.

Snipers were active constantly, even during lulls in the fighting. This is when civilians riding in trams would become targets of choice. One of the witnesses, whose evidence was quoted in the judgment, said that trams were ‘unprotected targets, and people inside clay pigeons’.

The Trial Chamber concluded that the Markale town market was hit on 28 August 1995 by a 120mm mortar shell fired from the Sarajevo-Romanija Corps positions. Thirty-four persons were killed and seventy-eight wounded in the incident. Presiding judge Patrick Robinson quoted a policeman who was doing the on-site investigation at the Markale market. He described the scene as ‘the last, deepest circle of Dante’s hell’. The claims of the defense saying that the massacre was ‘staged, because it was a result of an explosion of a static explosive device’ were dismissed.

Dragomir Milosevic, the Trial Chamber noted in the summary of the judgment, was at the head of ‘a tight chain of command’. As the commander of the Sarajevo-Romanija Corps he was obliged to prevent the crimes of his subordinates. Milosevic, however, ‘abused his position’, going on to plan and order ‘gross and systematic violations of international humanitarian law’. He introduced the use of modified air bombs and ‘bragged’ about it in one of his orders, where he says that ‘the most profitable target must be selected in Hrasnica’, a part of Sarajevo. ‘Each time a modified air bomb was launched’ Milosevic ‘was playing with the lives of the civilians in Sarajevo’, the judges concluded.

Before he said the accused was sentenced to 33 years in prison, Judge Robinson stressed that ‘this judgment illustrates the need for full respect by those engaged in armed conflict for the fundamental norms of international humanitarian law […]Foremost among the norms is that which requires the protection of persons not taking an active part in the hostilities, that is, civilians’. In his words, these norms are based on values that are ‘fundamental for every human being’: the integrity of the individual, the right to life and the right to be protected from fear, pain and violence. Robinson pointed out that they ‘are applicable without distinction of any kind, including ethnicity, nationality and religion’.

The time Milosevic spent in the Tribunal’s detentions unit since his voluntary surrender on 3 December 2004 will be credited against his sentence.