COURTSIDE: Bosanski Samac Trial

Bosnian Serbs are said to have forced Bosniaks and Croats to help them plunder town.

COURTSIDE: Bosanski Samac Trial

Bosnian Serbs are said to have forced Bosniaks and Croats to help them plunder town.

Saturday, 24 November, 2001

The trial of the four men accused of ethnic cleansing of

Bosanski Samac in northern Bosnia is unfolding slowly, with only one witness testifying each week.

One reason for the increasingly frequent, long pauses is the health of the accused Milan Simic, who is following the trial from a wheel-chair.

Another factor are long cross-examinations of each witness by the four defence teams.

A Bosanski Samac farmer drafted into undertaking "work obligation", which the indictment qualifies as forced labour, testified last week.

He said that after Bosnian Serbian forces took over the town on April 17, 1992, armed guards escorted him and other drafted Bosniaks and Croats to dig trenches, clean the town and carry out other forms of forced labour.

"Work obligation", he said, included helping soldiers plunder valuables from Bosniak and Croat houses whose owners had been detained, or expelled. This he went on was preferable to detention.

Then, in mid-August, the witness was summoned to the police station in Bosanski Samac, where he was beaten by the then police chief Stevan Todorovic (also accused but sentenced to 10 years after he admitted guilt and promised to testify against others) with wooden sticks and police truncheons. Two other policemen took part.

The witness spent the next three months with 11 other detainees in a cell designed for two people. It was so narrow the detainees could not sit down. They received little food and daily beatings, including when they went to the toilet.

At the end of November 1992, the witness was transferred to an agricultural cooperative at Batkovici, near Bijeljina - one of 77 camps and prisons listed in the Bosnia indictment against Slobodan Milosevic - where up to 700 Bosniaks and Croats were held at any one time.

Detainees were then taken for "exchanges", which the chief prosecutor has classified as ethnic cleansing. The indictment says in Bosanski Samac these were organised by the defendant Miroslav Tadic, known as "Miro Brko".

The witness said he saw him several times at Batkovici, reading out lists of detainees for exchange. The witness learnt that Tadic supplemented the exchange lists with elderly Bosniaks and Croats "collected" from their homes.

After over two years of detention and torture, the witness was exchanged in October 1994 at the demarcation line near Sarajevo. He returned to Bosanski Samac this year and slowly rebuilt his destroyed farm.

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

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