News 24 Oct 17

Serb Paramilitaries Accused of Croatia Village Massacre

A witness testified that he found the corpses of 21 Croat villagers, including his own relatives, in Josevica in central Croatia in December 1991, speculating that Serb paramilitaries murdered them.

Sven Milekic
BIRN
Zagreb
Memorial to the victims of the Josevica killings. Photo: Facebook/Josevica Ethno Club.

Witness Luka Siftar, 70, testified via video link from Belgrade at Zagreb county court on Tuesday, saying he thought Serb paramilitaries were responsible for killing 21 Croat civilians in the village of Josevica in central Croatia on December 16, 1991.

Siftar, who was a captain in the Yugoslav People’s Army, recalled how he came to the village on December 19, 1991, only to find the corpses of his own family members and other villagers in their houses.

“The whole family was dead, and not only my family, but a complete section of the village. All bodies were already frozen since it was cold,” he said.

Six members of his family were killed; one of them was 15 at the time. His mother Anka, who was 70 at the time, survived despite being shot in the mouth, hand and shoulder.

“Later I realised that the bodies had been moved, that someone removed the bullet casings and cleaned up some of the blood. I couldn’t see the cuts [on their throats]. I didn’t see that [his 15-year-old nephew] Pajo’s throat was cut from ear to ear,” Siftar testified.

Siftar was testifying in the trial in absentia of five former paramilitaries from the 1990s Croatian Serb unrecognised statelet, the Republic of Serbian Krajina - Dusan Zarkovic, 58, Bogdan Jednak, 49, George Nashid Kamal, 45, Miroslav Malobabic, 42 and Dejan Sladovic, 42.

They are accused of committing a war crime which the state attorney’s office was carried out in retaliation for Croatian troops’ killing of Serb soldiers a few days earlier in the region.

Siftar said that he did not see the defendants at the time, but claimed to have seen their vehicles in the vicinity of the village some days before the crime.

He added that according to some people he talked to, the unit walked through the village a few days before the crime, scouting the location.

He said that he heard that the crime could be committed by members of the Silt’s Unit and Joko’s Group units commanded by Sinisa Martic, alias ‘Silt’, and Joso Kovacevic.

“I can’t tell which group actually committed the crime. There were at least ten such groups around [the nearby town of] Glina, and local authorities planned to disband them. They were in charge of so-called ‘cleansing’, and results of such ‘cleansings’ are known,” he said.

Siftar even made a 50-page journal about the crime after talking to various alleged witnesses about what happened.

Martic, alias ‘Silt’, also testified via video link from Belgrade, saying that he and his unit did not take part in the crime.

However, he could not guarantee that Sladovic and Malobabic, who were members of his unit, did not commit the crime on their own.

“There were talks about the crime in cafe bars, but I can’t say much since I wasn’t there at the time,” he said.

Martic said that he is “101 per cent sure” that his unit did not commit the crime.

“I was a very strict commander, and I didn’t allow any killings, rapes, plunder or such things. That’s just the type of the man I am,” he said.

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