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

COURTSIDE: Bosanski Samac Trial

Serbs force Croats and Muslims to plunder homes of ethnic kin.
By Mirko Klarin

In the trial of Blagoje and Milan Simic, Miroslav Tadic and Simo Zaric, accused of ethnically cleansing Bosanski Samac, north-east Bosnia, the court last week heard that the local Serbian Crisis Committee forced Croats and Muslims to take part in plundering, looting and destroying non-Serb property in 1992 and 1993.


The court heard that after the Serb take-over in April 1992, the men mobilised for "work obligation'" were taken to nearby Croat and Muslim villages under military escort to remove valuables from abandoned houses, such as furniture, technical appliances, televisions, electrical appliances and water and heating installations


After the houses were stripped, trucks - usually with Army of Republika Srpska number plates - took the goods away. Occasionally, these mobilised men had to "compete" with local Serb civilians and paramilitaries who descended on the villages for what they called "shopping".


One protected witness said, "The local Serbs competed with us who would loot more ... and took everything they liked away on tractors, including the cattle."


The witness said this competition was so fierce that a Serb refugee killed a Serb soldier in the bathroom of an abandoned Croatian house after "they could not agree who would take the boiler". The witness described how the local Serbs - after taking out all valuables - destroyed, ruined and burnt the houses, stables and other objects. The Serb Crisis Committee made no attempt to prevent this.


The witness said Simo Zaric was present on several occasions when "working groups" were given their tasks, and heard him order a central heating system to be taken from an abandoned house, which was later taken by truck to his brother-in-law's home.


The witness said another Zaric's relative, a teacher named Perko, headed a working group assigned with the task of removing books from abandoned houses and sorting them. Those by Croat and Muslim authors were placed on one pile and ones by Serbs on another. The former were burnt on the spot, while the teacher ordered the latter to be sent to a library.


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