On April 6, 1992, the Parliament of Bosnia declared Bosnia’s independence from the former Yugoslavia. This declaration affirmed the results of an internationally supervised March 1 referendum in which two-thirds of the voters supported independence. Fearing the outbreak of war, thousands of people demonstrated for peace and multicultural unity in front of the government building in Sarajevo. Bosnian Serb snipers fired on the demonstration from the Holiday Inn and killed Suada Dilberovic and Olga Sucic. They were the first victims of the war in Bosnia, which officially began on this day.

Bosnian Serb forces immediately began a siege of Sarajevo, for centuries a symbol of multiculturalism, which was celebrated in the Winter Olympics held here in 1984. The siege continued even after Sarajevo was declared a UN “safe area” in May 1993, and lasted for three and a half years. Bosnian Serb snipers controlled all the hills surrounding Sarajevo, which is set in a valley. They routinely shot at civilians and aimed mortar shells at apartment buildings, hospitals and medical complexes, public transportation, media and communication centers, including the post office; government buildings, and even cemeteries. Funerals were held at night to avoid sniper fire. Mortar shells destroyed the National Library in August 1992. Bosnian Serb snipers also daily targeted the city’s main thoroughfare, which became known as Sniper Alley. Throughout the siege, the civilian population experienced shortages of water, food, fuel, and medical supplies. More than 10,000 people were killed, including 1,500 children, and 50,000 people were wounded.

On December 5, 2003, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) convicted Bosnian Serb General Stanislav Galic of war crimes and crimes against humanity. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison for his role in commanding the siege and ordering acts of violence which “spread terror among the civilian population” so that “no civilian of Sarajevo was safe anywhere.” On November 30, 2006, the Appeals Chamber denied Galic’s appeal and sentenced him to life imprisonment.


For the transcripts of the ICTY case on General Stanislav Galic, see: www.un.org/icty, “ICTY Cases and Judgements,” Galic, Stanislav.