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

Martic Men Linked to Village Killings

Witness says scores of Croats were murdered in ethnic-cleansing operation.
By Helen Warrell
A prosecution witness in the trial of Croatian Serb leader Milan Martic described this week how a series of attacks by Serb forces on villages in Croatia’s Krajina region had left about 100 civilians dead.



Martic, who held various leadership positions in the so-called Serb Autonomous District of Krajina, SAO Krajina, is charged with participating in a campaign of ethnic cleansing to expel non-Serbs from large regions of Croatia between 1991 and 1995.



In particular, Martic is alleged to have commanded a local police unit known as “Martic’s Police”, as well as territorial defence forces who were apparently responsible for carrying out killing and persecution of non-Serb civilians.



Marice Vukovic told the court that on August 1991, after sporadic shelling attacks on her home village of Poljanak, she and her family had fled their house to live in a nearby forest.



On November 7, 1991, the family returned to the house to collect food, and suddenly found themselves surrounded by a group of about 20 Serb soldiers, “armed, youngish men” dressed in camouflage uniforms.



“They said, Milosevic built this house for you, what will Tudjman give you?” she recalled.



The soldiers then tied Vukovic and her family members to a tree, and insulted them. The witness said that one of the soldiers had asked her why she thought he was wearing a glove. When she replied that she didn’t know, he told her, “So I don’t get my hand bloody when I slit the throats of Ustashas [Croatian fascists from WW2].”



The troops eventually allowed Vukovic, her mother and daughter to escape, but took her father and husband away so they could “talk” to them.



Vukovic later found their mutilated bodies in a nearby field.



“I saw that my husband’s brains were scattered and my father’s eyes were missing,” she said. “I covered them in blankets to stop the animals getting to them.”



After both parties had completed their examinations, Presiding Judge Justice Bakone Moloto asked the witness how many people had been killed in the 10 or 15 Croat villages in her area.



She replied that according to her estimates, “about 100” people had been left dead following the 1991 attacks.



According to the indictment against Martic, from August 1991 until November that year, the Croatian villages of Saborsko, Poljanak and Lipovaca “were attacked by members of Martic’s Police and other Serb forces”.



It also states, “As soon as members of Martic’s Police and other Serb forces entered the[se] villages, they killed all remaining non-Serb inhabitants they found”.



The Martic trial will continue next week.

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