COURTSIDE: Bosanski Samac Trial

Bosnian Serb town council leader beat up former schoolmates

COURTSIDE: Bosanski Samac Trial

Bosnian Serb town council leader beat up former schoolmates

Saturday, 27 October, 2001

In the trial of four Bosnian Serbs accused of persecuting and deporting non-Serbs from Bosanski Samac, north-east Bosnia, in 1992, two brothers described how Milan Simic, president of the town council and member of the crisis staff, tortured them one week and then treated one of them like an honoured guest the next.

Milan Simic, Blagoje Simic, Simo Zaric and Miroslav Tadic, all members of the town's crisis staff, are accused of planning and directing the town's ethnic cleansing in the summer of 1992.

Stevan Todorovic was originally among the accused, but the prosecution withdrew 26 counts of the indictment against him when he agreed to admit guilt on the first count of persecution on political, racial and religious grounds, and cooperate with the court.

Brothers Hasan and Muhamed Bicic said Milan Simic and several armed escorts arrived at the school gymnasium where they had been detained in June 1992, summoned them and attacked them in a corridor with rifle butts, kicking their heads with military boots when they fell to the ground.

They were ordered to stand up with their legs apart and arms behind their backs, while the president of the town council kicked them in the genitals. They said each time they fell down, they were immediately picked up and put in the same position, "so that the president could aim better".

Hasan Bicic said Simic and his posse insisted a great deal on "precise that they could no longer produce 'Balija' children". Balija being a derogatory name for Bosnian Muslims.

However, a week later, Simic visited the detainees in a totally different mood, singling out Hasan Bicic, with whom he attended primary school and whose pizzeria he had frequented before the war, along with a Croat, Perica Misic.

Simic drove the detainees to Bicic's plundered home, before adjourning to Simic's office, where he ordered food and drink, and apologised for the assault the previous week, explaining that he had been "beside himself" after his best friend was killed and asking them "how they would behave in such a situation?" Naturally, Bicic and Misic accepted the apology.

The men stayed with Simic until dawn. Simic informed Bicic that his HQ had decided to exchange him and his brother Muhamed. And on their departure, Simic gave Bicic four cartons of cigarettes, which was a fortune at the time.

Bicic and Misic were returned to the school prison, where they continued to be beaten and tortured until Hasan Bicic was taken for exchange three weeks later. His brother remained in the school jail for some time. The trial continues with Muhamed Bicic's testimony.

Mirko Klarin is IWPR senior editor for the war crimes tribunal and editor-in-chief of SENSE News Agency.

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