Serb and Croat neighbours in the village of Lovas were shooting at each other during the occupation in 1991, testified a witness.
Testifying for the defence, Zoran Tepavac, a manual labourer from Lovas, currently living in Serbia, described the situation in the village on Thursday, at the trial of 14 former Serbian fighters indicted for war crimes committed in eastern Croatia.
“Shots were fired from all sides, from houses, from streets, from hills. From both the Croats and the Serbs. Before the Serbs occupied Lovas, a large fire had started from the Croatian side,” Tepavac said.
“When soldiers saw that somebody was shooting from the house, they would shoot back. Sometimes they would drop bombs on the houses, and there were times when they would enter the houses and leave the bombs in the rooms,” Tepavac added.
In 1991, Tepavac was a voluntary member of Serbian forces called Police of Krajina. In 2003 Croatian Prosecution Office for War Crimes filed charges against him and other 17 members of the Serbian army forces for war crimes against civilians in the village of Lovas.
The County court in Vukovar is currently running the Lovas case, but listing defendants as on the run.
Croatia, as up to date, has filed 1400 charges for war crimes against Serbian citizens, but since Croatia and Serbia do not have any extradition agreement, the cases like Lovas remain in a legal gap.
Serbian Prosecution Office, however, charged 14 people - Ljuban Devetak, Milan Devcic, Milan Radojcic, Zeljko Krnjajic, Miodrag Dimitrijevic, Darko Peric, Radovan Vlajkovic, Radisav Josipovic, Jovan Dimitrijevic, Sasa Stojanovic, Dragan Bacic, Zoran Kosijer, Petronije Stevanovic and Aleksandar Nikolaidis for the same war crimes against 70 civilians from the village of Lovas, in eastern Croatia committed in 1991.
The accused were members of Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA), the local Serbian civil territorial defense and a paramilitary formation “Dusan the Great”. Allegedly, the group is responsible for the deaths of 67 Croatian civilians.
War in Vukovar
Lovas is a village within the municipality of Vukovar, the first town in Europe to be destroyed by fighting since the end of World War II.
In 1991, the Yugoslav Army and Serbian paramilitary units encircled the town, right after Croatia’s declaration of independence from the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
Some 7,000 missiles fell daily on the town throughout the subsequent three-month siege, destroying about 85 per cent of the buildings. Over 3,000 people were killed and, after the town fell on November 18, 1991, thousands of non-Serbs were expelled.
Vukovar remained under Serb control until 1995. The Dayton Accord for Bosnia and the Erdut Agreement for Croatia brought the wars in the region to an end, and Vukovar was under UN administration for two years prior to its reintegration with Croatia in 1998.
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