Prosecution’s Military Expert Testifies About the Command Structure of the
www.slobodan-milosevic.org - September 14, 2010
Written by: Andy Wilcoxson
Hearing date: June 15, 2010
Richard Philipps, a former intelligence officer of the British Army, took the witness stand in the Radovan Karadzic trial.
Philipps served full-time as an intelligence officer during the first Gulf War and with SFOR in Sarajevo. From 2000 until 2006, he was employed as a military analyst by the Office of the Prosecutor.
Philipps prepared charts and an expert report detailing the command structure of the Sarajevo Romanija Corps (SRK) of the Bosnian Serb Army for the period from the corps’ formation in May 1992 until the end of 1995.
The SRK is the part of the Bosnian Serb military that was engaged in and around Sarajevo. The crimes ascribed to the Bosnian-Serb military in Sarajevo by the indictment are alleged to have been perpetrated by the SRK.
The witness based his expert report on approximately 50 SRK documents which had been provided to him by the Tribunal. He said, “Specifically I was looking for documents that related to the organizational structure of the Sarajevo Romanija Corps.”
Command and Control of the SRK
He told the prosecutor: “Over the period shown in the charts, the Sarajevo Romanija Corps appeared to run an effective command and control of the units, from formation level, that is, brigade, down through battalions, down to companies, down to platoon level. So the company commanders were able to report up the chain of command to battalions, battalions could report up to brigades, and brigades wrote detailed reports to the corps command, and information passed in the other direction.
“Further to that, the corps command was able to report those details to the Main Staff, that is, the Main Staff of the VRS, and the Main Staff were able to instruct the corps on its activities. This shows an effective command and control of the corps through the period, with accurate reporting and well-written reports with appropriate details.”
After a very brief examination by the prosecutor, Philipps was cross-examined by Karadzic.
Karadzic asked the witness: “Have you come across any order of mine that went directly to the Sarajevo Romanija Corps?” And the witness answered, “No, I haven’t seen any directive straight from you to any part of the Sarajevo Romanija Corps.”
This means that Karadzic did not directly command the SRK; rather his orders went through the VRS main staff and down the chain of command.
Formation of the SRK
The witness told the court, “The Sarajevo Romanija Corps was formed when the conflict had already started, and any organization formed during a conflict does not have a straightforward formation at the beginning.” He said, “The Sarajevo Romanija Corps was formed from the remnants of the 4th Corps of the JNA. Many of the units within the Sarajevo Romanija Corps, in fact, bore the same name as the units that had been previously in the 4th Corps of the JNA.”
The Strength of the SRK
The witness agreed with Karadzic’s assertion that “the Sarajevo Romanija Corps had up to 23,000 men”. Philipps told the court, “From one of the documents produced by the corps, itself, the establishment was shown to be at one point in time 23,000, that’s correct.”
The SRK’s adversary was the ABiH First Corps, Karadzic showed the witness a book written by the commander of the First Corps, Nedzad Ajnadzic. The book, entitled “The Defence of Sarajevo”, stated that in 1992 the first corps had an average of 60,442 soldiers stationed in Sarajevo and that by December of 1992 it had 73,141 members.
The Mission of the SRK
Karadzic asked the witness, “While studying combat documentation of the Sarajevo Romanija Corps, did you manage to glean, as it were, what the objectives of that corps were?”
Philipps answered, “The objective appeared to be the blockade of Sarajevo.” He said, “I don’t use the word ‘siege’ relating to Sarajevo, because it’s not a military term currently in use. As a staff officer or as a retired staff officer, I try to use military terminology that’s in current use, so I described what happened in Sarajevo as the battle for Sarajevo or an encirclement or a blockade, but I don’t use the term ‘siege’.
Karadzic asked the witness, “Have we agreed that the task of the Sarajevo Romanija Corps to blockade such large forces of the Muslim army, the Army of Bosnia-Herzegovina, in the town of Sarajevo, was understandable and justified?”
Philipps answered, “In general, if one army can blockade or hold down a large part of another army for a period of time, that gives the army an advantage. So from a military point of view, blockading or encircling other forces is of military value.”
Problems in the SRK
Karadzic put it to the witness that “Only the command cadre were professionals, and not all of them, reserve officers or even ordinary privates, were in command posts.” Philipps confirmed that “Some of the posts within the Sarajevo Romanija Corps appear to have been occupied by reserve officers, that’s correct.”
Philipps testified that the soldiers in the SRK were inadequately trained. He said, “There appears to be a lack of specially-trained artillery operators, including the people responsible for plotting the fall of shells.”
Karadzic showed the witness a combat readiness report for the SRK (exhibit D312) from July of 1994. It said:
“In the ensuing period of the war, most of the active servicemen left their units and went back to the SRJ, whereas only a small number of officers came from the federal army. Basic shortcomings and defects involve incomplete mobilization, desertion, bad habits such as sticking to one’s own territory while fighting the enemy, shortage of commanding officers, poor knowledge of equipment, poor choice of firing positions, targeting without necessary observation, high consumption of ammunition, and poor maintenance.
“Due to well-known defects demonstrated during the demobilization, when units were mainly consisting of volunteers and military conscripts that fled the territories under Muslim control, there were an insufficient number of soldiers and officers with the artillery specialty, especially when it comes to critical specialties such as reconnaissance, topographers, marksmen, and anti-missile operators.”
After seeing the document Philipps stated, “I can see what you’ve just read and that there was a lack of trained individuals to use the weapons.” He said, “Clearly the individuals in command were quite aware of these problems, having written such a detailed analysis, and analyzed specific shortcomings of the troops. I note that they were firing without the appropriate observation.”
The document then went on to outline the steps that were taken to remedy the problems. It said, “More attention was paid to training in the second half of 1993, as well as this year . The training courses were planned and organized for commanders of detachments, platoons, and batteries. A training course for commanders of divisions is underway.”
After studying the document the witness said, “This shows that they were addressing the problems that they felt they had, that they were looking at training, that training courses were planned, and that training for commanders of the ‘divizija’ was underway. So they were addressing the problems as good command and control, because they were looking at the problems that have occurred and training people to improve.”
The document concluded by saying “The artillery rocket unit of the Sarajevo Romanija Corps have been working under very difficult conditions since the time they were established. They have been requested to fire expediently, precisely and fiercely, inadequately manned with soldiers and commanding officers who are not very familiar with the equipment, instruments, and other accessories, particularly at the beginning of the war.”
The witness reacted to the document saying, “Under [SRK commander] Galic, matters improved. I don’t think you could describe everything as ‘all right’ as regards training staffing and so on, but certainly matters under Galic, as regards command and control improved during that period.” He said, “The Sarajevo Romanija Corps was forming and improving throughout the war. We’ve seen that from a situation of using artillery with untrained individuals, with lack of spotting of fall of shells, with incorrect corrections, that they sent people on training, they improved their capability. So there’s a professional approach to the training of the corps throughout the period.”
The witness said, “I don’t think I’ve ever asserted that the Sarajevo Romanija Corps had everything running smoothly.” He said, “Certainly, the level of training of all those individuals was not what you might expect of a fully professional military unit.”
Karadzic also showed the witness an order issued by Gen. Dragomir Milosevic (exhibit D316) to the SRK on July 5, 1993. The order said, “Before opening fire, it is obligatory to inform the command of the SRK. OC (operative center) is obliged to inform other units that our artillery is acting from certain VP (military posts) against the enemy targets.
“In the previous practice, there were some weaknesses that caused misunderstanding and reaction by our artillery, believing that enemy artillery acted while we acted instead. The Operative Center of SRK Command must know what is happening in the battle-field, and therefore it is required to strictly respect these elementary requirements regarding the use of artillery fire.”
Philipps read the document and said, “Yes, he says there were some weaknesses in the flow of information, and so this document addresses that.”
After seeing the state of the SRK one has to wonder if non-military objects were hit in Sarajevo, not to needlessly terrorize civilians as the indictment claims, but because the people firing on the city weren’t adequately trained. As Hanlon’s razor states: “Never ascribe to malice that which can be explained by incompetence.”
Limited Scope of Evidence
Karadzic pointed out to the court that “This corps exists for a reason. We have to identify what that reason is.” Karadzic asserted that, “A corps does not exist for no reason. There must be a reason for its existence. I believe that Mr. Philipps would have looked into these things had he not been limited by the tasks set to him by the OTP.”
Philipps said, “I don’t know how the Sarajevo Romanija Corps came into
existence. That was not part of my brief. I could see that the Sarajevo Romanija
Corps, itself, at a strategic level, was encircled, but I can’t say that there
were 4 corps surrounding the Sarajevo Romanija Corps, as I don’t have detailed
knowledge of the Army of Bosnia-Herzegovina.” He said, “I don’t know what the
objectives of the Bosnians were or the objectives of the Serbians were.”
When asked whether the ABiH and HVO were also formed from the remnants of the JNA the witness said, “The SRK certainly consisted of former JNA conscripts and reservists, and one might assume, therefore, that the other armies consisted of the same types of troops.” He said, “I haven’t studied the composition of those other forces. But as I understand it from what I’ve read and what I’ve been told, there were also trained officers from the JNA.”
Karadzic put it to the witness that “the military composition [of the VRS] consisted of local men, people from the local population.” The witness said, “I haven’t seen documents that relate to that matter” adding “this is not an area of my expertise of how the war was conducted in that area.” He said, “I don’t really have enough knowledge of how the lines were set up in the first place. It seems that some of them were set up simply by people wanting to defend a particular area.”
Karadzic put it to the witness that “What happened in Sarajevo cannot be understood without understanding the entire theatre of war. War is a single entity, isn’t it?”
The witness answered, “If, by that, you mean that to understand the conduct of an individual battle, you have to understand its location or its position within the entire war, then the way to understand battles is by understanding the entire strategy of the war. We’re talking now at the strategic level of warfare.”
A complete transcript of this hearing is available at: http://www.icty.org/x/cases/karadzic/trans/en/100615ED.htm and http://ictytranscripts.dyndns.org/trials/karadzic/100615ED.htm
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