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Nedeljko Draganić

Delić walked into the hangar … he told us that we are detained because we were Serbs.

Nedeljko Draganić, a Bosnian Serb victim of torture in the Čelebići prison camp, explaining the reason he was detained. He testified on 2 and 3 April 1997 in the case against Zdravko Mucić, Hazim Delić, Esad Landžo, and Zejnil Delalić.

Read his story and testimony

Nedeljko Draganić was 19 years old in 1992, and in his last grade of high school when the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina came to his village. Of Serb ethnicity, he was living in Cerići, a mostly Serb village near Konjic in central Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Then Landžo spilled what Mr. Draganić said was either alcohol or petrol over him. After his lighter did not work, Landžo used a match to set Mr. Draganić’s legs on fire ... "[M]y trousers were completely burnt out and both my legs had burnt."

In his testimony, Mr. Draganić said that Croat forces (HVO) and the Muslim Territorial Defence shelled his village on either 19 or 20 May 1992. During the attack, Mr. Draganić, his brother, mother and father took shelter in a streambed where they spent the night. The village surrendered the next day.

Mr. Draganić, who was not a member of the village's armed defence, was captured on 23 May 1992 together with his brother. The Croatian HVO and the Muslim Territorial Defence rounded up the men from the village and took them to the Čelebići prison camp, which was a large complex of buildings and hangars with a railway line running through it. Initially they were told that they would be going for an informative interview and that they would be home by that evening. Mr. Draganić was held in the camp for three months.

“I was never told personally what was the reason for my capture,” said Mr. Draganić, “but [camp commander Hazim] Delic … on one occasion … told us that we are detained because we were Serbs,” said Mr. Draganić.

When they entered the Čelebići prison camp, Mr. Draganić and the other men were lined up against a wall and searched. They were told to take out their shoelaces and hand over their personal IDs. They did not take any valuables from Mr. Draganić because he did not have any.

Mr. Draganić spent the next three nights together with about 16 or 17 people in a tunnel that was one and a half metres wide, two metres high, about twenty metres long, and had no light. He was eventually transferred to a large metal building, 30 metres long and 13 metres wide, which is fully enclosed and has doors down one side, called Hangar 6. He was held there together with some 250 people.

The detainees slept on the concrete floor, with their heads on each other’s legs. When it was hot outside, it was also hot inside the hangar, and when it rained, the people on one side of the building could not sleep at all because everything got wet. They had to ask the guards who were posted outside the building to be allowed to use the toilet facilities, which consisted of a hole with a plank across it.

Mr. Draganić said that for food they received a slice of bread and sometimes three to four spoonfuls each of vegetable stew. They all ate from the same bowl and used the same five spoons. Some days, and for as many as three to four days, they did not get any food. Mr. Draganić said that the situation improved in August 1992, when Zdravko Mucić, the camp commander, allowed the detainees’ families to bring food to the camp.

Mr. Draganić described for the court a number of occasions when he was beaten and abused during the three months that he was at the camp. The guard who mistreated him the most, said Mr. Draganić, was camp guard Esad Landžo, also known by the nickname “Zenga,” which is derived from the acronym for a Croatian military unit called the Croatian National Guard—ZNG. Mr. Draganić knew Landžo, who is about a year younger than him, from before the war because they went to the same high school, and he saw him in the hallways, as well as in the cafes about town.

Mr. Draganić did not receive immediate medical care after he was burnt, and the wound blistered and became infected ... "You don’t need that," Delić told him. "You won’t last very long."

Mr. Draganić said that Esad Landžo beat him almost every day, usually using a baseball bat. But there were also a number of occasions when Landžo was among those who severely mistreated him.

Mr. Draganić told the court that the first time he was mistreated, Esad Landžo and three others called him out of Hangar 6, took him to another hangar and tied his hands to a beam above his head. All four of them beat him with planks and rifle butts and kicked him until he lost consciousness. While beating him, they asked him where his rifle was. Mr. Draganić kept repeating that he did not have one. After what Mr. Draganić said must have been an hour, they took him back to Hangar 6.

Mr. Draganić stated that on another occasion, Esad Landžo and another person took him out at night and beat him on the lawn in front of a hangar. Mr. Draganić fainted two or three times in the course of this beating before Landžo grabbed him by the hair and dragged him back to Hangar 6.

At the end of June or beginning of July, on yet another occasion of abuse that Mr. Draganić related to the court, Esad Landžo took him to another hangar and told him to sit against the wall with his legs close together. Then Landžo spilled what Mr. Draganić said was either alcohol or petrol over him. After his lighter did not work, Landžo used a match to set Mr. Draganić’s legs on fire. “[H]e did not allow me to put the fire out until it was put out by itself,” said Mr. Draganić. “[M]y trousers were completely burnt out and both my legs had burnt.”

Mr. Draganić did not receive immediate medical care after he was burnt, and the wound blistered and became infected. About a week later two physicians from Konjic were in the infirmary in the camp, and they cleaned his wounds for him. Afterwards, deputy commander Hazim Delić would not allow Mr. Draganić to go to the infirmary very often. “You don’t need that,” Delić told him. “You won’t last very long.” After two or three weeks, because Delić would not let him go to the infirmary to have his wounds cleaned, Mr. Draganić asked camp commander Zdravko Mucić for permission, which he granted.

On 12 August 1992, the Red Cross came to the camp. A few days earlier, Mr. Draganić was moved to the infirmary and stayed there until a day or two after they left. A French doctor examined his wounds and noted down his statement, in which Mr. Draganić explained everything that had happened to his legs. When the Red Cross left the camp, Hazim Delić ordered an Albanian, who was a cook there, and a another man to beat Mr. Draganić. Delić stood by while they beat him. When he said, “Enough,” they stopped.

Mr. Draganić's leg remained in that condition until late August when he was released. At the time he testified, Mr. Draganić still had a scar from the burns on his left leg, which he showed the court.

Mr. Draganić testified that most guards would especially beat the prisoners at night or other times when Zdravko Mucić was away. One time when Landžo and others were beating him, they hurried him back out of fear that Mucić was coming.

Apart from the beatings, Mr. Draganić told the court that one of the ways that Esad Landžo mistreated all the detainees was to force them to drink each other’s urine. “I was one of those who had to drink that,” said Mr. Draganić.

While detained at the Čelebići camp, Mr. Draganić witnessed the murder of Simo Jovanović, a 60 year-old man who owned a fish farm and was from the village of Idbar in the municipality of Konjic. Mr. Draganić heard Esad Landžo call Mr. Jovanović out, and heard Mr. Jovanović's moans and the sound of blows as he was being beaten. He heard Mr. Jovanović plead, “Please don’t do it, brothers.” During the time that he could hear the moans and the blows, Mr. Draganić heard Landžo's voice. Later a few of the detainees were called to bring Mr. Jovanović back into Hangar 6. Mr. Jovanović was dead in the morning.

Mr. Draganić and the other detainees also witnessed an old man being beaten to death. Mr. Draganić could not remember his name, but said that he was about 60 years old, had two sons and a brother, and was from the village of Bradina. Esad Landžo was in the group of people who beat the man with planks, rifle butts, baseball bats and their hands and feet, and indeed, Mr. Draganić believes that Landžo beat him the most. After the old man fell, a fellow detainee pulled out his tongue. They heard that the old man died after he was transferred to the infirmary. The incident occurred around St. Peter's day, 12 July, at the time when Muslim officers were killed in the Bradina area. According to Mr Draganić, this is when detainees from Bradina were beaten severely.

Mr. Draganić left the camp around 30 August 1992 after receiving his release certificate from Zdravko Mucić. Later his brother and father were also released.

Nedeljko Draganić testified on 2 and 3 April 1997 in the case against Zdravko Mucić, Hazim Delić, Esad Landžo, and Zejnil Delalić. The Tribunal convicted Esad Landžo of willfully causing Nedeljko Draganić great suffering or serious injury and treating him cruelly. For these and other crimes, Esad Landžo was sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment. The Tribunal also convicted Hazim Delić, the camp's deputy commander and later commander, and Zdravko Mucić, the camp's commander, sentencing them to 18 and 9 years’ imprisonment, respectively, for crimes committed in the Čelebići camp. Bosnian Army commander Zejnil Delalić was acquitted because the court found that he did not have command and control over the Čelebići camp and the guards who worked there.

> Read Nedeljko Draganić's full testimony

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