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Croats “Destroyed” Village in Medak Operation

Prosecution witness tells court Citluk was leveled to the ground during 1993 Medak Pocket offensive.
By Goran Jungvirth
A witness testifying under protected measures told the war crimes trial of two Croatian generals, Generals Mirko Norac and Rahim Ademi, that Croat soldiers had destroyed his village, despite the absence of Serb forces.

According to “witness number eight”, the first Serb witness to testify under protective measures in the case, residents of the village of Citluk were woken by explosions and only managed to survive by fleeing before the troops arrived.

Generals Norac and Ademi are on trial in Zagreb for war crimes allegedly committed by Croatian troops under their command during fighting to seize a Serb-held area of land called the Medak Pocket in September 1993.

The indictment originally brought by the Hague tribunal alleges that at least 29 Serb civilians were killed and dozens were seriously injured during the operation. Many of the killed and wounded civilians were women and elderly people.

It further states that Croatian forces killed at least five Serb soldiers who had been captured or wounded.

This week, the witness said he wanted “to thank Mr Norac for firing shells first, since that had forced us out of bed and let us know we needed to run”.

He said he doubted that he would still be alive if it hadn’t been for the explosions.

The witness told the court that he only returned when United Nations soldiers entered the village after the Croatian retreat.

“It wasn’t there at all. If even the outdoor toilets were destroyed then you can imagine what it was like. Not one house, not one barn was left standing from around 60 households,” he said.

Norac said there had been Serb forces in the village, and it had been a legitimate military target.

“There was an entire company in Citluk, a mortar unit and soldiers were billeted in the houses,” said the accused general.

But the witness said that there had been no Serb forces in the village, except for one guard “who didn’t have any weapons, apart from a rifle. The population was civilian, mostly women and old people”.

He blamed the Croat forces for destroying the houses, and said that civilians had been killed - although he personally did not witness this.

“One person was burned, one person was slaughtered and one person was pulled along behind a car,” he said.

Before the witness testified, the court chairman read out a UN police report on the Croatian army’s Medak Pocket operation.

The report, dated October 10, 1993, said police had found 19 corpses in the area, including ten men, eight women and one whose gender they could not determine.

Five of the corpses were burned, and four of them had been women.

It also said 312 buildings were destroyed, including 164 houses and 148 were barns or outhouses.

Serb houses had been looted or destroyed, cattle killed and the wells poisoned with oil or animal carcasses.

The UN police also mentioned that they had not included information about 52 bodies that the Croatian army had handed over to the Serbs after they captured the area.

In none of the villages did the police find any living person and in the village of Drljici “only a few chickens were left alive”, said the report, which added that UN police found several Croatian soldiers there in police uniforms.

Goran Jungvirth is an IWPR journalist in Zagreb.

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