Witnesses Describe Murder and Capture of Trnovo Civilians

16. February 2016.00:00
Testifying at the trial of three defendants charged with war crimes in the Trnovo area, prosecution witnesses described the murder and capture of civilians in the village of Presjenica on July 7 and 8, 1992.

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Defendants Edhem Godinjak, Medaris Saric and Mirko Bunoza have been charged with committing crimes against Serb civilians and prisoners of war in the Trnovo area. They allegedly participated in a joint criminal enterprise with the aim of killing and detaining Serbs in villages in the Trnovo area.

According to the charges, Godinjak was the chief of the public safety station in Trnovo, Saric was the commander of the Territorial Defense Headquarters, while Bunoza was the commander of Croatian Defense Forces (HOS) units.

Prosecution witness Vlado Sehovac said he found out that his parents Mirko and Tankosava were killed in their house in Presjenica. He said his aunt, Milka Kljajic, fled Presjenica with her son when the attack began. After wandering through the woods for 60 days, Kljajic arrived in Vojkovici, where he lived.

He said she told him that before she left the village she saw his father lying dead on a bed and his mother slaughtered on the floor. Later on the house was set on fire. Sehovac said his uncles went to Presjenica and buried the remains of his parents a year later.

“My cousin Pavle was in the village when it was attacked. He told me they took refuge and that fire was opened at people. He said that while he was in the woods, he watched Junuz Omerbegovic kill my parents, Kosta and Jovanka Sehovac, near their house,” Sehovac said.

He said about twenty refugees hid in houses belonging to the Ploskic family in Presjenica, but soldiers found them. He said a man known as Zuco was among them.

“They wanted to shoot them. Arif Ploskic stood in front of them and said they had to kill him first. They hit him and he fainted. They poured water on him to wake him up. When he woke up, Arif stood in front of his neighbours again and didn’t let the soldiers kill them. Then they gave up,” Sehovac said.

Also testifying for the prosecution, Dragica Grabovac said she heard on TV that her mother Stana was killed in Presjenica. She said she hadn’t found her remains or found out who had killed her.

Prosecution witness Milan Sehovac told the chamber he left Sarajevo and went to Presjenica with his family in April 1992. When the attack on the village began, he said the women and children were sent to the woods, while he and a couple of cousins stayed in the village. He said a day after the attack they saw soldiers entering the village. They tried to run away to the woods, but he was shot in the head. He lost his eye and earlobe. He said he remained lying on the ground severely wounded for eight hours.

As he said, he somehow managed to crawl to his house, where his father Dusan and neighbour Ramiz Ploskic found him.

“Ramiz carried me on his back as if I was a little child. He first took me to Ibro Ploskic’s house and then hid me in his house. His wife Mulija and my mother re-bandaged my wounds with wax as they had nothing else. I stayed there for nine days. My wound got infected with worms. The others were hiding in their basement. The Ploskics dressed the women in harem pants so they wouldn’t recognize them,” Sehovac said.

According to Sehovac, two days after the attack Dusan Sehovac and Ramiz Ploskic visited the village. He said they found the bodies of Kosta and Jovanka Sehovac and buried them. Sehovac said his cousin Pavle told him Edhem Godinjak appeared in front of the Ploskic houses, where the refugees were sheltered, on July 8, 1992.

“They asked Pavle to give them his pistol, but he told them Edo Godinjak was a good friend of his and that Godinjak knew he didn’t have weapons. Somebody hit him, but Godinjak didn’t react…Mulija Ploskic saved Pavle. She lied over him and didn’t let them beat him. She saved his life. Those people were our ‘Aleksics.’ Ramiz carried me on his back, although his son was killed in Dobrinja. Mulija, Ramiz and other members of Ploskic family are great people. My parents left me with a legacy to never forget what they did for us,” Sehovac said.

A statement given by prosecution witness Zdravko Sehovac in the investigation phase of the case was read in the courtroom. Sehovac was unable to appear in court due to his old age. In his statement, Sehovac said Godinjak appeared in front of the Ploskic houses. Mentioning the names of several killed village residents, Sehovac said Godinjak lined up soldiers and issued orders to them.

The defense teams objected to authenticity of this statement, presenting evidence on the presence of Bosnian Serb Army forces in Presjenica, constant attacks from artillery positions in that area as well as shootings and attacks on refugees from Eastern Bosnia, who were passing by.

Medaris Saric’s defense attorney said Zdravko Sehovac’s statement wasn’t authentic, as it contained the signature of minute taker Aleksandra Cvetkovic, who doesn’t work at the court in Zvornik.

The trial will continue on February 23.

Nedim Hasić

This post is also available in: Bosnian