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12 November 2007
News

Ljubicic: Soldiers in Black Uniforms

BIRN BiH

A Prosecution witness has spoken about the operations of the HVO and its "Jokers" Squad in Ahmici in April 1993.

Prosecution witness Ramiza Mrkonja has told the Court about what happened in Ahmici village on April 16, 1993, when she was deported from her house and her husband and son were killed.

"I heard shooting and I saw my Sabahudin and Samir falling down," Mrkonja said at the trial of Pasko Ljubicic, which is currently being heard before the Court of BiH in Sarajevo.

The Prosecution of BiH charges Ljubicic in his former capacity as commander of the Fourth Military Police Brigade with the Croatian Defence Council (HVO), which also included the "Jokers" Squad. The indictment alleges that he "planned and ordered the attack on Vitez, Busovaca and the surrounding villages" inhabited by Bosniaks.

Mrkonja said that, on April 16, 1993 "a few HVO soldiers in black uniforms, whose faces were masked", came to her house in Ahmici. After her whole family was forced to leave the house, the soldiers singled out her husband and 17-year old son. Soldiers escorted the witness, together with her two younger children and other women and children from the village, to a nearby meadow. Soon after, they were released. The soldiers went back to Ahmici.

The women and children found shelter near the village and watched what was going on. A few hours later they saw UNPROFOR members entering the village and collecting the bodies and wounded people and looking for survivors. The people they found, including Ramiza, were taken to Travnik, which was controlled by the Army of BiH at the time.

The indictment alleges that, in the course of the attack on Ahmici, about 100 civilians were killed, the village residents were deported, their houses were destroyed and two mosques were mined.

Protected witness "I" told the court that he was arrested in his house on April 15, and claims to have been taken to Kaonik detention camp together with his brother. He stayed there until June 19.

The witness described the conditions in the detention camp as "inhumane". He said that the prisoners did not have food and had to perform forced labour at the frontlines. He also said that some prisoners were maltreated and that he "heard" that this was done by the "Jokers" members.

During cross-examination, the defence asked the witness to tell the court who "told him" that the "Jokers" members had maltreated the prisoners. The witness responded by saying that he "does not remember the name of the prisoner, but he was from Zavidovici".

The trial is due to continue on November 22.

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