Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change
COURTSIDE: Bosanski Samac Trial
"When I entered the room, I saw lots of hair and blood on the concrete floor. There were about 40 people inside. Some had swollen faces, wounds on their heads, black and blue faces, open wounds, dried blood on hair and clothes... the walls were covered with blood..."
Dragan Delic, a Muslim married to a Croat, was testifying about his sufferings in prison, as a part of the trial for crimes against the non-Serbian population of Bosanski Samac committed in 1992.
The four accused - Blagoje and Milan Simic, Simo Zaric and Miroslav Tadic - were prominent members of the Serbian crisis staff, established after the Bosnian Serbs took over the municipality that year.
Stevan Todorovic, chief of police in Bosanski Samac at the time, has admitted killing and molesting imprisoned non-Serbs, and is expected to act as a witness against his co-accused.
The indictment says the town was placed under Bosnian Serb control and ethnically cleansed because of its strategic position in the corridor in northern Bosnia connecting Serbia with "Serbian territories" in Croatia and western Bosnia.
The witness was arrested shortly after the take-over on April 22, 1992 and imprisoned in the territorial defence building. There, he said, "they forced us to sing Chetnik (Serbian nationalist) songs, sometimes for hours.
"Some people fainted, and those standing next to them helped them up and kept them up, because if they found that somebody was not standing during the song, it meant a new round of torture."
The indictment says local police volunteers were responsible for crimes, as well as members of paramilitary units from Serbia stationed in the town immediately after the take-over.
Delic said prisoners were beaten daily with instruments that ranged from rubber sticks, rifle butts and metal rods to wooden bats. Beatings sometimes went on for hours. He also described how one of his torturers laughed into his face, as he took out large pliers and started taking out his teeth. "Now I'm going to improve your looks," the guard said.
In one interrogation, he said, an investigator asked him why he had been arrested. When he replied that he was just a civilian, the investigator looked over some papers and finally told Delic, "Mistakes can happen in war. You will be released soon."
Several days after the "mistake" was established, Delic, his wife and two children found themselves in a large group of civilians who were exchanged at the border between Croatia and Bosnia.
Vjera Bogati is an IWPR special correspondent at The Hague and a journalist with SENSE News Agency.
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