News 08 Feb 13

Croat Detainee Recalls ‘Inhumane’ Serb Prison

Croat prisoners were held in a packed cell in northern Serbia, a witness told the Hague trial of wartime Croatian Serb leader Goran Hadzic.

Marija Ristic

“We were sleeping on the floor, there were no beds. We were like sardines in a can,” former detainee Dragutin Berghofer told Hadzic’s trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia on Thursday.

Hadzic faces 14 war crimes charges, including the persecution, extermination and torture of non-Serb civilians from Croatia between 1991 and 1993.

“There were around 152 to 154 [inmates]. They [the Serb army] never knew the exact number so they counted us every day. The room was 12 by five metres,” said Berghofer.

The witness said he was taken to the prison camp in the town of Sremska Mitrovica by the Serb army after being captured in his hometown of Vukovar in Croatia in autumn 1991.

“We didn’t shower. There was water to drink, there was heating, but we were not allowed to shower,” Berghofer continues.

“We all stank a lot as we didn’t shower for three months,” he adds.

“Somewhere around December 22, 1991, Goran Hadzic came to our camp. We were standing in a line when he entered the room, looked at us, and said, ‘Why don’t you let these people go home?’”  the witness recalled.

Berghofer said that there were no children held there apart from one 12-year-old boy who the soldiers wanted to return to Vukovar but who refused to leave the camp without his father.

The detention centre in Sremska Mitrovica was one of several military camps in the northern province of Vojvdodina, near the Croatian border, that was run by the Serb army in 1991 at the beginning of the fighting in Croatia.

Berghofer is also one of just seven survivors of the notorious massacre in Ovcara farm in November 1991, when more than 260 Croats were killed by Serb forces.

“I don’t know where it was more terrible - in Ovcara or Sremska Mitrovica,” the witness said.

Previously Berghofer also testified at the Hague trial of former Yugoslav colonels Mile Mrksic and Veselin Sljivancanin, who were jailed for 20 and 10 years respectively over the Ovcara massacre.

Hadzic’s trial continues on Friday.

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