Briton tells of horror in Bosnian town
From TONY BARBER in Belgrade
Monday, 15 March 1993
MUSLIM villagers in eastern Bosnia are dropping dead from starvation or being killed by Serbian artillery shells as they seek food and shelter, according to a British doctor who returned from the region yesterday. Simon Mardel, who works for the World Health Organisation, said that many other Muslim residents and refugees in Serbian-besieged enclaves were suffering from pneumonia, skin diseases and anaemia as a result of malnutrition.
‘I came across families who hadn’t eaten for four days. One family was living in a shed,’ Dr Mardel said, describing conditions in the town of Srebrenica, where 60,000 people are under blockade. ‘The children were lying motionless, parents lethargic, typical of starving people. I saw a 30-year- old man collapse dead as he was looking for (American aid) parachutes.’
Dr Mardel gave his account as the French commander of United Nations forces in Bosnia, General Philippe Morillon, pledged not to leave Srebrenica until Serbian authorities allowed a UN relief convoy to enter the town. The convoy of 23 vehicles, carrying 125 tons of aid, has been trying to get into the town since Thursday but was blocked again yesterday on the Serbian side of the Bosnian border by Serbian police.
General Morillon has been in Srebrenica since Thursday, and UN officials at first suspected that the town’s Muslim defenders were preventing him from leaving. But on Saturday the General issued a statement on local radio in which he made clear that he was staying in the town of his own free will. ‘Fully conscious that a major tragedy was about to take place in Srebrenica, I deliberately came here and I have now decided to stay here in order to calm the anguish of the population and to save them, or to try to save them,’ he said.
The General said he believed that the Serbs were continuing their offensive in eastern Bosnia not because they wanted to capture territory but because they had been outraged at the discovery of mass Serbian graves at the settlement of Kamenica [all of the 'victims' were Serbian soldiers who were slaughtering Bosniak civilians in eastern Bosnia]. The Muslims gained full control of Kamenica in November, but the Serbs retook the enclave last month after a battle that cost them heavy casualties.
General Morillon demanded an immediate end to the Serbian offensive and the opening of road and air corridors to Srebrenica to allow in aid convoys and to permit the evacuation of hundreds of seriously wounded people. He finished his radio broadcast with the words: ‘To the population of Srebrenica, I say: ‘Don’t be afraid, I will stay with you.’ ‘
Dr Mardel, who spent four days in Srebrenica and three in the Muslim settlement of Konjevic Polje, said he had come across a stream of refugees on Wednesday heading in the direction of Srebrenica. ‘I saw a lot of dead people by the road from shelling. Shrapnel wounds were quite horrific. A fetus of about eight- months old was spilled on the road by the dead mother,’ he said. ‘I saw patients with shrapnel injuries who had obviously been injured even as they sheltered in the aid stations because they were covered in a film of white dust.’
The doctor said that US planes had dropped 64 bundles of aid over Srebrenica during his stay but added that the supplies had not contained enough penicillin and anaesthetics vital for surgery. He said he had examined 96 patients in one maternity ward including amputees, paraplegics and people with serious chest and facial wounds. Most had infections.
Dr Mardel said he had experienced nothing so ghastly even in other war zones such as Ethiopia, Liberia and Afghanistan.