Jezik / Language:
27 January 2016

Statements by Deceased Witnesses Read at Mile Puljic Trial

Marija Taušan BIRN BiH Sarajevo

Statements given by three deceased witnesses were read by the state prosecution at the trial of Mile Puljic, charged with crimes in Mostar. The witnesses described incidents of murder, injury and abuse they experienced while performing forced labour on Santiceva Street in Mostar in 1993.

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.

Today’s hearing started with the reading of a statement given by witness Hasan Beric. Beric said he and two of his sons were abducted from his apartment in Mostar and taken to the Heliodrom detention camp in June 1993.

He said he was released from Heliodrom three days later. In his statement he goes on to say that he found out in August 1993 that his son, Semir, got killed while performing forced labour on Santiceva Street.

“They were taken to Santiceva on August 30. They dressed them in HVO uniforms and gave them wooden rifles. They were used as human shields...He got killed on that day,” Beric said.

Beric said his son’s school friend told him about his death and accompanied him to a hospital where he saw his body and those of four other individuals.

A statement given by witness Salih Razic was then read by the state prosecution. Razic said he was also wounded while performing forced labour in Mostar. In his statement, he said an unknown Croatian Defense Council soldier hit him near a post office and broke two of his teeth.

“The conditions in Heliodrom were difficult...The food was bad. They would come and ask who would like to perform labour. I volunteered because I was hungry,” Razic said.

Smajo Cevra’s statement was the last one to be read at today’s hearing. In his statement Cevra said he heard his brother Hasan got killed while performing forced labour on Santiceva Street. Cevra said he went to a morgue and saw his brother’s body as well as the bodies of two other people he knew.

The trial chamber accepted a proposal by the prosecution to read three more statements given by witnesses who were either old or sick. A proposal to examine nine more witnesses who weren’t examined during the investigation, despite their availability, was rejected.

During the presentation of evidence the prosecution intends to ensure the examination of a few more witnesses. A military expert is expected to testify at the next hearing, scheduled for February 3.

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