THE HAGUE | 25.10.2005.

RED CROSS AS "TARGET" FOR PLANES AND TANKS

Dr. Vesna Bosanac, testifying as the first prosecution witness at the Vukovar Three trial, said she had marked the hospital building in Vukovar with a large Red Cross sign. As the people complained later, this made it "a great target for the planes, tanks and cannon" of the JNA

Marks Moore started the prosecution case at the Vukovar Three trial by showing footage of the Vukovar hospital on the eve of its evacuation on 20 November 1991. The three former JNA officers, Mile Mrksic, Veselin Sljivancanin and Miroslav Radic, are charged with the massacre at Ovcara near Vukovar.

Dr. Vesna Bosanac provided the commentary for the tape as she took the stand today. She was the director of the Vukovar Hospital at the time and is the director now. As she watched the footage of the staircases, the corridors and hospital wards full of the wounded and sick, Dr. Bosanac recalled the "military" setup in the hospital, whose upper stairs had been rendered unusable by the incessant shelling.

As early as in August 1991, after the first attacks, the hospital was clearly marked with a huge Red Cross sign. Despite that, as Dr. Bosanac testified, "between 80 and 90 shells or bombs" would fall on the hospital every day. Later on, many people criticized her, believing the red cross on white background to have rendered the hospital a great target for the JNA planes, tanks and cannon.

Prosecutor Marks Moore went in detail through dozens of letters sent by Dr. Bosanac to the European Community Monitoring Mission office in Croatia and to the Doctors without Borders in October. Noting the figures for the wounded and sick – about 450 of them in the hospital building on 18 November – the doctor urged the international community to "stop the aggression and establish peace".

Dr. Bosanac said she had tried several times to get in touch with the JNA top brass and to tell them about the shortage of food, power, medicines and medical supplies in the hospital. Those she spoke to – General Raseta in Zagreb and Admiral Brovet in Belgrade, obviously "knew all about it", as she said, but "did not want to stop" the shelling of the hospital. "They wanted to destroy us," the doctor concluded.

Although she has an injured ankle and is confined to the wheelchair, Dr. Vesna Bosanac came to the tribunal to testify for the fourth time about the shelling of the hospital and the taking away of the sick and injured and people who had taken shelter there. They were all taken to the Ovcara farm. She first testified at the hearing to confirm the present indictment in 1996, then two years later at the trial of the former president of the Vukovar municipality, Slavko Dokmanovic, who was charged with the same crime and then in February 2003 at the trial of Slobodan Milosevic. The prosecution nevertheless decided not to use the transcripts of her testimony in other cases but to have the doctor testify again about all the relevant circumstances, in order to give the defense counsel for the three accused to cross-examine her.

This is the first "e-trial" in The Hague and the prosecution was in trouble the very first day. In order to make the trials more efficient, the prosecution and the defense must enter all the evidence – documents, photographs, video tapes – into an electronic system and to make them available to everyone. The prosecution failed to enter the translation of the documents it intended to use into the computer system and as a result, lots of paper was circulated in the courtroom yet again.

Dr. Vesna Bosanac will continue her testimony tomorrow.