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11 December 2007
News

Trbic: "They Urged Us To Shoot People"

BIRN BiH
Prosecution witnesses speak of the shooting of detainees in the school in Orahovac - and of soldiers' qualms at the orders.
At the trial of Milan Trbic, former members of the Zvornik Brigade with the Republika Srpska Army have testified as Prosecution witnesses. They told the Court about the capture and shooting of Bosniaks in Orahovci village on July 14, 1995.

The indictment alleges that, from July 11 to November 1, 1995, Trbic was assistant commander for security of the Zvornik Brigade with the Republika Srpska Army (VRS) and was responsible for commanding the Military Police Unit.

The indictment further alleges that, on July 13 and 14, 1995, the indictee "controlled the departure of Bosniak civilians from the enclave" by taking part in the organisation of transport, detention and guarding of civilians who were transported by buses and trucks from Bratunac to the detention centres in school buildings in Zvornik municipality.

From July 1 to 18, 1995, witness Lazar Ristic was commander of the Fourth Battalion with the Zvornik Brigade, which was stationed in Banja Luka.

He said that, on July 14, 1995, Trbic called him and asked him to send about ten soldiers "to help in the guarding of the school because the detainees tried to break out". During the day, one of the soldiers, whom he had sent to that school, called him and said: "What should we do? They urge us to shoot people."

Ristic said that he personally visited the location and saw three military policemen, including Trbic, getting onto a truck.

"My first thought was that they were running away towards the brigade's headquarters in Zvornik. I was upset when I saw Trbic running away, when he had asked for my help earlier on," Ristic recalled.

Ristic said he did not talk to his soldiers about what they did there, but he concluded that they helped with guarding of the place. As soon as he arrived there, the soldiers asked him to let them go home, which he approved.

Asked why he did not talk to them about the order to shoot people, the witness responded by saying: "I though they may have lied to me because they wanted to go home. They may have not been forced to shoot people".

Ristic then left the schoolyard. "I saw that there was chaos there, and I could not do anything about it," he explained.

At the time these events took place, second prosecution witness Tanacko Tanić was cashier of the Zvornik Brigade. He was, however, told "to take a gun" and come to the school in Orahovac, because "the detainees were running away".

"When I arrived, I saw two corpses. A pile of clothes were left next to the gym entrance door. There were about 50 soldiers in the courtyard. I could hear babbling coming from the gym, it sounded like a beehive," said Tanic.

Tanic also said that someone "offered him an automatic gun" and told him to "go and shoot them", but he refused to do it.

He said that he went to the road near the school, together with military policemen Goran Bogdanovic and Cedo Jovic, where they "stopped civilians from entering the schoolyard". While they were standing there, they heard shooting coming from the vicinity. He also saw a small truck driving away the prisoners from the gym.

"We knew that they were shooting them and that there could be no question of an exchange. When I saw some children among the prisoners, I though they could have at least singled them out. How can we say we are great Serbs and heroes, when we actually shoot children..." said Tanic.

The trial is due to continue on December 12, when two more Prosecution witnesses will be examined.
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