“ I started wailing, screaming. I wanted to defend him somehow, to shield him … but they told me: ‘Get lost. Get him. We shall cut his throat too.’ ”
Mehmed Alić, a Bosnian Muslim victim of the Omarska Camp, speaking about how he tried to defend his son Enver from Serb soldiers who were about to beat him. He testified on 23 and 24 July 1996 in the case against Duško Tadić.
On 24 May 1992, he was at home with his wife, daughter and two small grandchildren when Serb forces attacked the nearby town of Kozarac. Two days later, Mr. Alić and his family went towards Kozarac to surrender to Serb forces.
“ The men were stripped naked and their bodies were black from beatings. 'They did not look like humans,' said Mr. Alić. After he saw them, Mr. Alić said he could not eat a piece of bread for two days. 'I could never even think that people could do this … to other people.' ”
Columns of people moved through the town in order to surrender. Mr. Alić and his family were among the elderly, women and children who got on a bus that proceeded to Limenka, not far from Kozarac, while a column of people proceeded on foot. Armed Serb forces were waiting there and ordered everyone off the buses. They took all their possessions, separated the Muslim men from the women, and placed the men on the buses.
When Mr. Alić and his family got off the bus, one of the Serb soldiers tried to talk to his daughter, but she could not hear nor speak to him because she was deaf and mute. Mr. Alić stepped in and said, “She cannot talk.” The Serb soldier responded, “Shut up or else I will hit you.”
While Mr. Alić was waiting by the side of the road, he saw ICTY accused Duško Tadić, also known as Dule. He was wearing camouflage, and was in the company of other policemen. Mr. Alić was a friend of Duško Tadić's father, who was about the same age, and both Mr. Alić's sons Enver and Ekrem knew Duško Tadić. His son Ekrem, who was 37 years old in 1992, was about the same age as Tadić. They grew up together and they would all drink together at the same table. When Mr. Alić passed by the elder Tadić’s house, they would exchange pleasantries. This, Mr. Alić said, was typical of relations between Serbs and Muslims during that time. “They made no difference between Serbs and Muslims and Croats,” said Mr. Alić, “We had brotherhood and unity. That is how it used to be until ’92.”
Mr. Alić and the other elderly people were eventually put back on the bus and taken to Trnopolje. There they were told that those who had friends or relatives nearby could stay with them. Mr. Alić went with his family to a house in the area where about 50 people were staying. Mr. Alić made several trips to his house in Kamičani to search for food because, although there was some where they were staying, it was not enough.
Several of Mr. Alić’s Serb neighbours, wearing camouflage and armed to the teeth, and who were manning a checkpoint near his village, warned him not to go. They told him that they were cleansing up there. “It is not safe,” they said, “it is your initiative, but if you get caught you will get killed.” Along the way, Mr. Alić saw houses burning and the people who had been left behind, the blind or the old, being killed.
On Mr. Alić's fourth trip to look for food on 10 June 1992, Serb soldiers seized him and took him to the Omarska camp near Prijedor. The camp consisted of two large buildings, called the hangar and the administrative building, and two smaller buildings, known as the “white house” and the “red house,” and a paved concrete area in between called the “pista.”
When he first arrived he was taken to the camp's headquarters, put up against a wall, and beaten and abused by three soldiers. They slapped Mr. Alić in the face, hit him with a rifle butt, and kicked him in the groin because he did not have his legs spread.
For four days and three nights, he was held on the pista, before being taken to Room 15 in the hangar building. While on the pista, he saw his son Enver, who was 44 years old at the time. When Mr. Alić was moved to Room 15, he was able to speak to his son, who was located behind a door. “Eno,” as Mr. Alić called him, asked where his children were, and what had happened to Ekrem. While he was in Trnopolje, Mr. Alić had found out that Ekrem had been killed.
Mr. Alić said that he could hardly describe the conditions in the camp, as they were nothing like he had ever seen in his life, and he had been a camp detainee during World War II: “…in ’42 I was in a camp, in 1945 I was in a camp, but this camp, it is unimaginable. It is death of a camp, not a camp.” Mr. Alić testified that people were regularly taken out and beaten; some were thrown back into the room, while some never came back.
“ 'Brothers, I have lost my other son. They have killed my son.' Mr. Alić never saw his son Enver alive again. ”
One night, when the Serb soldiers took them out to have a bath, Mr. Alić saw the condition of about 20 men who were held in the “white house.” The men were stripped naked and their bodies were black from beatings. “They did not look like humans,” said Mr. Alić. After he saw them, Mr. Alić said he could not eat a piece of bread for two days. “I could never even think that people could do this … to other people.”
Four or five days after Mr. Alić was moved to Room 15, Serb soldiers came and asked him to come out and find his son Enver. Mr. Alić did not respond immediately. The third time he heard his name called out, the Serb soldier said, “… he is the oldest in the room, I will recognise him, I will kill 20 men for him.” Detainees said to him, “Meho, come on, don’t be crazy. You have to go.” So he went.
A soldier was standing by the door holding an automatic rifle. He hit him with the rifle, but not very well, and ordered him to walk down the stairs and to the hangar with his hands up and his head down. As he walked, next to three soldiers he saw Emir Karabašić, a fellow detainee, sitting on a table with his feet dangling, his body bloody and cut all over with a knife. Emir Karabašić was shaking as water was poured over him.
Mr. Alić jolted when he saw him, causing a soldier to shout: “So you know him, well, you are going to know him, F your mother.” One soldier hit him with a rifle butt in the kidneys, while another hit him on the head with the flat side of the knife, leaving him with a scar that he still had on the day he testified before the ICTY about four years later.
The soldier took Mr. Alić to where his son was and told Mr. Alić to get him. Mr. Alić went up the stairs. When he found Enver, he was shivering. Enver did not want to go out, but Mr. Alić told him he had to. “I was told that if we call you out once again,” Mr. Alić said to his son, “then you will be no more.” Enver put on a leather jacket that someone gave him so that if they beat him it would hurt less.
When they came down the stairs, one soldier was waiting for Mr. Alić and another for Enver. They took a few steps, and one of them told Enver to lie down. He lay down on his stomach, and the soldier kicked Enver on his left side with his right foot. Mr. Alić said that Enver cried out in pain. “I started wailing, screaming. I wanted to defend him somehow, to shield him, to ask them, but they told me, ‘Get lost. Get him. We shall cut his throat too.’” As two soldiers grabbed Enver, he said to Mr. Alić: “Father, take care of my children, look after my children.”
As Mr. Alić was taken away, he heard his son being beaten in the hangar, and shouting, “Dule, brother, how have I wronged you? Why do you beat me?”
When he returned to Room 15, his fellow detainees asked him, “Meho, what is it?” Mr. Alić said, “Brothers, I have lost my other son. They have killed my son.” Mr. Alić never saw his son Enver alive again.
Mehmed Alić was transferred to the Manjača camp on 6 August and released on 26 August 1992.