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13 January 2016
News

Heliodrom Detainees Killed While Working on Santiceva Street

Jasmina Djikoli BIRN BiH Sarajevo

State prosecution witnesses testifying at the Mile Puljic trial described the killing of Heliodrom camp detainees who were brought to Santiceva Street in Mostar by Croatian Defense Council soldiers and forced to work.

Mile Puljic, the former commander of the Second Battalion of the Second Brigade of the Croatian Defense Council (HVO), has been charged with ordering that detainees held in the Heliodrom detention camp be sent to locations where they performed forced labour and were used as human shields from May 1993 to March 1994. The indictment alleges that eleven detainees were killed as a result, while 73 were wounded. Fifteen of the detainees were physically abused by members of the Second Battalion.

Fatima Muminagic said her husband was taken away from their apartment in Mostar on June 30, 1993. She said she saw him some time later, when he was performing forced labour “at the far end of Avenija” in Mostar. Muminagic said he told her he had first been detained in Dretelj and then transferred to the Heliodrom detention camp.

“He looked very bad. He was dehydrated. I noticed a few of his teeth were missing. He also told me he had been wounded,” Muminagic said.

Muminagic found out that her husband had been killed while performing forced labour on Santiceva Street on October 14, 1993

“People who guarded them on the division line informed me. Later on, a man who worked with him confirmed it as well,” Muminagic said. She said her husband’s body was exhumed in 1998 and an autopsy report confirmed he had been shot in the head with a bullet.

State prosecution witness Jusuf Kuvelj was the second witness to testify at today’s hearing. Kuvelj said he and other Bosniaks who lived on the same street in the western part of Mostar were arrested on June 30, 1993. He said they were transported to the Heliodrom detention camp by bus, where he remained until the end of the year.

He confirmed having been taken to several locations during his detention to perform forced labour, primarily on Santiceva Street in Mostar. According to Kuvelj, Santiceva Street was under the responsibility of the Second Battalion of the Croatian Defense Council, commanded by Mile Puljic.

State prosecution witness Zlatan Alendar also described the arrests of Bosniaks, their transfer from Mostar to the Heliodrom detention camp and how Heliodrom detainees were used for forced labour.

“We were used as human shields on Santiceva. That street was the most difficult one for us. One on one combat happened on that street,” Alendar said.

State prosecution witness Refik Salihovic said he worked at a wartime hospital in Sapna in 1993. He said he was captured in May 1993 while returning from Zagreb with a convoy transporting medication.

“We were transferred from the military investigative prison in Ljubuski to Heliodrom by buses. We were among the first detainees to be brought to Heliodrom, where we stayed until the end of 1993. Most detainees were from Mostar, Prozor, Capljina,” Salihovic said.

Salihovic said he was regularly taken to various locations, including Santiceva Street, to perform forced labour.

“The street of death. We, the detainees, gave Santiceva that name,” Salihovic said. He said he was wounded on Santiceva Street in late August 1993.

“I was wounded in the last operation aimed at liberating Mostar. The HVO forced us to place sandbags. They hid behind them and shot. The members of the Bosnian Army were shooting as well. First they opened fire in the air, then at the ground and finally at us. They said, ‘It’s better that the four of you die, than 40 thousand of us,’” Salihovic said.

The last witness to testify at today’s hearing, Mehmedalija Culic, said that while he was a Heliodrom detainee he was taken to various locations to perform forced labour. He said he once was physically abused while working on Santiceva Street.

“The guy, who I didn’t know, started hitting me when I said I was from Pocitelj. He hit me with a glass bottle, he punched and kicked me until I fainted,” Culic said.

Culic said Santiceva Street was one of the most dangerous locations detainees were forced to work at.

“People got killed. Many were wounded. Many of my friends were killed on that street,” Culic said.

Five new prosecution witnesses will be examined at the next hearing, scheduled for January 20.

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