Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

COURTSIDE: Bosanski Samac Trial

Bosniak pensioner tells of cruelty in "Serbian municipality".

"Any Serb woman could order a Muslim woman to come and clean her house and even to wash her legs," said 70-year-old Hajrija Drljacic, a Bosniak from Bosanski Samac, testifying last week on the conditions that elderly non-Serbs endured after a "Serbian municipality" was set up there in spring 1992.

Drljacic was testifying at the trial of Blagoje and Milan Simic, Miroslav Tadic and Sima Zaric, who are accused of the ethnic cleansing of Bosanski Samac in northern Bosnia.

The witness said that in 1992, when she was aged 60, she was forced to wear a white ribbon on her sleeve to show she was not a Serb. Her telephone was disconnected and she was given no access to water and electricity utilities.

The town's only working bakery refused to sell her bread because of the white ribbon and she claimed she was also denied help at the local Red Cross, where they told her to seek help "from Alija" (Izetbegovic, the Muslim president of Bosnia).

After two winters without electricity, heating and often no food, Drljacic fell ill and was refused help by a local doctor who told her he had no medicines, although she "knew that medical help was coming in". A Serbian doctor named Sisic saved her by secretly sending her two boxes of pills. "I want to thank him. There were not many of them," she said, in tears.

One day, she said, two Serb soldiers demanded the keys of her home. "That is how they 'liberated' me from my place," she said. With her brother, she was deported to Croatia at the end of 1993.

Asked by the prosecutor if she would have left her town if Serbs had not treated Bosniaks and Croats in the way she described, the witness said "Never. I will return to Samac. I want to die there". The trial continues.

Vjera Bogati is an IWPR special correspondent at The Hague and a journalist with SENSE News Agency.

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