THE HAGUE, Netherlands – A former commander of the U.N. peacekeeping force in Bosnia testified Tuesday that Radovan Karadzic directed Serb troops to terrorize civilians with sniping campaigns and reduce Muslim enclaves to near starvation throughout the country's devastating war.
British Gen. Michael Rose's testimony at Karadzic's genocide trial is expected to be key to proving the former Bosnian Serb leader had complete control over troops responsible for the 1992-95 conflict's most bloody atrocities.
Rose and Karadzic, who held frequent meetings in Bosnia during the war, barely glanced at one another throughout Tuesday's testimony at the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal. Karadzic gazed intently at a computer screen while Rose was led into the courtroom, while Rose looked across at judges.
Both men had a copy of Rose's wartime memoir on their desks; Karadzic's well-thumbed hardback copy had numerous bright orange markers sticking out of the pages.
As Karadzic began cross examining Rose, politely addressing him as "General Sir Michael," he dismissed Rose's comments about Serb sniping as uninformed.
Rose led U.N. peacekeepers in Bosnia throughout 1994 and has written of his meetings with Karadzic as he sought to negotiate cease-fires and access for humanitarian aid.
In an article written for Britain's Daily Mail newspaper shortly after Karadzic's 2008 arrest in Belgrade, Rose described him as "a consummate liar, inherently paranoid and a heavy drinker who plainly verged on alcoholism."
During 1994, Rose said he watched Bosnian Serb forces repeatedly block aid convoys using techniques ranging from military attacks to "ridiculous and absurd bureaucratic procedures" including sending back an entire convoy because they found "one biscuit" that was not on the cargo manifest.
Asked what effect the strangulation of humanitarian supply lines had on the population of Muslim enclaves in eastern Bosnia, Rose told judges, "People in Srebrenica particularly and Zepa were reduced to a situation of near starvation."
"It was systematic and could only have come as a decision from the top," Rose said.
He said the Bosnian Serbs blocked humanitarian supplies because they wanted to force peace on their terms as the military balance of power tipped against them late in the war.
When Karadzic comes to mount his defense, he is expected to say that any Bosnian Serb atrocities were committed by forces out of his control.
U.N. prosecutors accuse Karadzic of leading a criminal plan to drive non-Serbs out of parts of the country he wanted to control using a campaign of murder, torture and mass expulsions. He faces 11 charges, including two counts of genocide, and faces a life sentence if convicted.
Rose said that a more unusual demonstration of Karadzic's total control of Bosnian Serb forces came in March 1994 when Karadzic ordered forces surrounding the capital, Sarajevo, not to fire on a football match between U.N. forces and a Sarajevo team at a stadium packed with up to 20,000 fans.
"Dr. Karadzic was as good as his word," Rose said, "and made sure the match could go ahead without interruption."
Rose also said the Bosnian Serb leadership also controlled snipers who unleashed a hail of deadly fire on Sarajevo.
"Sniping was part of the (Bosnian Serb) policy of intimidating the civil population," he said.
But Karadzic claimed that Rose did not have an accurate picture of whether the sniping came from Serb or Muslim positions.
Karadzic argues that much of the deadly sniping and shelling that left thousands dead in Sarajevo — most of them Muslims — actually came from Muslim forces in an attempt to demonize Serb forces.
"You confirmed the United Nations could not determine unequivocally from where sniper fire had come?" he asked Rose, who replied: "That is so."