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14 May 2008
News

Hodzic: An inviolable authority

BIRN BiH
Prosecution witnesses claim that the Territorial Defence protected detainees in "Stala."

Adil and Avdija Omerovic, Prosecution witnesses at the trial of Ferid Hodzic, said the Territorial Defence (TD) in Vlasenica, which was commanded by the indictee who was based in Cerska village, tried to protect the detainees in "Stala" ("Barn") from "revenge by civilians and soldiers."

The Prosecution considers Ferid Hodzic, as commander of Vlasenica TD, who was based in Cerska village, Rovasi hamlet, ordered the capture of a group of Serbian civilians and their detention in "Stala," where they stayed for seven months in 1992 and 1993.

The indictment alleges that the detainees were exposed to inhumane treatment by members of the TD. One detainee died due to the injuries caused by the abuse and Hodzic failed to undertake an investigation of his deaths. In addition, he failed to undertake any measures in order to prevent the crimes against the detainees.

Adil Omerovic, former commander of the Staff in Rovasi, said that, during his stay in Cerska village, Vlasenica municipality, from May to August 1992, Ferid Hodzic was commander of the TD.

"He was respected and good commander. Other commanders and wartime presidency members considered him as an inviolable authority," Omerovic said.

This witness said that two Serbian soldiers and two Bosniak civilians were detained in "Stala" in Rovasi hamlet. However, he claims he never entered those premises.

"People were saying that there had been some scuffling in there. I heard some unofficial stories saying that the detainees were beaten. I know that we held a meeting in order to provide additional guards in "Stala" and Hodzic was also involved in that. We did not let anyone mistreat them," Adil Omerovic said.

His brother Avdija, who appeared as Prosecution witnesses, was a clerk in the TD Staff in Rovasi. He spoke about the detainees who were held in "Stala", claiming that one "could not call it a prison."

"We heard that they were hiding a Serbian soldier in there, in order to protect him from people," the witness said, adding that two Bosniaks, who "violated the order," and another Serbian soldier were brought to "Stala" later on.

"The detainees received many threats. Whoever passed by them said that they should be killed. I told Ferid about it. At first he did not react, but then he organised a meeting in order to strengthen the security in 'Stala'," Omerovic said, adding that he never typed anything concerning the conditions in the prison or the people who were held in there.

Despite the fact that he never entered "Stala", Omerovic claims that the conditions "were good", as he "also slept in some barns." He also said that the detainees were given food, soap and towels and they could use hot water.

Witness Ilijas Jasarevic, former member of the wartime presidency in Tuzli, confirmed that Hodzic was commander of the TD in Cerska and that his task was to "organise life and work and to protect the population in the enclave."

The trial is due to continue on May 15, when another Prosecution witness will be examined.

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