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21 December 2015

Witness Describes Attack on Bosniak Civilians Fleeing Serb-Controlled Teocak

Amer Jahic BIRN BiH Sarajevo

A state prosecution witness testifying at the trial of nine former Bosnian Serb police and military officials said he fled Serb-controlled Teocak and reached Bosnian Army controlled territory in the municipality of Zvornik by travelling through the woods. He said many civilians who fled with him were captured and killed by Bosnian Serb forces.

Defendants Goran Maksimovic, Ljiljan Mitrovic, Slavko Peric, Mile Vujevic, Vukasin Draskovic, Gojko Stevanovic, Cvjetko Popadic, Rajo Lazareviz and Mico Manojlovic have been charged with participating in an attack on a group of civilians fleeing Teocak on July 14, 1992. They allegedly captured 76 civilians, 67 of whom were killed in the village of Lokanj in the municipality of Zvornik.

Maksimovic was the commander of the Interventions Unit of the public safety station in Ugljevik, Mitrovic was his deputy, while Slavko Peric was the commander of the Lokanjska Company of the Zvornicka Brigade of the Bosnian Serb Army. The other defendants were members of the Lokanjska Company.

State prosecution witness Sakib Mehic testified at today’s hearing. Mehic said he and more than 100 civilians fled Teocak, which was under a Bosnian Serb blockade, through the woods in mid-July 1992. Mehic said he intended to make his way to Germany, where he was working at the time.

Mehic said the civilians were initially accompanied by ten armed guides, who eventually returned to Teocak. Mehic said he heard a gunshot soon after their armed guides left, and saw a Serb soldier lying dead on the ground. He said the civilians continued walking and heard shooting again when they reached farmland.

“The shooting lasted five or six minutes. It was a burst of gunfire that came from all directions,” Mehic said. He said a schoolmate of his was shot dead, lying on his back with blood on his face.

Mehic said he managed to flee the shooting with a few other civilians and eventually reached the village of Godus, which was under Bosnian Army control. He said he heard that the civilians who were left behind in the woods were killed. The defense asked Mehic if four Serb soldiers had also been killed in the woods. Mehic said he only saw one.

Mehic said he returned to Teocak through a different route about fifteen days later and joined a local village watch. He said he went to Germany in September 1992, because he was unable to do so earlier.

Borko Djuric, a former member of the public safety station in Ugljevik, was the second witness to testify at today’s hearing. Djuric said the Interventions Unit was formed by chief Vinko Lazic, but members of the unit didn’t officially have a commander. Last week the state prosecution accused Lazic, who currently resides in Serbia, of committing war crimes in Lokanj.

“The chief tasked Goran Maksimovic, as a senior and experienced policeman, to direct them, so they wouldn’t commit certain acts,” Djuric said.

Djuric said Lazic ordered the unit to go to the village of Gornje Krcine to investigate a robbery. Djuric said he and Lazic visited the unit in Lokanj, where Maksimovic told Lazic about the captured civilians. He said Maksimovic reported that armed conflict had broken out between local residents of Lokanj and Bosniaks from Teocak.

“Goran [Maksimovic] told him there was shooting, that there were casualties on both sides, that the situation was chaotic,” Djuric said.

Djuric said he didn’t see Mitrovic in Lokanj. Djuric said he wasn’t a member of the Interventions Unit in July 1992. Djuric said he and Lazic visited Lokanj for about 20 minutes before going back to the police station, while the Interventions Unit returned one day later.

Djuric said Maksimovic told him that upon returning from Lokanj he filed a detailed report. Djuric said Maksimovic told him the unit went to Lokanj to investigate a robbery, and decided to stay overnight when it started getting dark.

The trial will continue on January 18.

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