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Markale massacres

1st Markale Market Shelling
Location Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Date 5 February 1994
Between 12:10pm-12:15pm (Central European Time)
Target Open air market
Attack type
Mortar attack
Deaths 68
Non-fatal injuries
Perpetrators Army of the Republika Srpska[1][2]
2nd Markale Market Shelling
Location Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Date 28 August 1995
Appox. 11:00a.m. (Central European Time)
Target Open air market
Attack type
Mortar attack
Deaths 43[3]
Non-fatal injuries
Perpetrators Army of the Republika Srpska[1][2]

The Markale massacres were two bombardments carried out by the Army of the Republika Srpska[1][2] targeting civilians during the Siege of Sarajevo in the Bosnian War. They occurred at the Markale (marketplace) located in the historic core of Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The first occurred on 5 February 1994; 68 people were killed and 144 more were wounded. The second occurred on 28 August 1995 when five mortar shells killed 43 people and wounded 75 others. This latter attack was the stated reason for NATO air strikes against Bosnian Serb forces that would eventually lead to the Dayton Peace Accords and the end of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina.


  • First massacre 1
  • Second massacre 2
  • Trial 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5

First massacre

The first massacre occurred between 12:10 and 12:15 PM, on 5 February 1994, when a 120 millimeter mortar shell landed in the center of the crowded marketplace.[4] Rescue workers and United Nations (UN) personnel rushed to help the numerous civilian casualties, while footage of the event soon made news reports across the world.[4] Controversy over the event started when an initial UNPROFOR report claimed that the shell was fired from Bosnian government positions. General Michael Rose, the British head of UNPROFOR, revealed in his memoirs that three days after the blast he told General Jovan Divjak, the deputy commander of ARBiH forces, that the shell had been fired from Bosnian positions.[4] A later and more in-depth UNPROFOR report noted a calculation error in the original findings. With the error corrected, the United Nations concluded that it was impossible to determine which side had fired the shell.[5] In January 2003, the ICTY Trial Chamber in the trial against Stanislav Galić, a Serb general in the siege of Sarajevo, concluded that the massacre was committed by Serb forces around Sarajevo.[1] Galić was sentenced to life imprisonment for crimes against humanity during the Siege of Sarajevo.[1][2]

Second massacre

The second massacre occurred about 18 months later, at around 11:00 AM on 28 August 1995. Just several hours prior to the attack Bosnian Serbs authorities tentatively expressed their will to accept Richard Holbrooke's peace plan.[6] This time, five shells were fired, but casualties were fewer—43 dead and 75 wounded. Republika Srpska authorities, as in the 1994 incident, denied all responsibility and accused the Bosnian government of bombarding its own people to incite international outrage and possible intervention.[7] A 1999 report to the United Nations General Assembly, UNPROFOR considered the evidence clear: a confidential report from shortly after the event concluded that all five rounds had been fired by the Army of Republika Srpska. As soon as technical and weather conditions allowed, and the safety of UN personnel traveling through Serb territory was secured, Operation Deliberate Force commenced. The UNPROFOR investigation stated that "five rounds landed in the vicinity of the Markale Market at 1110 hours on 28 August 1995. One round, in particular, caused the majority of the deaths, casualties and damage." They found that "After analysing all available data, the judgement was made that beyond reasonable doubt all mortar rounds fired in the attack on the Markale Market were fired from Bosnian Serb territory." The UNPROFOR investigation concluded that "Based on the evidence presented, the firing position of the five mortars was in BSA territory and probably fired from the Lukavica area at a range of between 3,000 and 5,000 meters."[8]

In contrast to UNPROFOR's finding that the fatal shell had been fired from the direction of Lukavica, the ICTY Trial Chamber in the Dragomir Milošević case was "persuaded by the evidence of the BiH police, the UNMOs and the first UNPROFOR investigation, which concluded that the direction of fire was 170 degrees, that is, Mount Trebevic, which was (Bosnian-Serb) SRK-held territory."[9]

A second ICTY trial chamber in the Momčilo Perišić trial also found that "the mortar shell was fired from the (Bosnian-Serb) VRS held territory on the slopes of Mt. Trebevic."[10] Colonel Andrei Demurenko, a Russian national, asserted that UNPROFOR's research was flawed, as it began from the conclusion that the shells were fired from Bosnian Serb positions and didn't test any other hypothesis; and that he, immediately visiting the supposed mortar locations, found that neither of them could be used to fire the shells. He concluded that Bosnian Serb forces had been falsely blamed for the attack to justify NATO attacks against Serbia.[11][12][13]

David Harland, the former head of UN Civil Affairs in Bosnia, claimed at the trial of General Dragomir Milošević in ICTY that he was responsible for the creation of the myth that UNPROFOR was unable to determine who had fired the mortar shells that caused the second Markale massacre. The myth that has survived for more than ten years, Harland said was created because of a “neutral statement” made by General Rupert Smith, the UNPROFOR commander. On the day of the second Markale attack, General Smith stated “it is unclear who fired the shells, although at that time he already had the technical report of UNPROFOR intelligence section, determining beyond reasonable doubt that they were fired from VRS positions at Lukavica”. Harland himself had advised General Smith to make “a neutral statement in order not to alarm the Serbs who would be alerted to the impending NATO air strikes against their positions had he pointed a finger at them”, which would have jeopardized the safety of UN troops in the territory under VRS control or on positions where they might have been vulnerable to retaliatory attacks by Serb forces.[14]


Republika Srpska authorities, as in the 1994 incident, denied all responsibility and accused the Bosnian government of bombarding its own people to incite international outrage and NATO intervention.[7]

In January 2004, prosecutors in the trial against Stanislav Galić, a Bosnian Serb general, Sarajevo-Romanija Corps commander in the siege of Sarajevo, introduced into evidence a report including the testimony of ammunition expert Berko Zečević. Working with two colleagues, Zečević's investigation revealed a total of six possible locations from which the shell in the first Markale massacre could have been fired, of which five were under VRS and one under ARBiH control. The ARBiH site in question was visible to UNPROFOR observers at the time, who reported that no shell was fired from that position. Zečević further reported that certain components of the projectile could only have been fired from one of two places, both of which were under the control of the Army of Republika Srpska. The court would eventually find Galić guilty beyond reasonable doubt of all five shellings prosecutors had charged him with, including Markale. Although widely reported by the international media, the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights noted that the verdict was ignored in Serbia itself.[4]

In 2007, General Dragomir Milošević, 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. He was sentenced to 33 years in prison. The Trial Chamber concluded the Markale town market had been hit on 28 August 1995 by a 120 mm mortar shell fired from the Sarajevo-Romanija Corps positions.[2] In 2009, however, the ICTY Appeals Chamber overturned Milošević's conviction for the 28 August 1995 shelling of the Markale Market,[15] and Momčilo Perišić was acquitted by the ICTY Appeals Chamber in 2013.[16]

According to Tim Judah, "The Serbian argument was grotesque, since what they wanted the world to believe was that of the hundreds of thousands of shells they fired, none had ever hurt anyone. As Miroslav Toholj, the novelist who became the Republika Srpska's information minister, put it, 'We Serbs never kill civilians.'"[17]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e "ICTY: Stanislav Galić judgement" (PDF). 
  2. ^ a b c d e "ICTY: Dragomir Milošević judgement" (PDF). 
  3. ^ "Svedok: Markale nisu inscenirane". RTS. 23 January 2013. Retrieved 24 January 2013. 
  4. ^ a b c d Fish, Jim. (5 February 2004). Sarajevo massacre remembered. BBC.
  5. ^ Steven L. Burg, Paul S. Shoup (1999). The war in Bosnia-Herzegovina: ethnic conflict and international intervention. p. 166. 
  6. ^ M. Waldenberg (2005). Rozbicie Jugosławii. Warszawa: Wydawnictwo Naukowe SCHOLAR. p. 176.  
  7. ^ a b Moore, Patrick. (29 August 2005). "Serbs Deny Involvement in Shelling", Omri Daily Digest; accessed 6 February 2014.
  8. ^ UNPROFOR investigation scheduled shelling incident of 28 August 1995; Dragomir Milosevic ICTY Exhibit P00357
  9. ^ Dragomir Milošević Judgment, Para 719
  10. ^ Perisic Judgment, Para 467
  11. ^ (Russian) Русская линия/Новости/"Сербы не причастны к взрыву на сараевском рынке"
  12. ^ 070705ED
  13. ^ Steven L. Burg, Paul S. Shoup (1999). The war in Bosnia-Herzegovina: ethnic conflict and international intervention. p. 168. 
  14. ^ The Second Markale Massacre Myth; accessed 6 February 2014.
  15. ^ ICTY Dragomir Milošević Appeal Judgment, para 294
  16. ^ ICTY Momčilo Perišić Appeal Judgment
  17. ^ Judah. The Serbs. Yale University Press. p. 216.  

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