Jezik / Language:
1 July 2013

Bratunac Residents Gone Missing

Džana Brkanić BIRN BiH Sarajevo

As the trial for war crimes in Bratunac continues, a State Prosecution witness speaks about the disappearance of prisoners and inhumane conditions in the “Vuk Karadzic” school building in 1992.

Witness S-5 and his family members were in Suha village on May 10, 1992, when Serb soldiers came by two personnel carrier vehicles. While hiding in a nearby brook with a neighbour of his, he heard women and children screaming and crying.

A short time later his neighbour’s father invited them to join a convoy of people, saying that the Army promised that they would be taken to Bratunac in order “to sign a statement of loyalty”.

“At that moment I trusted them. I thought that we would go back to our homes,” witness S-5 said.

However, the witness and other local residents from Suha and other villages were taken to the local playground, where they were robbed. After that men were separated from women.

As he said, about 500 men were taken to the “Vuk Karadzic” school building, where they were stuffed into one half of the school gym. The witness said that nine detainees suffocated to death, because the place was overcrowded. 

“I hid underneath a pommel horse because a soldier told me that he would come to the gym and find me. I realised that things would not end up well. (...) I was not able to see everything from there, but I saw Drago Zekic, who had levers in his hands, enter the gym and heard him say that Muslims had killed his son and that he wanted revenge,” witness S-5 said.
Describing the conditions in the school building, he said that they received food once or twice and that they were given some water too. They did not dare use the toilet, because they were afraid of being beaten up. Over the course of those three days the witness used the toilet only once. On that occasion he stepped into “blood mixed with urine” and saw a few killed neighbours.

When asked by Prosecutor Dika Omerovic whether he saw Effendi Mustafa in the school building, the witness said: “I saw that somebody hit Effendi with a lever and that his head broke.”

Responding to a question about twenty Muslim civilians from Bratunac, the witness replied: “He was in the school building with me. He is gone. He disappeared. He is gone. (...) He is gone too. Gone.”

The witness was taken, along with most of the other detainees, to Pale and then exchanged. He saw indictee Babic when they were about to depart to Pale, but he was not able to say anything about his function at that moment.

Savo Babic, former Commander of military police of the Republika Srpska Army, VRS, in Bratunac, is charged with having ordered, committed and failed to prevent the detention on non-Serb civilians in the “Vuk Karadzic” school building in Bratunac in May 1992.

According to the charges, about 400 civilians were held in the school building. It is further alleged that some of them were beaten up and hit, while several tens were either killed or died due to bad conditions in the building.

Attorney Petko Pavlovic asked witness S-5 whether the indictee mistreated anybody, but the witness answered negatively.

The trial is due to continue after the summer break, on August 19, when two State Prosecution witnesses will be examined. 
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