Witnesses Describe Murder of Loved Ones in Trnovo

23. February 2016.00:00
State prosecution witness testifying at the trial of three defendants charged with war crimes in Trnovo described the murder of their parents and relatives in Trnovo and its surrounding villages during the summer of 1992.

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Defendants Edhem Godinjak, Medaris Saric and Mirko Bunoza have been charged with crimes committed against Serb civilians and prisoners of war in the Trnovo area. They are on trial for participating in a joint criminal enterprise aimed at 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 units of the Croatian Defense Forces.

Testifying at today’s hearing, state prosecution witness Slobodan Stanic described the search for his neighbor Milka. He said Milka lived in the center of Trnovo after conflict broke out in the town. He said when the Bosnian Serb Army (VRS) took over Trnovo, he found his neighbor’s remains.

“Prior to having found her, I heard rumours that she had been hung in her apartment. I don’t know whether that’s true or not, but that’s what I heard. When we exhumed her, her bones were wrapped in a blanket. We also found a rope with the bones. Dr. Mocevic attended the exhumation, but he was unable to determine the cause of her death,” Stanic said.

Witness Nada Orlic said her mother-in-law Cvija used to live in the vicinity of the police station in Trnovo. She said Nemanja Bjelica and Jovo Vlaski, who were both detained in the police station, told her that her mother-in-law had been killed.

“They told my husband that his mother was hung in front of the police station and her body was then set on fire. When the VRS took control of the town, she was exhumed in the vicinity of the murder site. Her thigh bones were found as well as her sweater and one foot with a sneaker on it. My husband identified her on the basis of that,” Orlic said.

State prosecution witnesses Petko Mojevic and Mladen Timotija described the search for the bodies of their mothers. They said they still hadn’t found their remains. They said they hid in a house in the village of Vrbovnik while combat was taking place in Trnovo in the spring of 1992. They said their families found shelter in the surrounding woods.

The witnesses said Dragan Lalovic, who was detained at the Trnovo police station, told them that he and three other detainees went to the village to transfer the bones and allow for the burial of their mothers. They said Lalovic told them veterinarian Srecko Hadziavdic had ordered them to do so.

“Lalovic told us he found them in a grove near the village and that their bodies had already started decomposing. Their arms, legs began falling off…They wrapped them in tarpaulin and buried them somewhere in Trnovo, but he couldn’t specify the exact location, because they buried them on a rainy night. In 1993 we dug up the location where he thought the bodies had been buried, but we never found them,” Mojevic said.

Timotija said Lalovic told him that his mother Mitra had been killed. He said Lalovic also told him that he and other detainees had previously collected the bodies of killed people, as per Hadziavdic’s orders.

State prosecution witness Nenad Popovic said his cousin, 60 year old Todor Popovic, was also killed in Trnovo. Popovic said Todor Popovic stayed at home when the Bosnian Serb Army attack on the town began, while his son Zoran and the rest of the family fled. He said Todor Popovic was found dead three days later with bullet injuries to his chest.

Godinjak’s defense examined Popovic and presented a Bosnian Serb Army report signed by commander Danilo Golijanin, indicating that Todor Pavlovic died as a result of a grenade explosion.

The trial will continue on March 8.

Nedim Hasić

This post is also available in: Bosnian