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16 March 2009
News

Pelemis and Peric: Unspeakable sounds

BIRN BiH
A protected Prosecution witness tells the Court how he survived the shooting of more than 1,000 Bosniaks who were detained in a school building in Pilica.
Prosecution witness P6, who testified at the trial of Momir Pelemis and Slavko Peric, charged with genocide committed in Srebrenica, described how he survived detention and the shooting "of between 1,000 and 1,500 Bosniaks in Branjevo".

The State Prosecution charges Pelemis and Peric, former members of the Zvornik Brigade with the Republika Srpska Army, VRS, with having "planned, ordered and helped" in the murder of about 1,200 Srebrenica residents who were originally detained in "Kula" school building in Pilica, and the murder of about 600 men who were detained in Pilica Center in Zvornik Municipality on July 15 and 16, 1995.

The public followed the testimony of witness P6 from a separate room.

The witness said that after "the fall of Srebrenica" on July 11, 1995, about 30,000 Bosniaks were situated in the vicinity of the UNPROFOR base in Potocari. He said he spent two nights at that location, adding that he witnessed "frightening things and saw people being taken away". He said that on July 13 "all Bosniaks were taken out and moved".

"We passed two barricades. Serb soldiers were standing at the second one, separating us and taking us to a house. When the house was full of men, they transported us by bus to 'Vuk Karadzic' school in Bratunac," P6 said.

The witness told the Court that he spent "two days and two nights" in the school building, where he was detained together with about 150 other civilians. He said they did not receive any food while they were held there.

"As soon as we entered the house, a soldier brutally beat up a detainee using the butt of his gun. As of that day, they took people, both during the day and at night. We could hear screams and sometimes we heard shooting. This could not have been done by one group of people. There must have been more than one shift," P6 said.

The witness said that, after having spent two days in Bratunac, the whole group was transported by bus to "the House of Culture or school building in Pilica", via Zvornik and Serbia.

"We spent another two days in the school. People were taken out all the time. We constantly listened to screams and calls for help. I can describe whatever you want, but those sounds were unspeakable.

Those were really the sounds of torture. We could hear shooting coming from outside from time to time. We did not know what was going on, because, if we looked through the window, someone would start shooting at us," the witness said, adding that the detainees were between 50 and 80 years old.

The witness told the Court that, two days later "Serb soldiers took all the detainees", tied them up and took them to "a hill in Branjevo", where they took groups of 25 prisoners to a trench and shot them.

"I was in the second column of people. They took us by the same path as the first group. We heard shooting after they had taken the first group with them. They first ordered us to stand by the dead people from the first group and to turn around. The shooting cut us. I could see dead bodies falling down. I fell down, although I was not shot" the witness said.

The witness said that while he was lying on the ground he watched Serb soldiers bringing and shooting "six or seven groups of 25 people". After that he "sneaked" to a nearby forest. On his way he saw "about 1,000 or 1,500 bodies".

After hiding in the woods near Pilica for about ten days, witness P6 surrendered to Serb soldiers. On July 26, 1995 he was "taken to Batkovic detention camp".

Cross-examination of witness P6 is due to take place on March 25, 2009.
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