Witness Describes Order Issued to Carry Out Mount Borje Killings

10. March 2016.00:00
Testifying at the trial of five former Bosnian Serb fighters charged with crimes in the Teslic area, a defense witness and former fighter described an order issued to shoot Bosniak captives in the village of Rankovic at the beginning of the summer of 1992.

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Defendants Dragan Marjanovic, Sasa Gavranovic, Vitomir Devic, Zoran Sljuka and Dragomir Kezunovic have been charged with the killing of 28 civilians on Mount Borje. The defendants allegedly took the civilians, who were detained on the police premises in Teslic and the nearby Pribinic prison, to Mount Borje on the night of June 17 or 18, 1992, and killed them.

According to the charges, Marjanovic was the commander of the Military Police Squad with the Teslicka Brigade of the Bosnian Serb Army. The other defendants were members of that squad and also members of the military portion of the Mice paramilitary formation.

Milorad Stojanovic testified in defense of Dragan Marjanovic at today’s hearing. Stojanovic described the terror exercised by the Mice formation in Teslic, which later resulted in his arrest.

Stojanovic said the Mice formation fully controlled Teslic at the time and there was no will or opponent strong enough to confront them. He said this is why they were able to order military policemen in the Teslicka Brigade to carry out the Mount Borje killings, which was presented to them by “sergeant” Ranko Sljuka and Dragan Bilanovic, the commander of the Teslicka Brigade of the Bosnian Serb Army.

Stojanovic said this all happened at the Teslic school building, where the military police were located. He said he was on duty in the building that day. He said Bilanovic issued an order to “shoot Muslim extremists due to terrorist activities and their possession of weapons.” This order referred to Bosniaks who had been captured from the village of Rankovic near Teslic.

“They were in an office three meters away from me. I heard them talk about it. They called in five military policemen and told them they had to guard the road where the task would be executed. After that they called on Marjanovic and told him that he and his men would guard the road and fill up a hole that had already been prepared later. Dragan refused to do it, because he said he had not been trained to do that. Sljuka told him everybody had to carry his part of the burden and that he could refuse the order, but he knew where his parents and sister were, so he should decide what to do. He was told there was an order for all of it, so he would not be held responsible,” Stojanovic said.

Stojanovic said he saw the order in the hands of commander Bilanovic’s driver after the war. He said he couldn’t remember his name.

Stojanovic said Ranko Sljuka came to the school again at around midnight, but only stayed briefly. Marjanovic came a couple of hours later.

“It was raining. The weather was horrible. When he came he looked disturbed, out of his mind. He took three policemen with him. He told them not to ask where they were going,” Stojanovic said.

Stojanovic said one of the five military policemen told him on the following day what had happened on Mount Borje.

“Marijan Gacic told me Sasa, Slavuljica, Devic, Gavranovic, Kezunovic were there and that they were shooting,” Stojanovic said.

Dragomir Kezunovic’s defense attorney asked Stojanovic what he meant by “they were there.” The attorney argued that Kezunovic drove the truck carrying the prisoners, but did not participate in the shooting. “Gacic told me he was shooting,” Stojanovic said.

The trial chamber spent a lot of time trying to determine how Stojanovic could have found out about the order and hear all of the details of a conversation between Bilanovic and Sljuka in an office. The trial chamber insisted on more explanation as to how Bilanovic’s driver could have carried an order of execution and showed it to those present in the school building.

Sasa Gavranovic’s defense attorney asked to hear about the details of Bilanovic’s arrival and departure from the school building, as well as the individuals accompanying him. The attorney also pointed out illogical allegations in Stojanovic’s testimony.

“It is not clear how the witness can remember each and every word he heard that night, but he does not know a lot about other things, which he must know given that he was involved in them,” Gavranovic’s defense attorney said.

Defendant Vitomir Devic asked Stojanovic if he had taken money to testify in court. Stojanovic said he hadn’t.

The trial will continue on March 17.

Nedim Hasić

This post is also available in: Bosnian