Facing Up to Mladic After Surviving a Massacre

20. November 2017.12:43
Grgo Stojic is the only victim of a wartime massacre in the Bosnian village of Skrljevita who survived to testify against former Bosnian Serb Army commander Ratko Mladic in the Hague Tribunal courtroom.

This post is also available in: Bosnian

Grgo Stojic is eagerly awaiting the Hague Tribunal’s verdict on Ratko Mladic, which is scheduled for Wednesday this week, because he survived one of the crimes of which the former Bosnian Serb Army chief stands accused.

Stojic was the only person left alive after a mass shooting which he says was carried out by Bosnian Serb Army troops at the Glamosnica forest in the village of Skrljevita, near Sanski Most in north-west Bosnia in 1992.

He testified at Mladic’s trial at the UN court in The Hague, and is hoping for a conviction.

“I doubt he has a normal or clear conscience… To me, he is not even a man,” he said of Mladic.

Stojic said in an interview with BIRN that he fulfilled his “moral obligation” by testifying for the prosecution in the trial.

“Why should I hide what I went through? Why not tell the truth?” he asked.

Mladic is charged with being responsible as the army’s commander for the massacre on November 2, 1992, when Bosnian Serb soldiers killed several men in Skrljevita.

He is also accused of responsibility for genocide in six Bosnian municipalities including Sanski Most in 1992, genocide in Srebrenica in 1995, terrorising the population of Sarajevo, taking members of international forces hostage and persecuting Bosniaks and Croats across Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Mladic’s defence lawyer Miodrag Stojanovic has insisted that the evidence proves that the former Bosnian Serb military chief had no knowledge about crimes against humanity and killings of non-Serbs in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Gunfire, then pain

Stojic recalled how on the day of the massacre, he was returning to his home village of Skrljevita with his cousin Dragan Tadic when Serb soldiers armed with automatic rifles stopped them.

“We said, ‘Good day.’ They did not return the greeting,” Stojic recalled.

“They asked us where we were from and whether we had our documents with us. I gave them my documents and Dragan then did the same. He read them aloud and told us to join other people from our village who were there as well.”

He and his cousin Tadic were then taken around 20 meters away, where a soldier was holding a rifle pointed at their neighbours Ante Tutic, Josip Banovic and Zarko and Petar Nikic. The soldiers then hit and robbed them.

“We were lined up. I was the fifth in the row. Tadic was standing next to me,” he said.

“A command was then given: ‘Open fire!’ At first I felt I was shot in my left arm and then I fell down… When another burst was fired, I was shot in my hip and stomach.”

After the shooting, the soldiers ran away, he said, and it became clear that he was the only one who had survived the shooting.

He managed to crawl to his brother’s house in the village and was taken to a local hospital. After that he was transferred to Prijedor and then to Banja Luka, where he underwent surgery.

His ordeal didn’t end there, however.

A few days after the surgery, Stojic was transferred from his hospital room to a prison cell inside the hospital building.

“When I was brought in front of the cell, I saw some military policemen standing there. The nurse asked them where she should put me and a soldier said, ‘Just dump him on the floor,’” he said.

“When I got there, I saw my neighbour Ivo Nikic. I told him, ‘See what has happened to us, although we are not guilty of anything. Not being Serbs is our only guilt.”

Stojic said he was humiliated, mistreated and beaten during the course of his detention. He was forced to do the three-finger Serb salute and sing some nationalist songs.

Pillaged and destroyed

Some time later, Stojic and his neighbour were transferred from the cell to another location. In mid-November 1992, he was registered by the International Red Cross and was released to Croatia a month later.

Stojic said he struggled to get adequate medical care in Croatia for months, and was eventually transferred to the US in 1994.

He lives in Croatia now. He has a 70 per cent disability rating and mental problems caused by the trauma he suffered back in 1992.

“I live with my brothers, who help me… I do a little bit of work, as much as my condition allows me,” he explained.

He does some work in the fields, and he prays in church: “It keeps me going… faith alone.”

Stojic still visits the village of Skrljevita several times a year, but says it is no longer what it was before the war.

“Unfortunately, nobody lives in that village [any more]. It is totally pillaged and destroyed,” he said.

“There is not a single undestroyed building except for the chapel at the cemetery, which needs to be renovated. That is the only thing that has remained. Whatever was left, was stolen.”

Albina Sorguč

This post is also available in: Bosnian