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7 October 2009
News

Pelemis and Peric: A Special Task

BIRN BiH

A former commander of support operations of the Lokanj Battalion with the Republika Srpska Army, VRS, testifies that Momir Pelemis and Slavko Peric gave an order to send all members of the working squad to Pilica to perform "a special task".

Prosecution witness Stanko Gajic claims to have received the order by phone from the two indictees after the fall of Srebrenica in July 1995.

"Although they did not say what 'special task' they spoke about, I knew there were dead people in Pilica, so I guessed we would bury them," the witness said, adding that the working squad was composed of older personnel, who "did not take part in combat".

Momir Pelemis and Slavko Peric are charged with having "planned, instigated, ordered and helped" the capture and murder of Srebrenica residents in "Kula" school building in Pilica and the murder of about 600 men, who were detained in Pilica Center, in Zvornik Municipality. The indictment alleges that the murders were committed on July 15 and 16, 1995.

The Prosecution considers that Pelemis was Deputy Commander and Chief of Headquarters of the First Battalion with the Zvornik Brigade and Peric was Assistant Commander for Security with the same Brigade at the time.

Gajic said that members of the working squad were kept at the special task for three days, adding that they never spoke about what they had been doing in Pilica.

"I never asked them about it. One of them told me, after the war, that they loaded dead people onto trucks in Pilica and transported them to Branjevo farm, where they unloaded them and buried them in a grave," Gajic said.

The indictment alleges that captured Bosniaks from Srebrenica were transported from "Kula" school building in Pilica to Branjevo military farm, where they were shot.

At this hearing protected Prosecution witness P23 testified. He said that he was recruited by the Engineering Unit of the Zvornik Brigade in July 1995, adding that he worked on a mechanical digger.

"On July 17, 1995 they mobilized me and my machine. I worked in the quarry, so I was one of the few people who could start 'the machine'. This was why they called me, but they said they wanted me to dig battlements and not to do what I actually did," witness P23 said.

As he explained further, witness P23 dug graves in the Zvornik area.

"Instead of battlements I dug holes. When I arrived to Bijeli potok, near Zvornik, about 30 corpses were arranged on a flat piece of earth facing the ground. Trucks were coming. Working squad members unloaded them. All of them were civilians. They put them in the hole I just dug," witness P23 said.

After having spent two more days digging holes and burying corpses in the Kozluk area, witness P23 was tasked with going to Branjevo farm and helping a colleague.

"My colleague had already come to the farm. He came with a small digger, but he could not dig all the holes. They asked me to come and help him, because there were so many corpses and new trucks kept coming," witness P23 said, adding at the end of his testimony, that he did not think he had committed any
crime, but helped the "dead souls" be buried in a dignified manner.

The next hearing is due to take place at the District Court in Bijeljina on October 13, when some witnesses, who are not able to appear before the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina due to their state of health, will be examined.

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