News 05 Apr 12

Witnesses: Mosques Not Used as Army Barracks

Witnesses at the trial of eight ex-Serbian paramilitaries for war crimes in the town of Zvornik say that destroyed mosques could not have been used by the Bosnian army as the accused claim.

Marija Ristic

Rade Jovanovic, Milivoje Simic and Sava Ristanovic, all from the village of Skocic, testified at the trial on Thursday that mosques destroyed in the local villages by the Serbian paramilitaries were not used by Bosniak forces, since they were empty at the time of the attack.

“All those mosques could not have been military barracks, since all the Muslims left this area of Skocic and Kozluk in the middle of June. As far as I know, local Muslims agreed to leave the villages, but I do not know with whom they have agreed,” said Simic.

According to the indictment, on July 1992 Simo Bogdanovic, Damir Bogdanovic, Zoran Stojanovic, Tomislav Gavric, Djordje Sevic, Zoran Alic, Zoran Djurdjevic and Dragana Djekic, all members of the paramilitary unit called Sima's Chetniks, put the explosive under the local mosque in the village of Skocic and destroyed it.

In their previous testimonies, the accused claimed that they had attacked the mosque since they had information that Bosniaks soldiers were hiding there, and that the local mosques were widely used by the Bosniaks as military barracks.

After the destruction of the Skocici mosque ‘Sima’s Chetniks’ went to a Roma settlement at the edge of the village where they killed, tortured and raped at least 23 Roma villagers.

Zio Rivic, one of the few survivors of the attack, testified that he had lost all his family that day, but so far only the bodies of his parents have been found.

“They have never found the bodies of my brother and six sisters.  I saw them beating my father to death.  They raped my sister in front of everyone, in front of me, in front of my mother,” said Rivic.

According to the announcement at the Trial Chamber the protected witnesses “Alfa”, “Beta” and “Gama” will testify at the next trial session.

The prosecution says that the accused took these three women from the village of Skocic, transferred them to another village, where they held them for more than six months and raped them repeatedly. 

This case is the fifth one run by the Serbian Prosecutor’s Office related to the events in Zvornik, since the town was the site of some of the most brutal crimes during the Bosnian war.

Zvornik, a city on the river Drina close to the border with Serbia, was occupied in May 1992 when the Arkan’s Tigers, a Serb paramilitary unit backed by the Yugoslav People’s Army, JNA, entered and expelled most of the non-Serb population and killed more than 1,000 people.

Allegedly, the Arkan’s Tigers were closely cooperating with the paramilitary units of Vojislav Seselj, the leader of the Serbian Radical Party and the ICTY war defendant, and together with JNA, they attacked a wide range of towns in Bosnia and Croatia.

It is still unclear under whose command Sima’s Chetnik were, since some of the witnesses claim they were receiving orders from the headquarters of the Serbian Radical Party.

However, Seselj has denied that he had control over the units in Zvornik, accusing Arkan of command responsibility.

The trial will continue on April 24.

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