The Encyclopedia is a project of the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights launched on 2 December 2013. The Enyclopedia aims to provide accurate, up-to-date information on weapons, the effects of their use, and their regulation under public international law, in a format that is accessible to non-specialists.+ Find out more
In the course of fighting between the Croatian army (Hrvatska Vojska, HV) and forces of the self-proclaimed Republic of Serb Krajina (Republika Srpska Krajina, RSK), Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, was shelled with rockets on 2 and 3 May 1995.
The Trial Chamber found that seven persons were killed and at least 214 persons were injured as a result of the shelling on Zagreb over the two days. It noted that many of the survivors ‘still suffer the injuries sustained’.Trial Chamber Judgment, §§308, 313.
Milan Martić, the accused in this case, was the President and commander of the armed forces of the RSK. He was prosecuted before the ICTY, among other grounds, in relation to his role in the planning and ordering of the shelling of civilian areas of the city of Zagreb and of its civilian population.Amended Indictment, IT-95-11-PT, 14 July 2003 (resubmitted on 9 September 2003). The Trial Chamber, in its judgment of 12 June 2007, found Martić guilty of several counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including in relation to the rocket attacks on Zagreb, and sentenced him to 35 years imprisonment. Martić appealed against the judgment. The Appeals Chamber rejected most of Martić’s grounds of appeal in a judgment of 8 October 2008, and confirmed the sentence.
On 2 May, between five and eight rockets impacted around 10.30 in the morning in the central areas of Zagreb.The Trial Chamber does not determine the total number of rockets fired at or impacting in Zagreb. The Prosecution submitted that six rockets were fired on each day, in Martić (Public transcript of R61 hearing, 27 February 1996) 271. At midday on 3 May, Zagreb was again shelled with Orkan rockets. Several rockets struck the centre of the city as well as nearby neighbourhoods and caused damage to vehicles and buildings.
The weapon used in the attacks on Zagreb was an M-87 Orkan multiple-barrel rocket launcher (MBRL), firing from a distance of between 47km and 51km.Trial Chamber Judgment, §463. An Orkan rocket launcher can fire twelve rockets in one salvo.
These unguided rockets can carry a variety of warheads. In this case, they were fitted with warheads containing submunitions. (Such rockets are cluster munitions under the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions, which did not exist at the time.)
Each rocket launched on 2 and 3 May 1995 contained a cluster warhead loaded with 288 KB-1 submunitions. The submunitions were ejected from the rocket at several hundred metres above the ground and dispersed over the target area. Each submunition contained between 420 and 450 steel-pellets ('ball bearings').
In this case, there were indications of area bombardment (threats to attack cities in Croatia), but the Trial Chamber sidestepped the determination what, precisely, was targeted, arguing that 'the presence or othersiws of military targets in Zagreb is irrelevant in light of the nature of the M-87 Orkan'.Trial Chamber Judgment, §461. It further noted:
The dispersion error of the rocket at 800-1,000m in the air increases with the firing range. Fired from the maximum range, this error is about 1,000m in any direction. The area of dispersion of the bomblets on the ground is about two hectares. Each pellet has a lethal range of ten metres. ... the Trial Chamber notes in this respect that the weapon was fired from the extreme of its range. Moreover, the Trial Chamber notes the characteristics of the weapon, it being a non-guided high dispersion weapon. The Trial Chamber therefore concludes that the M-87 Orkan, by virtue of its characteristics and the firing range in this specific instance, was incapable of hitting specific targets. For these reasons, the Trial Chamber also finds that the M-87 Orkan is an indiscriminate weapon, the use of which in densely populated civilian areas, such as Zagreb, will result in the infliction of severe casualties.Trial Chamber Judgment, §§462-3, footnotes omitted.
Last updated on: 17 February 2015