COURTSIDE: Tuta & Stela - First Mostar Crimes Heard

Depositions are heard from witnesses concerning atrocities carried out in the Mostar region.

COURTSIDE: Tuta & Stela - First Mostar Crimes Heard

Depositions are heard from witnesses concerning atrocities carried out in the Mostar region.

The depositions in the trial of senior Bosnian Croat, HVO, officers Mladen 'Tuta' Naletilic and Vinko 'Stela' Martinovic were heard last week. The two are charged with crimes against Bosniaks in Mostar, the Heliodrom camp, as well as in the villages of Sovici and Doljani, in 1993.


Statements by prosecution witnesses were presented as depositions as a means of shortening the duration of the trial and the time the judges have to spend in the courtroom. The trial itself is to start in the autumn.


Naletilic was the founder and commander of the Kaznjenicka Bojna, KB (Convicts' Battalion), which had bases in western Hercegovina. Martinovic served under him, heading a sub-division called 'Mrmak'. Both are charged with attacks against civilians, the torture of civilians and prisoners of war as well as enforced deportations and plunder.


Witnesses describe how attacks on the villages of Sovici and Doljani began with shelling on the evening of April 17. Following this, 75 Bosniaks were confined in a local school building, searched, beaten and then transferred to an HVO camp in the nearby town, Ljubuski.


The witness testified that the attacks were carried out by Naltelic's men and that he saw him the next day at the school building.


Another witness, a woman from Doljani, said the rest of the population were held in the school over the following days. Men were taken out and beaten, she said, and girls were also removed, they thought, to be raped.


"We asked why all this was being done to us and the soldiers replied that Tuta ordered it," said witness D. In a couple of weeks, the detained civilians were deported to the area under the control of the Bosnian Army.


Between three and five thousand Bosniak men of military age captured during HVO operations in the area remained in detention at the Heliodrom camp near Mostar until 1994


"We were taken daily to dig trenches on the frontline, " said witness A. Detainees were used as forced labour and also as human shields by members of KB, said the prosecutor. For those acts the defendants were charged with crimes against humanity, grave breaches of Geneva conventions and violations of the laws or customs of war.


Deposition taking, during which the prosecution will call a total of 18 witnesses, continues until 3 August.


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


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