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11 November 2015
News

Heliodrom Prisoners Used to Occupy New Territory, Witnesses State at Puljic Trial

Marija Taušan BIRN BiH Sarajevo

State prosecution witnesses testifying at the Mile Puljic trial said they were wounded while performing forced labour on Santiceva Street in Mostar on August 31, 1993. Puljic has been charged with war crimes in Mostar.

Mile Puljic, the former commander of the Second Battalion of the Second Brigade of the Croatian Defense Council (HVO), has been charged with allowing his subordinates to take detainees held in the Heliodrom detention camp to locations where they performed forced labour and were used as human shields from May 1993-March 1994. While performing forced labour, 11 detainees were killed, 73 were wounded, and 15 were physically abused by members of the Second Battalion.

“We carried bags. The army was withdrawing, while we were moving ahead. They occupied new territory using the detainees,” witness and former detainee Edin Jazvin said.

He said he was wounded on Santiceva Street on August 31, 1993, while moving sandbags with several other detainees from the Heliodrom detention camp.

“A sniper bullet or a grenade hit me. I don’t know what it was. Shooting and explosions were heard all over the place, so one can’t be sure what it was,” Jazvin said. He said other detainees were wounded and four or five got killed.

Jazvin said that Santiceva Street was under the responsibility of the Second Battalion of the Croatian Defense Council. He said the neighbourhood in which he was arrested also fell under their zone of responsibility. He listed the names of several people who were members of the Second Battalion’s command staff. Puljic was one of them.

“I inquired around the city a bit,” Jazvin said, explaining how he found out the names of the key people in that unit.

Jazvin said he remembered seeing a soldier dressed in a black uniform hitting detainees as they worked. He said the soldier had a bottle of brandy in one hand and a broom in the other.

Witness and former detainee Edin Alicic said he was arrested in the Second Battalion’s zone of responsibility and taken to the Heliodrom detention camp. He said he was often taken to other locations to work.

He said he was wounded on Santiceva Street on August 31, 1993, and confirmed that the street was within the Second Battalion’s zone of responsibility.

“Combat activities were increased. We carried bags towards the division line in order to build a bulwark. HVO soldiers were behind us, telling us to hurry. A guy, who got killed, was next to me,” Alicic said. Alicic said he was wounded on three different parts of his body that day.

He said he went to hospital, where he saw other wounded detainees and Croatian Defense Council soldiers.

Witness and former detainee Semir Djonko confirmed that he was wounded on Santiceva Street, where other detainees from the Heliodrom detention camp were killed.

He said the Second Battalion escorted him to the upper part of Santiceva Street, to the so-called Carinski Bridge, in order to work. He said he didn’t know who was responsible for the part of the street he was wounded on.

The prosecution also examined Mesud Poljarevic, who confirmed that detainees from the Heliodrom detention camp were wounded on Santiceva Street. According to Poljarevic, “the Croatian Army in black uniforms” was present on that street, but didn’t mistreat the detainees.

The trial will continue on November 18.

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