Bosnian Serb Army ‘Didn’t Cut Power to Sarajevo’

The war crimes trial of former Bosnian Serb military chief Ratko Mladic was told that his forces never intentionally cut electricity supplies to Sarajevo civilians during the war.

Defence witness Veljko Lubura, the wartime director of the Power Transmission Company in Ilidza near Sarajevo, told Mladic’s trial at the Hague Tribunal on Tuesday that he had never received an order from Bosnian Serb political and military leaders to stop electricity supplies to the besieged capital.

“I would not have done that, even if I had received such instructions. All of my workers and I did our best to make sure that both the Serb and Muslim side would get enough electricity,” the witness said.

Mladic is on trial for terrorising the residents of Sarajevo with a lengthy shelling and sniping campaign. The indictment also alleges that Bosnian Serb leadership deprived civilians in Sarajevo of electricity, water and gas, using it as a tool for putting pressure on the Bosniak authorities.

Mladic is also on trial for genocide in Srebrenica and seven other municipalities, the persecution of Bosniaks and Croats throughout the country and taking UN peacekeepers hostage.

Lubura said that Bosniak forces, rather than Mladic’s troops, obstructed repairs of overhead power lines necessary for delivering electricity to the city, most of which were located on their territory.

For example, Lubura said that the Bosniaks prevented the repair of a substation in Vogosca that a military plant which was located on Serb-held territory would not have power. He suggested that was the reason why civilians in Sarajevo were also deprived of electricity.

He also accused Bosniak fighters of shelling another substation and cutting power lines.

Lubura testified that in July 1993 he offered to transfer electricity via overhead lines from Montenegro to the Otoka and Skenderija neighbourhoods in Sarajevo. To do that, it was necessary to repair a power line in the city, but “the Muslims did not show any interest in that”, he said.

During the cross-examination, the prosecutors referred to documents indicating that the Serb side prevented the repairs of electrical installations, but the witness stuck to his claims.

He said that he did not know that the Bosnian Serb Army asked Bosniak forces for “military trade-offs” in return for getting electricity into the city.

“I responsibly claim that the electricity supply to Sarajevo was never cut off, except in case of a breakdown… Sarajevo had electricity,” Lubura insisted several times even after having been presented with a document which said that the city’s downtown area had no electricity for 140 days during 1993.

The trial continues.

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