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

HVO Accused of Stupni Do Carnage

Former UN officer blames Bosnian Croat forces for the 1993 massacre of Muslim civilians in this central Bosnian town.
By Lisa Clifford
A Canadian military policeman who investigated the massacre at Stupni Do this week told the trial of six Bosnian Croat officials of the devastation he witnessed there three days after the attack.

Nelson Draper, now a truck driver from Saskatchewan, but at the time a warrant officer in the Canadian armed forces serving with UNPROFOR, said that when he arrived in Stupni Do on October 27, 1993 along with a contingent of investigators and journalists it was immediately clear that most of the village had been destroyed.

He said the air in this central Bosnian town smelled of burned flesh. He described scorched houses with roofs collapsed, dead animals, garbage and spent ammunition.

Prosecutors also showed the court investigators’ videos and photographs of the killings, images of ruined homes and bodies lying in the rubble.

Draper was testifying at the trial of Jadranko Prlic, Bruno Stolic, Slobodan Praljak, Milivoj Petkovic, Valentin Coric and Berislav Pusic who were senior political and military leaders of the unrecognised Croat entity known as Herceg-Bosna. They face 26 charges of war crimes for the expulsion and murder of Muslims in Bosnia and Hercegovina during the Croatian-Muslim conflict in 1993.

They are also accused of being part of a joint criminal enterprise to politically and militarily subjugate and ethnically cleanse Bosnian Muslims and other non-Croats from parts of Bosnia that they claimed as Herceg-Bosna and to join this territory to a “Greater Croatia”.

Also allegedly involved were the former president of Croatia Franjo Tudjman, former Croatian defence minister Gojko Susak and Mate Boban, the president of Herceg-Bosna. All three are now dead.

Draper told the court his team found 16 bodies, several from the same family, though only seven were able to be identified. “The rest were burnt too far to even tell if they were female or male,” he said.

Most of the victims had been shot, though some had stab wounds.

He also described conversations with officers from the Nordic Battalion, Norbat, who told him they were aware an attack was taking place in Stupni Do but that soldiers from the Croatian Defence Council, HVO, wouldn’t let them pass. They told him of mortar and small arms fire coming from the village and the sky above Stupni Do glowing red.

The village was empty when Draper’s team arrived and it wasn’t until November that he interviewed survivors. They told him the attack started on October 23 and lasted throughout the day. They described rape, their valuables taken from them and civilians lying dead outside their homes.

When asked who was to blame for the massacre, Draper replied, “Based on my observations in the village … and interviews, there was no doubt in my mind that killings had taken place and the HVO were the responsible party.”

Draper said those he interviewed said their attackers weren’t locals but were instead from the Kiseljak area under the command of Ivica Rajic.

Rajic pleaded guilty before the tribunal to charges against him relating to Stupni Do and in May 2006 was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

Lisa Clifford is an IWPR reporter in London.

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