1 Tuesday, 31 January 2006
2 [Open session]
3 [The accused entered court]
4 --- Upon commencing at 2.24 p.m.
5 JUDGE PARKER: My apologies for the delay in the Chamber coming in
7 Mr. Moore.
8 MR. MOORE: Your Honour, it wasn't actually me who pressed the
9 button. It seemed to have come on voluntarily; I don't know if it's a
10 sign from God or someone else.
11 But may I deal initially, please, with two or three preliminary
12 matters. One I hope Your Honours should have received at lunch-time today
13 a list of witnesses that we are hoping not to call and it should start
14 with a gentleman called Degin [phoen]. Can I just indicate that my
15 learned friends have just had a chance of seeing it themselves. I clearly
16 have got to discuss that with them, whether there are any issues that may
17 require our clarification, but that is our intended position at this time.
18 In respect of the 89(F) witnesses, I certainly did mention it on
19 Thursday. We have looked at the witnesses completely afresh, and we take
20 the view that perhaps Your Honour is right. It might be better if we just
21 call the witnesses as they stand at this time. We are dealing with
22 Velepromet witnesses, none of those should be 89(F), Ovcara witnesses, and
23 then we go into the military witnesses. I would not expect any
24 application for 89(F) for Velepromet or Ovcara witnesses, but in respect
25 of the military it depends on the nature of the cross-examination, whether
1 there would be any duplication and whether there is any need to, as it
2 were, repeat or duplicate that evidence, and I suspect that can be
3 clarified fairly soon after we embark on that group of witnesses
5 We have in this trial been taking two or three witnesses a week.
6 We anticipate that there are approximately 30 witnesses to be called at
7 this time, and therefore we will fall within the time-scale of the end of
8 April for concluding our case. Those are the estimates that we have
9 worked out.
10 In respect of the agreed facts, we have actually agreed a large
11 number of facts but they need to be fine-tuned. I've spoken with the
12 Defence today about one matter, and I hope that that can be resolved. It
13 relates to the number of people found at the grave, the removal of one
14 word and perhaps replacement by another, namely "patients" with "persons,"
15 because perhaps the Court might want to determine who are patients and who
16 are not. And I think that is a perfectly reasonable objection by the
17 Defence and we will change it to "persons."
18 And in relation to other matters, I believe that we are fairly
19 close to concluding that.
20 There is one matter, however, that I would wish some assistance
21 from the Court. I mean it not in any discourteous way at all. The
22 Defence have agreed or admitted that there has been a conflict, and there
23 is a conflict. Whether it be internal or international, I don't think
24 there is any dispute about that at all. And I had the feeling, if I may
25 use that phrase, that there was the possibility that a constitution expert
1 might be called by the Defence, that that was going to be become an issue.
2 Now, if that is the case, I would like to think that that matter
3 would be stated now in open court. I understand clearly that the Court
4 must determine certain elements in relation to jurisdiction. But if there
5 is any constitutional argument, in my submission it should have been
6 stated in the Defence briefs. It would be an issue that we would wish to
7 consider. At this time, we take the view that there is evidence from Okun
8 which covers that topic. But I think in fairness to the Prosecution, we
9 would submit that if there is going to be a constitutional expert called
10 here that we should have notice of the problem, if it be a problem, or,
11 should I say, of the issue that requires clarification. And we submit
12 that should have been pleaded at the very outset, if that is the case.
13 JUDGE PARKER: Thank you, Mr. Moore.
14 Mr. Vasic, are you able to assist on that last point?
15 MR. VASIC: [Interpretation] Good afternoon to all. Thank you very
16 much, Your Honour. I believe I am able to assist on this last point.
17 If the Defence's understanding of what the indictment states is
18 correct, and this is what we are acting upon in this trial, the mention
19 there is of the existence of a conflict. I don't think the issue of
20 international conflict is raised in the indictment. We would indeed be
21 challenging that. Otherwise, however, there --
22 JUDGE PARKER: I think you can take it that the Chamber sees no
23 hint of international armed conflict in the indictment. That might help
25 MR. VASIC: [Interpretation] By all means, it does, Your Honour.
1 Thank you very much.
2 We believe this to be an internal conflict, and the question
3 raised by my learned friend as we believe will not be raised in such a
4 manner that we would be compelled to call a constitutional expert as part
5 of our Defence case. There may be a number of other categories that might
6 be challenged throughout this trial, such as the constitutional role of
7 the JNA, or tasks and obligations stemming from the constitution itself,
8 or the constitutional role of the Presidency and the federal secretary for
9 All People's Defence. As for the nature of the conflict, I think the
10 situation is rather clear, and I don't think there will be any problems in
11 that respect, as my learned friend has pointed out.
12 As for the agreed facts, the Defence would like to draw the Trial
13 Chamber's attention to the fact that last week we agreed on more than half
14 of those, which is a great deal more than the expectations had been for
15 this. And after my learned friend put forward his own position, there was
16 just one fact that the Defence teams found themselves unable to agree, at
17 least not in the form proposed by the OTP. As my learned friend has just
18 stated, we are well on the way to agreeing on that point, too, and we hope
19 to be able to submit a motion to the Trial Chamber as soon as possible on
20 all the agreed facts agreed by the parties through our mutual cooperation.
21 There is another matter that I wish to raise. I'm talking about
22 the obligation that we took upon ourselves. We promised the Trial Chamber
23 that we would consider the positions of the Defence teams in relation to
24 the statements that we were given by our learned friend pursuant to
25 Rule 66(A)(ii) in relation to witnesses who have already been heard or
1 part heard before this Trial Chamber. The Defence has done its best to,
2 first of all, act in the best possible interests of our clients, but also
3 to contribute to expediting the proceedings. We cut down our proposals
4 only to those cases that in the view of the Defence are necessary in order
5 to still be in compliance with Article 21 of the Statute.
6 The Defence believes that in view of the fact that witnesses
7 Bosanac and Njavro are anyway expected to return to the Tribunal to give
8 further testimony that this opportunity should be used to allow the
9 Defence to cross-examine these witnesses - I'm referring here to the
10 Mrksic and Radic Defence teams - to cross-examine them on the points
11 raised by the new documents that we have in the meantime received. As for
12 Mr. Sljivancanin's Defence, they did not even begin to cross-examine
13 Mr. Njavro. Therefore, we believe that the Defence team should be
14 allowed, once Ms. Bosanac is here, to cross-examine her on facts related
15 to documents received later on. As for Mr. Njavro, the Mrksic and Radic
16 Defence teams, we believe, should be allowed to cross-examine him on
17 matters related to these new documents. Mr. Sljivancanin's Defence is yet
18 to cross-examine this particular witness anyway.
19 The Defence has two further proposals. For this purpose, it might
20 be a good idea to go into private session, since I am about to mention two
21 witnesses who are using a pseudonym and who at least in part testified in
22 private session.
23 JUDGE PARKER: Private.
24 [Private session]
11 Page 3408 redacted. Private session.
12 [Open session]
13 THE REGISTRAR: We are back in open session, Your Honours.
14 MR. VASIC: [Interpretation] Thank you very much, Your Honour. I'm
15 not sure if I've answered all the questions that were asked. I certainly
16 hope that I have, because at this point I have nothing further to add.
17 JUDGE PARKER: Can I just be clear, Mr. Vasic. Are you proposing
18 that in addition to Mrs. Bosanac and Dr. Njavro that the witnesses P-013
19 and P-021 be recalled? Is that what you are proposing?
20 MR. VASIC: [Interpretation] Yes, Your Honour, indeed.
21 JUDGE PARKER: Thank you. Thank you very much, Mr. Vasic. I take
22 it you were speaking for all three Defences, were you?
23 Mr. Borovic.
24 MR. BOROVIC: [Interpretation] Good afternoon, Your Honours. I do
25 have one or two small issues, so to speak, to raise before this Chamber.
1 I will try to be very brief.
2 On the 15th of November the Defence moved that a document be
3 marked for identification. The number of this document was 67. The
4 reason it was marked for identification is the English translation was
5 missing at the time. In the meantime, we have been able to obtain an
6 English translation; it's already introduced into the system. As these
7 conditions have been met, we would like to tender document 67 into
8 evidence as a full-fledged exhibit now.
9 JUDGE PARKER: It will be received, Mr. Borovic. I was just
10 casting my eye about for objections. There seemed to be none. Yes.
11 MR. BOROVIC: [Interpretation] Thank you, Your Honour.
12 The other more important matter that I wish to raise, and I --
13 that we believe the Chamber should deal with is a problem faced by the
14 Defence in relation to a witness statement, number 5022. This is a
15 crucial witness to Miroslav Radic's defence. Even the status of this
16 particular witness might change if the Defence is able to find their way
17 around, in a manner of speaking, while cross-examining this witness. But
18 in view of the fact that as early as the 13th of October, 2005 we asked
19 the OTP to serve on us the statement of this witness, I regret to say we
20 only received it by mid-January 2006. I think the OTP is very fair, and I
21 think we have a very successful cooperation, but as they know themselves
22 based on the indictment that this witness is essential to us. I wonder
23 why only one day has been put aside for the cross-examination.
24 We had received on CD both the B/C/S and the English translation
25 of this statement. Pursuant to Rule 66(A)(ii) and Article 21 of the
1 Statute, I believe the OTP should do their best to serve on the accused a
2 transcript in a language he understands. The interpretation is possible
3 that the CD should do, and the accused and his Defence team should somehow
4 be able to work with that. However, there are over 11 hours of recorded
5 conversation on the CD, which means five times 11 hours by the Defence and
6 the accused in order to prepare properly for cross-examining this material
7 witness. To keep it brief, since this seems to be technically possible,
8 can the Chamber please urge the OTP to serve a transcript of Witness P-022
9 to both the Defence team and the accused himself.
10 That is all. Thank you.
11 JUDGE PARKER: Thank you. Nothing? Thank you, very much,
12 Mr. Lukic. If the court registry officer would receive that Exhibit
13 MFI 67. It's been done, so it is now Exhibit 67. Thank you.
14 Mr. Moore. First, perhaps the last point raised by Mr. Borovic.
15 MR. MOORE: May we go into private session, please, in relation to
16 this witness?
17 JUDGE PARKER: Private.
18 [Private session]
11 Pages 3412-3418 redacted. Private session.
22 [Open session]
23 MR. MOORE: Thank you very much. We are in a position to proceed.
24 The witness is outside. To assist the Court, I will be taking the unusual
25 step of leading this witness in relation to certain medical problems which
1 he received as a result of matters in 1991, 1992. And I want to deal with
2 that first.
3 JUDGE PARKER: Very well. If the witness could be brought in.
4 [The witness entered court]
5 JUDGE PARKER: Good afternoon, sir. Would you please stand and
6 take the card in your hand that is offered to you now? If you would read
7 aloud the affirmation.
8 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] I solemnly swear that I will speak
9 the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
10 JUDGE PARKER: Thank you very much. Please sit down.
11 WITNESS: JOSIP COVIC
12 [Witness answered through interpreter]
13 JUDGE PARKER: Mr. Moore.
14 Examination by Mr. Moore:
15 Q. Could we have your full name, please.
16 A. My name is Josip Covic. (redacted)
18 Q. Thank you very much. And what age are you now, please?
19 A. I am 67. I will be 68 in two months' time.
20 Q. Mr. Covic, in a few moments I will ask you about matters
21 concerning Vukovar in 1991. But I want to deal, please, with the very end
22 of your ordeal when you were in a camp and then subsequently released to
23 Zagreb. Can we just deal with that very shortly?
24 When you returned to Zagreb, what sort of medical condition did
25 you have at that time?
1 A. When I returned to Zagreb my health issues were multifold. I had
2 a severe pneumonia, broken jaws, as well as my nose. I had concussions on
3 my brain as well as injuries to my spine.
4 Q. And how long did you stay in hospital when you returned to Zagreb?
5 A. After having returned to Zagreb it lasted throughout 1992. I
6 spent that year in several hospitals. If necessary, I can be more
7 specific as to their names.
8 MR. MOORE: Your Honour, may we go into private session in
9 relation to certain confidential matters?
10 JUDGE PARKER: Private.
11 [Private session]
18 [Open session]
19 THE REGISTRAR: We are back in open session, Your Honours.
20 MR. MOORE: Thank you very much.
21 Q. Mr. Covic, may we deal please in very brief form, what was your
22 job before 1991?
23 A. Before 1991 I worked with Elektroprivreda as one of the managing
24 sales staff. The company dealt with the distribution of electricity.
25 That was my job.
1 Q. And could you be described as being politically active before
3 A. Yes, I was active. Politically I used to be a member of the
4 League of Communists until the beginning of the war.
5 Q. Can we deal then, please, with May 1991? I think it's right to
6 say that there was an incident at Borovo Selo. I think the specific date
7 was the 2nd of May. Do you remember that?
8 A. Yes, I remember it very well. There were some employees from
9 Borovo Selo, and we heard the shooting inside the company compound, and
10 the people from Borovo Selo told us about what it looked like there.
11 Q. And did you take any part in any organisation of what I will
12 neutrally call the defence of Vukovar?
13 A. Yes, it is correct. It was at that time that the potential
14 defence started being organised in case there would be an attack against
15 the city. And I was called in to help, since I used to be a reserve
16 officer of the JNA. My military term was as one of the students at the
17 reserve officers' school.
18 Q. And what was your role at that time?
19 A. Having in mind my age, and my health status, because in 1992 I
20 underwent a difficult lung operation, my role was rather advisory, if I
21 may say so. When the attack on Vukovar occurred, my primary role was to
22 procure food for the defenders.
23 Q. And I think it's right to say that your son was also involved. Is
24 that correct?
25 A. Yes, he was involved. I offered advice in terms of how to defend
1 mainly in the sense of their own protection, to increase it.
2 Q. You have told us that you were an officer in the JNA. If I take
3 the time-scale from May 1991 until November 1991, can you tell the Court
4 or assist the Court in describing the type of weapons that the people
5 defending Vukovar had?
6 A. At the beginning, the defenders had hunting rifles given by the
7 hunters and the odd M-48. I don't know how they managed to purchase them.
8 I guess from various sources, but I don't know about that.
9 Q. What about what I will call heavy weapons? Did you see or can you
10 describe to the Court the heavy weapons that the Croat defenders had?
11 A. At the very beginning they had no heavy weapons. Later they did,
12 but they were very few pieces. There were several artillery pieces, guns,
13 and some of the weapons came from Borovo. There used to be a factory or
14 rather a department in the factory which dealt with machinery and they
15 used to produce something for our defenders. And the defenders kept
16 saying that those pieces served them well.
17 Q. How did the number of those pieces compare with the heavy weapons
18 and number of the opposing JNA army?
19 A. A comparison of heavy weaponry owned by the defence and the actual
20 shelling by the JNA against Vukovar, well, it is very difficult to
21 compare. The difference was enormous. When the attack began, shells were
22 raining. There were a thousand shells a day at least that fell on the
24 Q. Are you able to say whether those shells that you have described
25 were targeted only on military targets or not?
1 A. No, not the military targets. There were no military targets,
2 there were only the defence lines of the local population and the
3 defenders who came to our assistance. They shelled the entire city
4 irrespective of where the defenders were located. That is why lots of
5 civilians were injured.
6 Q. And finally this: What about uniforms for the Croatian defenders?
7 Can you tell us the extent of the uniforms that they had?
8 A. There were very few uniforms, perhaps an occasional part of a
9 uniform. The only people who had uniforms were the police who were also
10 counted amongst the defenders, and they came to our assistance from Zadar.
11 They were uniformed as policemen.
12 Q. Let us deal with what I will call the coordination of the Vukovar
13 defence. Where was that coordinated?
14 A. Coordination of defence, well, the defence commanders would send
15 out people, individuals to the lines of defence and they provided advice
16 as to how to defend. Since I was in the role I described, I forwarded
17 such advice to the defenders and I told them to dig deeper trenches so
18 they could be better protected when defending.
19 Q. And where was the ZNG headquarters located, please?
20 A. The headquarters of the defence of Vukovar was across the street
21 from the municipal building. Before the war that building housed the
22 recruitment office. There was a nuclear shelter in the building and
23 that's where the defence headquarters were situated.
24 Q. Can I ask you now, please, about airplanes. Did you see any
25 airplanes being used to attack Vukovar?
1 A. Yes, I did. It was in our part of the town, Vukovar -- that is
2 the outskirts of Vukovar towards Bogdanovci. We were shelled and bombed.
3 I saw our defenders bring down a couple of planes. They had hand-held
4 rocket launchers. After that the sorties were reduced, but the howitzer
5 and gun shelling increased as well as the use of mortars. That is, they
6 used all artillery weapons they had available.
7 Q. Did you ever see any JNA or ships on the Danube being used?
8 A. I personally did not see that. But the people who were near the
9 Danube told me that, the people who were close to the high school. That
10 is at the foot of the hill and from that point they could see Backa, and
11 behind Vukovarska Ada they saw some ships in Dunavac, and those ships were
12 opening fire at Vukovar.
13 Q. Can I deal with the forces who were active against the Vukovar
14 enclave? Did you see any paramilitary forces being used against you at
15 that time?
16 A. I didn't see paramilitary forces because I was never at the front
17 line or at the first line of defence. The basic function of people like
18 myself and the parents was to provide food for the defenders; that's what
19 we did. It was very difficult to do, because we were out of electricity
20 and water and food, and it was very difficult for us to secure food for
21 them. But that was our principal function. And what we heard was what we
22 were told by the defenders. They would tell us how the day went and such
24 Q. We have heard evidence that loudspeakers were used against the
25 Vukovar defenders. Were you aware of that or not?
1 A. Yes, I was aware, and I heard of it. A loudspeaker was used and
2 one could hear Seselj's voice. Seselj, the Chetnik, we called him, just
3 Seselj, according to his last name. He moved about and the defenders saw
4 them, and they told us we recognised him by his voice. He moved between
5 the barracks to the part of the town called Petrova Gora, and he was
6 calling out to Ustashas to surrender. And we learned from him that Blago
7 Zadro was killed and he said we would be killed the same as Blago Zadro
8 was unless we surrendered.
9 Q. Can you remember any other things the person that you believed to
10 be Seselj was saying?
11 A. The only thing I know about him is that when he was in the area he
12 would spend his nights in the house of a local person by the name of
13 Vojnovic. He was the managing director of Tehnostan before the war, and
14 he stayed at his house. That's the only thing we know, and we were told
15 that by the defenders.
16 THE INTERPRETER: Interpreters would kindly ask Mr. Moore to move
17 the microphone closer. Thank you.
18 MR. MOORE: Is that closer to me or closer to the witness?
19 THE INTERPRETER: To speak into the microphone, please.
20 MR. MOORE: Did Your Honour happen to hear a reference from the
22 JUDGE PARKER: Yes, he's asking you to speak into the microphone.
23 MR. MOORE: I hope they can hear me now.
24 JUDGE PARKER: I can.
25 MR. MOORE: All right.
1 Q. Can we deal now, please, with a different topic? I want to deal
2 with what is being called the fall of Vukovar. Is it right that at one
3 time you were in the Sajmiste area?
4 THE INTERPRETER: Mr. Moore, please stop touching the microphone.
5 Thank you.
6 THE WITNESS: I was at Sajmiste all the time. As I mentioned
7 before, my basic task was to provide food for the defenders and to take
8 back the wounded to the hospital. That was the most difficult thing to
9 do, because we had to go to the lines and return the wounded back to the
10 hospital. Perhaps on the 2nd or the 3rd of November we withdrew towards
11 the stadium. The part between Sajmiste and the stadium is called Rupa.
12 That's where we withdrew to.
13 Q. Let us then deal, if we may, to what could be called the day that
14 Vukovar fell. We knew that to be the 18th of November. Are you aware of
16 A. Yes. It's usually taken to be the 18th, the 18th is usually taken
17 to be the day of Vukovar's fall. But that was the day when most of
18 Vukovar fell, as it were. The day of the final fall was the 19th, in
19 fact, because back on the 18th Borovo Naselje had not yet fallen, and this
20 was part of Vukovar. So if we're talking about the town in its entirety,
21 the city in its entirety, I would say the 19th. However, our authorities
22 decided that the 18th should be marked as the day when Vukovar fell.
23 Q. And where did you go to when Vukovar fell?
24 A. When Vukovar fell, we spent that last night on the premises of my
25 company which happens to be near the hospital, the distance being about 50
1 metres. That was where we spent the night between the 18th and the 19th,
2 right there inside the company.
3 Q. I think it's right that eventually you went to the hospital. Is
4 that correct or not?
5 A. Yes. On the morning of the 19th we went to the hospital. A
6 number of persons did, and I was among them. We wanted all the civilians
7 who were in my company, and there many of those, not just our employees,
8 but people from the surrounding areas, to be taken to the hospital
9 compound in the hope that once we were there we would be the first to be
10 exchanged and sent back to free Croatian territory.
11 Q. And can you describe to the Court what it was like at the hospital
12 that day when you arrived?
13 A. When we first arrived at the hospital we asked for the hospital
14 director, Ms. Bosanac, to inform us about the general situation. She told
15 us that this particular district had already fallen in its entirety and
16 that the aggressors were encircling the hospital. She told us to all come
17 to the hospital, if we could. I personally went several times back and
18 forth between the hospital and my company's premises in order to talk all
19 the civilians, as there were women and children there too, into coming
20 with me to the hospital. To this very day I'm still glad I managed to
21 persuade them, and we finally reached the hospital compound.
22 Q. Would you be able to estimate how many people were in the hospital
23 compound on the afternoon of the 18th of November?
24 A. The 19th, I'm talking about the 19th, because we had spent the
25 previous night in the company, and it was early on the 19th that we went
1 to the hospital. I would say there were about 2.000 or 3.000 of them
2 there. That's my take on it. However, I am certain that people who went
3 to some of the upper floors of the hospital would say, would put the
4 estimate at more like 5.000, but it's very difficult to say. It's a
5 difficult call to make.
6 Q. Can you remember the arrival of what I will call JNA/TO forces at
7 the hospital?
8 A. It was not before that afternoon or evening. It was beginning to
9 get dark and there were two hospital gates, as it were, one facing
10 Ivo Lola Ribar Street, the other facing Bozidar Adzija Street. We saw
11 some local people there who called themselves the TO. Across the way from
12 the building, I believe the psychiatric ward was there, we saw several
13 soldiers there and later on we also saw a number of JNA officers.
14 Q. Are you able to remember what the TO were saying at that time?
15 A. It must have been about 8.00 or 9.00 p.m., night-time, that we
16 observed, not I personally, someone from reception asked to speak to me,
17 and this friend of mine said he thought I should stay within the hospital
18 compound. I was still standing in the corridor, but he then told me that
19 there were officer there speaking to some persons wearing white coats. He
20 said he didn't know if these were the Red Cross people or the UN.
21 MR. MOORE: Can I just ask you --
22 JUDGE PARKER: Mr. Moore.
23 Yes, Mr. Lukic.
24 MR. LUKIC: [Interpretation] I did not wish to interrupt the
25 witness. However, I would ask my learned friend to try not to lead the
1 witness this much.
2 I missed something on page 29, line 1. There was a reference to
3 him being at Sajmiste, that was a leading question. Further, page 27,
4 line 5, another leading question. Further, page 27, line 13, another
5 leading question. All of these questions I believe to be leading. Since
6 the witness is being examined in chief, I believe the questions should be
7 phrased in a different manner. If I am right, I would ask the Trial
8 Chamber to please warn the OTP about this.
9 JUDGE PARKER: Mr. Moore, I realise that a number of these
10 questions are merely guiding the witness to particular subject matter, but
11 it's also fair to say that you are probably approaching a fairly sensitive
12 area and caution is called for.
13 MR. MOORE: Yes, sir.
14 JUDGE PARKER: Thank you.
15 MR. MOORE:
16 Q. Can we just deal with the time that you were at the Vukovar
17 Hospital, Mr. Covic. Did you see any TO or JNA on the 19th?
18 MR. MOORE: I'm sorry, I see objections being raised by my learned
19 friends. I submit that is not a leading question at all.
20 JUDGE PARKER: No, it's not leading. It's directing to a subject
22 MR. MOORE:
23 Q. Mr. Covic, can you answer that question for us. Did you see any
24 JNA or TO soldiers at the Vukovar Hospital or not?
25 A. Yes, I saw two TO members. As we were being boarded on to those
1 trucks in which we were driven to Velepromet, I saw that group of officers
2 standing at about 30 or 40 metres from me. It was night-time but you
3 could clearly see by their uniforms that those were JNA officers.
4 Standing with them, as we later learned, was someone from the UN, persons
5 who at the time I believed to be the Red Cross.
6 Q. Did you recognise any members of the TO who were in the hospital?
7 A. Yes. I recognised those two at the main gate facing
8 Ivo Lola Ribar Street. One of them was called Ziko. That's what we
9 called him. The real name was Zivojin Jergic. He worked in my company,
10 and this Zivko, Zivojin Jergic, was approached by a local man from Vukovar
11 hoping that he would save us, since we were mates from work. He went
12 there to speak to him and he asked to see me personally, another friend,
13 Pero Nacuk [phoen] and his son who at the time was aged 18. He said we
14 were fervent Ustashas and he wanted to kill us. That was one of the two
15 TO men. The other was -- the other side of the gate when we were leaving
16 in those lorries, headed for Velepromet. The other one's name was Pero
17 Pavlica. There is another one that I remember who I believe to be very
18 important. He was nicknamed Capalo. His real name is Mirko Vojnovic.
19 While we were standing at the corridor, the gate itself and on the steps
20 just outside the hospital, he entered the hospital, he cursed our Ustasha
21 mother saying that he was on his way down to the basement where he would
22 kill some Ustashas. We know this man, everybody knows him in Vukovar. He
23 was a common criminal before the war. He never worked in order to earn
24 his living. He lived by crime.
25 Q. Can I deal with Capalo, the man you called Vojnovic. How was he
2 A. He was wearing a JNA uniform but it was a very jaded and
3 threadbare one, quite dirty. I don't know how it got to be that way. It
4 did look like a JNA uniform though.
5 Q. Are you able to say if he was armed whilst in the hospital?
6 A. Yes. He was armed. He was carrying an automatic rifle slung over
7 his shoulder. I saw this when he passed me. I saw him carry a pistol
8 too. I was just at the gate myself at this point in time and I saw him
9 clearly as he was passing.
10 Q. You mentioned initially a man called Jergic who you said wanted to
11 kill you. How was he dressed?
12 A. He was wearing the same clothes as Capalo. And this other man I
13 know, he is unfortunately dead. He died during his exile in the camp [as
14 interpreted] later on. Gabrijel Mataija who was with him also said later
15 that he had been wearing a JNA uniform.
16 MR. VASIC: [Interpretation] My apologies. I believe we have a
17 slight problem with the transcript, page 30, line 12. It says [in
18 English] "the camp." I believe this is not what the witness said. If my
19 learned friend could please re-ask the question in order to clarify this.
20 JUDGE PARKER: Thank you, Mr. Vasic. Have you followed that
21 point, Mr. Moore?
22 MR. MOORE: To be truthful, I haven't. The transcript --
23 MR. VASIC: [Interpretation] If I may help, this is page 30,
24 line 12. It says -- lines 12 and 13. That is the sentence I'm talking
25 about. I believe the witness actually said something else, and if my
1 learned friend could please clarify this. It's about the death of this
2 person that the witness has mentioned.
3 MR. MOORE: Would Your Honour give me a moment, please? Because
4 it doesn't accord with my recollection. I want to clarify something.
5 Well, I will try and clarify it.
6 Q. Witness, one of the replies that you have given we are not sure
7 whether it has been correctly recorded. You mentioned initially a man
8 called Jergic who had said had wanted to kill you and you said that he was
9 dressed in the same clothes as Capalo. And then you said there was
10 another man I know who is unfortunately dead. Now, can you tell us how
11 that person died?
12 A. Of course I can. I'm talking about Gabrijel Mataija. If I
13 understand your question, he was in the Sremska Mitrovica camp and he had
14 sustained severe injuries to his body. He spent a long time in a number
15 of hospitals. He eventually died. I can't say when exactly, but soon
16 after, I believe it was in 1993 that he died.
17 Q. Thank you very much.
18 JUDGE PARKER: Is that a convenient time, Mr. Moore?
19 MR. MOORE: Could I ask one question, and then that would be the
20 convenient time.
21 JUDGE PARKER: Indeed.
22 MR. MOORE:
23 Q. Witness, I would like to ask you then, please, about when it was
24 you came to leave the Vukovar Hospital. Now, when was that, please?
25 A. I left the Vukovar Hospital in the evening, or perhaps it was
1 already night. But neither my wife nor I wore a watch, and I can only
2 give you very rough assessment of what time it was. It might have
3 been 9.00 or 10.00 that we were boarded onto this lorry and taken away.
4 It was at this gate that I mentioned earlier that I clapped eyes on Pero
5 Pavlica who was my neighbour's neighbour, and we are still neighbours,
6 Milan Pavlica, the brother. He was just monitoring this process whereby
7 people were being boarded on these lorries. Again, I say regardless of
8 anything -- well, you see, this man too died two months ago, and
9 regardless of everything that happened back then, seeing as his brother is
10 a very good person, I'm still sorry that he died.
11 MR. MOORE: Your Honour, that would be a convenient moment, and we
12 can then move on to this area of the evidence.
13 JUDGE PARKER: Thank you, Mr. Moore. We will break now and assume
14 at a quarter past 4.00. Oh, there was a redaction, it will be 20
15 past 4.00.
16 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] Yes, I really do need a break. I
17 would really appreciate it if it's possible.
18 JUDGE PARKER: We will have that break now then, and we will
19 resume at 20 past 4.00.
20 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] Thank you very much.
21 --- Recess taken at 3.54 p.m.
22 --- On resuming at 4.25 p.m.
23 JUDGE PARKER: Yes, Mr. Moore.
24 MR. MOORE:
25 Q. Mr. Covic, we had reached the situation where you were being
1 loaded onto trucks. Who was in charge of the loading of the trucks?
2 A. As for the loading of the trucks in order to drive people to
3 Velepromet, the TO members, as they called themselves, were in charge of
4 this. Prior to that we had seen an officer. He came, he gave an order,
5 or maybe he didn't. He just came and left. The local TO people, as they
6 called themselves, ordered us to get on the trucks, those of us who could.
7 We tried to climb. It was very difficult to get on these trucks. The
8 saddest thing was that elderly people, elderly men and women were being
9 dumped onto these trucks as though they were sacks of potatoes.
10 Q. Can I deal with the officer? Can you tell us about the officer
11 himself? Officer with whom?
12 A. He was certainly a JNA officer. I know what that uniform is like.
13 During my career, I was often called to go and serve with the reserve
14 forces. I know what a JNA officer's uniform looks like. I was certain
15 that this man was an officer. I had not yet been loaded onto a truck. I
16 saw this happen from the steps outside the hospital. I saw him arrive and
18 Q. And what was his rank, are you able to assist us with that?
19 A. It was too far away for me to get a good look, and it was
20 night-time. I couldn't see his rank, but I did see the cap and the
21 uniform. Other people too told me that this was a JNA officer. Those
22 people who saw him from close up at Velepromet later on. They said it was
23 a JNA officer.
24 Q. You have told us about the elderly. Can you go into more detail
25 about how the elderly were treated when they were being loaded on the
2 A. Yes, I can. This military truck had no steps for lowering so that
3 people could climb. Those who were young and still strong climbed by
4 using their hands and arms. Elderly women were hardly able to walk, and
5 then the TO men would raise them and simply chuck them onto the truck. It
6 was a very sad thing to watch, very distressing.
7 Q. And when a truck was full, what would then happen?
8 A. When a truck was full, which meant that people were really, really
9 pressed for space, it was really crowded, in a normal situation these
10 trucks could hold as many as 25 people. In this case there were about 50
11 people on each of those. It was a very difficult situation, especially
12 for the elderly who had been dumped onto these trucks. But, well, that's
13 how it was. Eventually they drove us to Velepromet. Not straight away.
14 First they took us across the street to the Vupik courtyard.
15 Q. Before we reach the Vupik courtyard, can we deal with how packed
16 the trucks were. How did that affect the elderly and infirm people?
17 A. It was very difficult for the elderly and the infirm. We tried to
18 help as best we could by supporting them or helping them sit down and then
19 the rest of us would squeeze more closely.
20 The only thing I can add to that is what I found personally very
21 affecting. As we were being transported, we saw a number of dead bodies
22 lying next to the road. And when we were crossing the Vuka I recognised a
23 person by the upper part of his clothing. This was the working uniform of
24 our company. And the person was an employee of the company by the name of
25 Zvonimir Vilner. The path from the hospital to Vupik was the most
1 difficult part for me personally. I thank you for letting me clarify
3 Q. You've told us about the person that you saw who had your
4 company's uniform, as you described it. Do you know if he was involved in
5 any military activity?
6 A. The person who stood at the gates to the hospital, is that the
7 person you have in mind? If you have him in mind, he was standing there.
8 He wasn't participating.
9 Q. No, you've told us that on the drive you saw a body of someone
10 that you recognised from the upper part of his body. Do you remember your
11 evidence on that? Now what I want you -- you know his name. Now, can you
12 tell us, because you say you knew him, was he involved in any military
13 activity throughout this conflict or in November?
14 A. He was one of the defenders, as I learned later. I saw his
15 jacket, which was a part of the working clothes in the company, we had
16 that and we distributed it amongst the people. And I recognised the
17 jacket and when I took a better look, I recognised Zvonimir Vilner.
18 Q. And you have told us about the Vupik area. Now, whereabouts is
19 the Vupik area?
20 A. The road passes between Vupik and Velepromet. When one follows
21 that direction, on the left-hand side there is the Vupik and right across
22 the road is Velepromet. It used to be a large trading company. And they
23 traded across the city.
24 Q. Can I deal, please, then, with your arrival at the Vupik area? Do
25 you understand?
1 A. I do.
2 Q. Thank you. When you arrived at the Vupik area, how many metres
3 would it be from the Velepromet main gates?
4 A. 30 metres at the most. The distance, that is.
5 Q. And how far away from the Vupik area where you stopped would be
6 the JNA barracks enclave?
7 A. Approximately we passed by the barracks earlier, and it is also on
8 the left-hand side of the road as well as Vupik. As to the distance
9 between the barracks and Vupik, it may be around three to 400 metres.
10 Q. I want to deal, please, with the unloading of the lorries that had
11 come from the hospital. Do you follow?
12 A. Yes, I am.
13 Q. Let us then deal with that, please, if we may. How was the
14 unloading done?
15 A. It wasn't by any violent means. They just ordered us to step down
16 from the trucks. Those of us who could, we jumped out as fast as we
17 could. And then we helped the elderly; we would support them and lower
18 them to the ground. Unfortunately I must say that there were children
19 among the people on the trucks as well and we helped them down as well.
20 That's concerning the unloading.
21 Q. And who was in charge of the unloading of the lorries?
22 A. The TO people. They came to the trucks and they yelled at us that
23 we need to come down from the trucks. And as I said, those of us who
24 could climb down went first and then we helped the rest. And all of the
25 civilians were more or less forming one group.
1 Q. Did you remain in one group?
2 A. As soon as the unloading was finished and after we have helped the
3 elderly and the infirm, we saw an officer who appeared there and he issued
4 an order concerning separation. They started separating right away. They
5 separated women and children and very old people on one side, and the
6 defenders and the remainder of the civilians and men were on the other
8 Q. You have told us that you saw an officer. Are you able to say
9 what rank or unit to which he belonged?
10 A. I am certain he was a JNA officer. I don't know the rank, and it
11 was dark. It was difficult to see. I couldn't see whether he had two or
12 three stars and was unable to determine his rank. I suppose he was either
13 a lieutenant or captain.
14 Q. You have told us that there was a separation of women and children
15 and defenders and men. If we just deal with the defenders and men, did
16 they remain together as a group or not?
17 A. Yes, they stayed together in the group. After the officer left,
18 we didn't hear any order being issued to the TO people, but they began
19 separating right away and they separated approximately 50 people, one of
20 whom was myself.
21 Q. When we say 50 people, do we mean men or women or were they
22 just -- was there just one sex chosen?
23 A. Only men. Women, children and the elderly had already been
24 separated, taken towards the barracks. They were about 100 metres away by
25 that time. We could see them standing there.
1 Q. Did you recognise anyone within the TO who was dealing with you at
2 that time?
3 A. Yes, I did. I recognised one person. His name is Darko Fot.
4 Q. And how was he dressed?
5 A. He only had the upper part of the TO uniform. The TO people
6 seldom wore the entire uniform. They either had the pants or just the
7 upper part of the uniform. He had the upper part. Since I knew him quite
8 well since before the war, I recognised him immediately.
9 Q. Did he say anything to you?
10 A. Among the 50 people separated, he came to me, unfortunately, and
11 he told me to follow him some five to six metres away from the group. He
12 shouted insults and threats at me. He didn't injure me in any way, but he
13 tried to intimidate me, and I can offer further explanation, if necessary.
14 Q. Was he armed at that time?
15 A. Yes, he was armed. He had an automatic rifle and when he asked me
16 to say my name I was quite surprised. I told him, "Darko, why are you
17 asking me that, since you know me very well?" He loaded his gun, it was a
18 clear threat, and he told me to shout my name. I told him, "Yes, my name
19 is Josip Covic, if you want to know," but he wasn't happy with that. He
20 asked me to shout as loudly as I can, and he charged his gun, and that was
21 a very clear threat.
22 Q. When this was occurring, did you see how other people in the group
23 were being treated?
24 A. I did. The rest of the group was standing there observing. No
25 one was doing anything to them at that moment. They were just there
1 listening to and observing the situation that was going on between me and
3 Q. Did Darko Fot leave your group at any time?
4 A. If I may add something concerning Darko Fot and the way he treated
5 me, after having asked me for my name he asked me what I had in my
6 pockets. I said that I had some medication since a year before that I had
7 had a lung operation in 1990. So I answered that I have some medication,
8 that I am still taking it. He forced me to take it out of my pocket and
9 discard it. That's what I needed -- I had to do. At that moment a JNA
10 officer appeared, and I can proceed if you want me to explain.
11 Q. Well, let us deal with the JNA officer arriving. What did he do?
12 A. He appeared there some 10 metres away. We all heard him say that
13 we should all be taken across the street to Velepromet. At that moment
14 when he issued that order, or right after that, he left, and Darko Fot
15 turned immediately to his TO men, saying we have to gather up in one
16 place, and he pointed where, because there is another task for us at
17 Ovcara. At that time I didn't know what the task could be. And they
18 started crossing the road and the group crossed as well, including myself.
19 Q. Let us then deal, please, with your transfer to the Velepromet
20 facility. Do you follow?
21 A. All right.
22 Q. You have told us that there was a group of men that were chosen or
23 isolated, perhaps a better way of putting it. What happened to that group
24 of men that you were one of?
25 A. That group that had been separated, including myself, after having
1 crossed the road were told to line up in front of the hangar, and all the
2 rest of the people entered the hangar. We spent -- the rest of the time
3 before being loaded onto the trucks to the camps, we spent all that time
4 standing in front of the building.
5 Q. Were you, for clarification, were you placed inside or outside a
6 hangar at this time? Can you remember?
7 A. I remember it very well. I was in front of the hangar. As I was
8 one of the people separated, we were lined up and the local civilians
9 passed next to our group, pointing at certain people, and those people
10 would then be taken behind the hangar, some 50 metres away, to Ciglana,
11 and they were killed there.
12 Q. Before we get to that area, were you able to work out or assess
13 who was in charge of the Velepromet facility at that time?
14 A. At that time the TO. We recognised most of them. They were doing
15 the whole thing. The civilians were pointing people out and then they
16 would call out Seselj's men to take those people behind the hangar towards
17 Ciglana and then we could hear muffled shots. They may have used
18 silencers as I learned later on to kill those people.
19 Q. May I deal with your position on the outside of the hangars? Did
20 you have anyone guarding you at that time?
21 A. In the strict sense of the word, there was no one guarding, but
22 there would appear every now and then the TO men. And they would take
23 certain people away. But they didn't take away only some of the people
24 from the group separated in front of the hangar, but as well from the
25 hangar itself. On the opposing side there was an office and they kept
1 taking two or three people there and most of them were later on taken to
2 be killed. But -- and a small portion was returned to the hangar.
3 Q. How do you know people were being killed as opposed to be just
4 taken away?
5 A. I know that because I saw that. And Ivica Kopf, my sister's son,
6 was taken away. I saw that as well. I felt terrible to see my nephew
7 being taken away. And when we were being transported to the camps, all
8 the people who used to work me and who went to the camps as well, they all
9 told me, Josip, did you see that your Ivica was taken away and was killed?
10 And my response was yes, I did see that, and it was a very difficult
11 thing for me.
12 Q. Were you able to recognise any of the TO members at that time?
13 A. I didn't see that the dead body since that was some 50 metres
14 behind the hangar; we were not there. Later on in the camp, I can
15 explain, although my nephew was taken there he wasn't killed in the end
16 and he himself told me what happened.
17 As he was about to get killed, a colleague, schoolmate of his from
18 the TO appeared, they shared the same bench, and this man took him away.
19 He said, "Don't kill him, he is my schoolmate." He later appeared at the
20 camp where I was, and I was reborn to see my nephew alive. He told me how
21 the killings took place.
22 Q. It's clearly my fault. The question I think that I asked you was
23 the TO who were controlling you at the camp, I asked you whether -- let me
24 just finish, if I may. Did you recognise any of those TO members? Can
25 you tell us, please?
1 A. Yes, all right. I misunderstood, my apologies. I did recognise
2 some. For example, Mile Macesic. He was from the same part of the city
3 as I was, a few houses away. He went to school with my son. He wanted to
4 kill me.
5 Before that there was a crime that took place. One of the
6 civilians pointed out a young man. He said that his name was Kemo. I'm
7 not absolutely certain, but it was a nickname of sorts. And he called two
8 Chetniks to come. They came and they slit his throat in front of us.
9 Q. Can I just ask you to stop, please? Because I want to go back and
10 we'll deal with Kemo in a moment.
11 A. All right.
12 JUDGE PARKER: Mr. Lukic.
13 MR. LUKIC: [Interpretation] My apologies for interrupting, Your
15 I just wanted to point out to something I don't know whether I am
16 correct, but I can see some notes before the witness. I don't know
17 whether he refers to the notes, and I don't know whether it can be
18 tolerated for him to use them. I would kindly ask for some instruction
19 from the Bench, because I don't know what the situation actually is.
20 JUDGE PARKER: Mr. Moore, could you explore the situation?
21 MR. MOORE: Yes, of course I can.
22 Q. Mr. Covic, can you be -- it's been suggested you have some notes
23 in front of you. Is that right or not? On your desk.
24 A. I will gladly explain. It's been over 14 years since Vukovar fell
25 and all the crimes there took place. For any person it would be difficult
1 to remember all the names, and what I have here on this piece of paper are
2 the names of the people I saw at Velepromet and in the hospital. I don't
3 know whether this is permitted, but I will gladly remove it, although I
4 wouldn't be quite able to comprehend.
5 JUDGE PARKER: If you could please put that aside, the list of
6 names, and just try and remember as best you can as Mr. Moore asks
8 MR. MOORE: Your Honour, could I just see the note, as I've never
9 seen it before.
10 JUDGE PARKER: Thank you.
11 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] Yes, certainly. Please. Feel free.
12 Actually, I prefer that you have a look.
13 JUDGE PARKER: Mr. Lukic may wish to see it as well. Thank you,
14 Mr. Lukic.
15 MR. LUKIC: [Interpretation] I really made an assumption based on
16 what I have seen. I do not wish to create a problem, but I think it's
17 very much up to the President as regards what the witness is doing right
19 JUDGE PARKER: We will continue without the list.
20 Yes, Mr. Moore.
21 MR. MOORE: Thank you very much.
22 Q. Can I ask you, please, just to refocus on the group of men who you
23 say had been chosen and then placed outside the hangars? Now, you told us
24 that there were approximately 50 men and that through that period some
25 were being taken away. Do you follow?
1 A. Yes.
2 Q. The question I want to ask you is this: Out of the 50 how many
3 were actually taken away?
4 A. Out of those 50 men who were in that column, by the time we
5 started towards the trucks and were about to be taken to the camp, there
6 were only about a half of the people who had originally been there, which
7 means that over a half had been taken away to be killed.
8 Q. And can I ask you then this question: Of the 25 that were taken
9 away, how many of those did you ever see again?
10 A. I wasn't able to see any of them. I only saw them being taken
11 away, first behind the hangar and then in the direction of the brick
13 Q. Sorry, perhaps it's the way I put the question. I'll ask it
15 You have 25 people taken away. You have told us that your nephew
16 eventually you were aware did come back. Did you see any of the others
17 come back or see any of the others at the camp or indeed afterwards? Do
18 you understand the question?
19 A. Yes, I do. No, I never saw any of them. My nephew was not among
20 those 50 men. He was in the hangar and that's where he was taken away
21 from. That section of the hangar was facing the other way, so he passed
22 in front of us, passed the hangar and on to the brick factory.
23 Q. Again, some may want to know what happened to the 25 people who
24 were taken away? Do you know either from your own knowledge or what you
25 were told?
1 A. I am certain about this. Both in the camp and after, once we had
2 left the camp, there were people who told me that the killing had gone on
3 throughout the night by the brick factory. There are people who claim,
4 and I am one of these, that at least twice as many people had been killed
5 at Velepromet than at Ovcara.
6 Q. When these people were taken away, you have referred to the use,
7 as you have stated, a silencer being used. When these people were taken
8 away, did you at any time hear gun-fire coming from the area where they
9 were taken to?
10 A. Yes, I did hear gun-fire. This gun-fire continued throughout
11 practically,, there were lulls that would last two or three minutes and
12 then the firing would start again. It was like this throughout, at least
13 for as long as I was still at Velepromet. As for the rest, we know that
14 in addition to them being taken to the camp, some people had stayed behind
15 at Velepromet, which was turned into some sort of a camp.
16 Q. I want to now deal with evidence that you gave where you referred
17 to a person called Kemo. Do you remember the evidence that you gave?
18 A. I told this person called Kemo that a civilian had come by. I
19 recognised three civilians. There was one civilian who pointed out that
20 particular young man and this one I didn't know. It was a lady who
21 pointed him out. At this point a TO man came along, came up to this young
22 man and he called over two Chetniks, two of Seselj's men who were wearing
23 the full Chetnik attire. They had cockades on their fur caps. One of
24 them wore the military kind and sported a long beard. There was a bottle
25 containing some sort of a drink sticking out of his pocket. He had knives
1 on him, too, as well as an automatic rifle. They slit this young man's
2 throat right there in front of us, gave him short shrift. The young man
3 just lay there for about 15 minutes at least in a pool of his own blood,
4 after which his body was dragged away.
5 Q. How close were you to this young man Kemo having his throat cut?
6 A. To my great sadness, this happened not more than three metres away
7 from where I was standing. A Chetnik grabbed him by the upper arms and
8 held him tight while the other plunged a knife into his throat all the way
9 through. They just dropped his body on the ground. I saw him twitch once
10 or twice, and then he was dead. There was a huge pool of blood forming
11 underneath his body and he was probably dead by this time.
12 Q. Did you see any soldier, any TO make any attempt to stop what was
13 going on that night at Velepromet?
14 MR. VASIC: [Interpretation] Your Honour.
15 JUDGE PARKER: Yes, Mr. Vasic.
16 MR. VASIC: [Interpretation] The Defence -- just a minute, please,
17 sir. I have an objection. I believe my learned friend should first ask
18 the following questions: Were there any JNA officers around; and then the
19 next question should be did any of them take any steps to prevent this. I
20 believe this to be a leading question as it stands now.
21 JUDGE PARKER: I think it's quite valid, Mr. Moore, that your
22 question assumes the presence of certain people at relevant times to this
24 MR. MOORE: Then I will rephrase the question.
25 JUDGE PARKER: Thank you.
1 MR. MOORE:
2 Q. When you saw this man having his throat cut, did you see anyone
3 try to stop this action?
4 A. No. No one at all came to stop this. The next person to arrive
5 was Mile Macesic. He pointed out to me and tried to have the Chetniks do
6 the same thing to me as they had done to this young man. If need be, I
7 can tell you what happened to me.
8 Q. Well, who was Mile Macesic? Can you tell the Court?
9 A. Mile Macesic was from my neighbourhood, three houses down the
10 street. He was even my son's classmate. When he arrived and spotted me
11 he yelled out, "There's your old Ustasha. He has a son. His son is a
12 hard core Ustasha. His name is Drazen. He used to be president of the
13 HDZ youth club." Which simply wasn't true because my son never was, not
14 even before the war. Those two Chetniks who were some distance away from
15 us, by this time he sent one of them back and said, "There you go, take
16 care of this one, too, for me, will you. And he came up to me and started
17 punching me.
18 At this point, to my great fortune, another JNA officer emerged
19 from somewhere, called those two over and ordered them to join him in
20 order to go and do a job. As they were leaving they said, "We'll be back
21 and we'll make sure to settle our accounts with you." I'm not sure if
22 that answers your question. If not, please, feel free to request further
24 Q. I will ask for some further clarification. You have told us that
25 you were punched and beaten by these two men who had murdered Kemo. Do
1 you remember that? And you have described a JNA officer arriving and
2 speaking to them. Do you remember that evidence?
3 A. I don't know. I don't think I said he was talking to them. He
4 just called them over and ordered them to come with him. Because there
5 was a job that needed doing. That -- those were his precise words. I'm
6 not sure what the job was that he was talking about.
7 Q. When he called them over, what were they doing?
8 A. They immediately followed. But once they were about to leave one
9 of them turned around to face me and say, "We will be back to settle our
10 accounts with you."
11 Q. Please listen to this question carefully. When the JNA officer
12 spoke to them or called across to them, what were they doing? Not what
13 they did. What were they doing.
14 A. When he called them they started towards me. I stepped back
15 slightly and then they started punching me with their fists. I received
16 two or three blows like that. I had already made up my mind that I will
17 not allow them to slit my throat, that I would do anything, that I would
18 kick and scream and even ask them to put a bullet through my head, just in
19 order not to have my throat slit. To my great fortune, a JNA officer
20 appeared as I set to call them about a job that needed doing. It's pure
21 fate, you might say. And this lucky circumstance saved my life.
22 Q. So I ask the question again. When the JNA officer called them
23 what were these two TO soldiers doing at that time?
24 MR. VASIC: [Interpretation] Your Honour.
25 JUDGE PARKER: Yes, Mr. Vasic.
1 MR. VASIC: [Interpretation] Just a minute, sir, please. First of
2 all, the transcript, page 48, line 16. It says two TO soldiers, we're not
3 talking about TO soldiers, we're talking about Chetniks here. That's the
4 first thing. The other thing, I believe the witness has now for two or
5 three times provided the same identical answer to this question and this
6 is third time it's been asked. I think the witness is being led in some
7 way in order to change his testimony. The previous answer on the same
8 page provides an excellent explanation of what these two men were doing.
9 JUDGE PARKER: I think the comment about TO is right, Mr. Moore.
10 The -- I can't see that there is any leading as implied, but haven't you
11 got an answer?
12 MR. MOORE: Well, in my submission the answer -- yes,
13 inferentially, of course, I have got the answer, but the question is quite
14 specific, and in my submission the witness is not fully understanding the
15 nature of the question, because the reply is -- does not correspond with
16 the question.
17 JUDGE PARKER: I think it corresponds but adds more.
18 MR. MOORE: I don't really know, all I -- may I ask the question
19 one more time to see -- I think there may be a translation problem or the
20 witness does not fully understand.
21 JUDGE PARKER: I don't see it, but go ahead and one more shot and
22 then Mr. Vasic is right.
23 MR. MOORE:
24 Q. Mr. Covic, you have told us that you were being beaten and that a
25 JNA officer arrived and called to these two men. Do you remember that?
1 A. That's correct. Yes.
2 Q. At the actual time that he called these two men, what were they
4 A. They were about to leave. They were leaving when this officer
5 called them. I believe that the question is phrased quite fairly;
6 however, I do not agree with the objection. Those were clever questions,
7 and all I did was tell the truth.
8 MR. MOORE: I'll move on, if I may.
9 Q. When these two Chetniks said that they would be back, how close
10 was the JNA officer to them when they said that?
11 A. I suppose the distance might have been about 10 metres. Not more
12 or less. He didn't walk right up to them at all. He just called to them,
13 telling them -- telling them there was a job to be done. And they left
14 immediately. As they were leaving, one of them turned back to threaten
15 me, same as my previous answer.
16 I'm happy with your question. And all I'm trying is to tell the
17 truth and nothing but the truth. If there is anything that doesn't quite
18 sound right, I will certainly say so.
19 Q. Thank you very much. When the Chetnik called out that he would
20 deal with you afterwards, where were you actually located at that time?
21 A. At that time I was still standing outside the hangar, same spot as
22 before. All I can do is thank my fate.
23 Before long another officer arrived from somewhere else. I could
24 clearly see that this was a major. He ordered for us to get onto the
25 trucks that eventually took us to the camps. I was lucky to survive, you
1 might say.
2 Q. And a major with whom, are you able to say?
3 A. A JNA major. I clearly saw this from close up. He walked up to
4 us and he gave instructions on how we should proceed, that we should walk
5 in twos, that we should hold each other's hands. People were already
6 leaving the hangar and we did exactly as he had instructed us and we
7 headed for the buses.
8 Q. So can you tell us now, please, about being loaded onto the buses?
9 When did that happen shall please?
10 A. This happened later on during the night. I think it might have
11 been about 5.00 a.m. This was all happening in November, so it was still
12 quite dark. It might have been at 4.00 or 5.00 a.m., but it was still
13 dark by the time we started getting onto the buses. My apologies, I said
14 trucks but I meant buses.
15 Q. And where were you taken to?
16 A. They drove us to Sremska Mitrovica where they parked all the
17 buses. Not inside the camp itself but right outside.
18 Q. And who was in charge of the convoy?
19 A. On the buses, on each of the buses there were two JNA soldiers.
20 Judging by the way they looked, their physical appearance, they were
21 young, young men, aged 20-ish, doing their regular military service in all
22 likelihood. Those soldiers were standing next to the driver at the front
23 of the bus. All I can say is that they didn't beat anyone and more power
24 to them. They were upright lads.
25 Q. There is one question that I should have asked you, and I
1 apologise to you for omitting it. You have told us about people being
2 taken away from outside the hangar, 25 out of 50. Did you see anybody
3 else being taken away from any other part of the Velepromet facility?
4 A. Yes, I did. There was plenty on the other side too. We didn't
5 see that because there is an enormous building running down the middle.
6 This was the administration building inside the Velepromet compound.
7 There were plenty of civilians on the other side too. As they were
8 leading them away they had to pass that building, us, and the hangar, so
9 we saw them being led to the brick factory. We saw those people being led
10 to the brick factory to be killed there.
11 Q. Are you able to say how many times or how many people you saw
12 being led away to the -- to the brick factory?
13 A. This went on the whole time. It's difficult for me to say. I
14 learned later about those who were -- had remained in the hangars as
15 prisoners. I reckon, as I have already said, I think twice as many men
16 were killed at Velepromet as at Ovcara, unfortunately, it has to be said.
17 Q. And who was taking them across to the brick factory to be killed?
18 A. They were being taken across by Seselj's men, by Chetniks.
19 Q. I know how difficult it is to estimate time, over what period of
20 time were people being taken away, either from the hangar or from the
21 other areas to be killed? Are you able to assess over what period of time
22 that was?
23 A. This went on the whole night and then I was loaded onto a bus
24 along with the all the others. Throughout this time people were being led
25 away. Those who stayed behind confirmed this to me. The killing had gone
1 on for the whole night. It's very difficult to say anything about the
2 exact figures. However, later on, once we had learned how many people had
3 been killed and when the mass graves were dug up, we just knew that many,
4 many more people had been killed at Velepromet than at Ovcara.
5 Q. Did you at any time hear of the Chetniks being stopped from
6 killing these people or any attempt to stop the killing of these people
7 throughout this period?
8 A. No, never. I never heard of any attempts.
9 MR. MOORE: Would Your Honour consider that perhaps an appropriate
10 moment for this witness?
11 JUDGE PARKER: Very well, Mr. Moore. We'll have a --
12 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] Yes, I think it is about that time.
13 JUDGE PARKER: And resume at five minutes to 6.00.
14 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] Yes, I would really like a break. I
15 would love a break. I was just about to ask. Thank you.
16 --- Recess taken at 5.31 p.m.
17 --- On resuming at 6.00 p.m.
18 JUDGE PARKER: Yes, Mr. Moore.
19 MR. MOORE: May I thank Your Honours. Might I just indicate to my
20 learned friends that -- and to the Court that I have spoken to my learned
21 friends about the final part of this witness's evidence, which relates his
22 transportation back and his stay in the camps and I am allowed --
23 permitted to lead in relation to that, so I think it's called official
24 leading as opposed to unofficial leading.
25 JUDGE PARKER: Well, the Chamber might have a different
1 description of this, Mr. Moore, but please go ahead and I thank counsel
2 for the Defence. Yes.
3 MR. MOORE:
4 Q. Mr. Covic, can we just deal, then, please, with your transfer from
5 Velepromet to Sremska Mitrovica? I think it's right to say that you were
6 taken on buses. Is that right?
7 A. Yes, it is. On buses.
8 Q. And those buses were escorted by JNA soldiers. Is that right?
9 A. It is correct. Those were young JNA soldiers, and I thought they
10 were actually serving their military term with the JNA at the time.
11 Q. Thank you very much. Might I ask you in non-leading form the
12 following question: How were you treated on the way, on the way to
13 Sremska Mitrovica?
14 A. They treated us fairly, and I was satisfied. They told us how and
15 where to sit and to abide by what they tell us. They didn't beat anyone
16 or anything else. I am quite happy with their conduct and with the way
17 they carried out that task, received by their superiors, no doubt.
18 Q. And how did the local people treat you or deal with you as you
19 went through various areas?
20 A. We didn't stop on the way. When we stopped it was in front of the
21 camp in Mitrovica. An officer came into the bus and he went from one bus
22 to another and when he came to our bus he ordered us not to leave the bus,
23 and he must have done the same thing with the other buses. And when we
24 had to go to the toilet we couldn't leave, but we had to do it on the
25 bus. That was particularly difficult. The soldiers who were in our
1 escort, they remained and the local population that passed by the buses
2 was hitting on the windows and threatening. On the bus where I was two
3 men climbed up and slapped a few people, but the two soldiers forced them
4 out and didn't let them return.
5 Q. And what were the local people threatening to do?
6 A. They were cursing, telling that we should all be killed, they were
7 calling us names, Ustashas, threatening in general. And I remember it
8 quite well that the two soldiers took those two men out who were slapping
9 the people seated in the front seats. And I felt quite safe for as long
10 as they were not allowed to come on board and they can threaten all they
12 Q. Thank you. I would like to deal with your arrival at a camp which
13 is situated close to the Romanian border. I think it is pronounced
14 Stajicevo. Is that right?
15 A. Stajicevo, yes. You pronounced it well.
16 Q. Can you tell us, please, when you arrived, what -- what was the
17 procedure at the very outset to enter the camp?
18 A. The procedure was such that they told us to come off the buses.
19 The people waiting there were not soldiers. We thought they were all
20 Chetniks. They were issuing orders. We saw at least a hundred of them
21 standing in two columns. We were told to walk in between the columns
22 towards the camp. And where they kept us in the camp, that was the stable
23 for cattle.
24 Q. And can you tell us the sort of beatings that you personally
25 underwent, please?
1 A. Yes, I can. Since we had to pass between them, and there must
2 have been a hundred of them, 50 on each side, and they all had something
3 in their hands, they were beating us. Those who managed to get through
4 were yelling back at us don't go down by any means because if you do, they
5 start kicking you. And I managed somehow, having received some strikes to
6 reach the entrance to the camp.
7 And perhaps I can reply to a question that I believe will come
8 somewhat later, but there were people who were badly injured during the
10 Q. I just want to deal with yourself, if I may, at this time. You
11 told us that you had your -- your jaw broken. How did that occur?
12 A. When I went to the toilet once -- but, rather, it wasn't a toilet
13 but an area dedicated for that purpose just outside the stable, and every
14 time we would return there were five or six men at the entrance and one
15 had to pass by them or between them. As I was returning they started
16 hitting me. I fell on the ground, and since they were wearing boots they
17 kept kicking. They were kicking on my head and they broke my jaw, my
18 teeth, my nose was crushed. And when they finally stopped I managed to
19 drag myself back inside.
20 There was a veterinarian with me in the camp, and he took a look
21 at my face. He said, "Don't worry, there are a few things broken. Just
22 keep spitting all the blood that comes into your mouth," and I kept doing
23 so for three days. And that was several days before the exchange. That's
24 when I left the camp.
25 Q. Were you ever interrogated in this camp?
1 A. I was interrogated twice.
2 Q. And during the interrogation did you receive any beatings?
3 A. During the interrogations, yes, I was beaten once. The other time
4 they didn't beat me. The interrogations were conducted by JNA officers,
5 and I told that particular JNA officer on that occasion that I was very
6 sad to have lived through this, that I have a colleague, a friend by the
7 name of Cuk who was a colonel. This officer took that name down, he
8 probably ran a check, and after that interrogation the officer called me
9 out of the room where the interrogation took place. He ordered the
10 Seselj's men in my escort not to beat me and that I should be allowed to
11 sit and have a rest.
12 Q. Were any allegations made against you personally by that
13 interrogating officer?
14 A. Those particular officers did not make any allegations. However,
15 I told them that I used to be a reserve officer and I served rather often
16 with the reserve forces, and I received a rank. Hence they thought I was
17 a direct participant of the events, but I tried to explain that I was only
18 offering advice to our defendants, how to protect their lives and to avoid
19 being killed or injured during combat.
20 Q. What sort of premises were you confined in at this particular
22 A. It was a huge stable for cattle. It had a concrete floor and we
23 had to lie on that floor, and the temperature at the time was minus 10 or
24 minus 15 degrees centigrade. After a few days, we received some hay to
25 put on the floor. And a lot of people became ill before the camp was
1 closed, because of the low temperatures. Pneumonia was a regular
2 occurrence; I suffered from it myself. And people would have died in
3 greater numbers had it not been for the closure of the camp after 33 days
4 and some exchanges took place. The rest were transferred to Mitrovica,
5 Nis and elsewhere.
6 Q. You told us that you had concussions to your head which was
7 affected your memory. How did that occur?
8 A. As I explained before, I was beaten and I described the nature of
9 my injuries. Having returned from the camp my head was X-rayed, and
10 during the treatment the doctors told me that I had sustained an injury to
11 a particular part of the brain which stores memory. I used to know a lot
12 of songs, and I liked singing, but I complained that I can't remember a
13 single verse. And they explained to me that the memory part of the brain
14 was damaged and that the beating was the cause and that there wasn't much
15 they could do.
16 Q. You've told us about the attacks upon yourself during an
17 interrogation and other times. Did you see other people being treated in
18 an aggressive way when you were at the camp?
19 A. Yes, I did.
20 Q. Could you tell us, please?
21 A. Yes, I did. A part of the stable was -- they left a square or
22 four by four metres in the stable and they beat some young people in that
23 spot until they killed them. Of those people, two I knew from before, one
24 was Ivica Kemal [phoen] and the other one was Koh. That was his last
25 name. I can't remember his first name but he used to work construction.
1 Q. How did they kill them?
2 MR. LUKIC: Objection, Your Honour.
3 JUDGE PARKER: Yes, Mr. Lukic.
4 MR. LUKIC: [Interpretation] I object to this line of questioning.
5 As far as I understood, at a given point a question was to be put to the
6 witness about Stajicevo and the stable, but it seems to me that we are now
7 going into details which are outside the framework of the indictment in
8 terms of time and space. I don't know whether we need to listen to all of
9 this since the indictment concerns itself with different events.
10 MR. MOORE: I accept entirely it's outside the framework of the
11 indictment. I understand that, and it will never be advanced to that end.
12 But this witness has said that he has suffered from post-traumatic stress.
13 The Court have got to assess his credibility. They've got to assess what
14 it is that he underwent. If it was merely a case of the evidence in
15 relation to what I would call Vukovar, then that would give a false
16 picture. In my submission, I am trying to deal with it as succinctly as I
17 can. It gives a totality of the experience that he had and allows the
18 Court - and I hope my learned friends - to assess whether in actual fact
19 the evidence that he gave was affected by or is affected by the events
20 that he has described.
21 JUDGE PARKER: You may proceed, Mr. Moore, keeping it to that very
22 brief basis that you have indicated and for the purposes that have been
23 indicated, and not relevant to the question of guilt or innocence of any
24 of the particular counts.
25 MR. MOORE: I accept that fully.
1 Q. Can you tell us then, please, how they were killed? You said you
2 saw young men being killed.
3 A. Yes, I did. I saw them beat on the two men I knew. They used
4 various objects to beat them until they fell to the ground. Once down
5 they kept kicking them with their boots, they jumped on their chest,
6 hitting their heads for as long as they showed any signs of life. The one
7 I mentioned, Ivica Kamel, I used to know him quite well. He was a young
8 man, married, quite tall, good-looking. As we were getting out of the
9 stable and when we passed by his body, I couldn't recognise any of the
10 features of his head. You couldn't see where the nose or the eye or the
11 lips were. It was just a mass. It looked -- his head resembled a ball.
12 That's what sort of death he met. And that's the truth and I can remember
13 it quite vividly.
14 Q. And what affect did that have upon you?
15 A. It had a deep impact on me. And when I underwent treatment in
16 1992 a doctor by the name of Kondrozo [phoen] told me that the injuries
17 that I sustained could be cured but after five years I will still have
18 severe psychological trauma based on what I saw, because it is then that
19 the post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms will occur and they didn't
20 know the exact treatment for that.
21 MR. MOORE: I have no further questions for this witness. Thank
22 you very much.
23 JUDGE PARKER: Thank you, Mr. Moore.
24 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] Thank you.
25 JUDGE PARKER: Mr. Vasic will now ask you some further questions.
1 Mr. Vasic.
2 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] Let him ask by all means.
3 MR. VASIC: [Interpretation] Thank you, Your Honour, Mr. Domazet
4 will take that role on behalf of the Defence, but if he could have a
5 minute to get ready.
6 JUDGE PARKER: I have got him into some view now. Thank you.
7 Cross-examination by Mr. Domazet:
8 Q. [Interpretation] Good evening, Mr. Covic. My name is Vladimir
9 Domazet, counsel for Mr. Mrksic. I wanted to ask you some questions, and
10 I would kindly ask you to answer to those questions, but do bear in mind
11 that we should make pause between question and answer for the sake of
12 interpreters and court reporters.
13 Today in your statement when you mentioned your data, personal
14 data, one could see that you spent most of your lifetime in Vukovar
15 itself. Is that correct?
16 A. Yes, it is. After having finished my education, the rest of my
17 life was in Vukovar.
18 Q. You were born close to Vukovar, not in Vukovar itself?
19 A. Yes, I was born in Bogdanovci, which is the closest village to
20 Vukovar. After having finished my high school education I moved to
21 Vukovar where I stayed for the rest of my life, apart from the 10 years
22 after the camp.
23 Q. Mr. Covic, since we are discussing your education, you said that
24 you completed your high school outside of Vukovar.
25 A. No, in Vukovar.
1 Q. Do you hold any higher degree?
2 A. I completed college for economic affairs, which is a two-year type
3 education. I didn't manage to get to the bachelor's degree, since I was
4 under a lot of stress and work in the company itself, and the company
5 didn't need me to have a bachelor's degree, hence I never completed it.
6 Q. If I understood properly, you worked as someone who held a -- had
7 a high school diploma and you attended the college at the same time when
8 you started working. Is that correct?
9 A. Yes.
21 Q. The part of the city including your house, is that close to
22 Sajmiste, the part that you mentioned?
23 A. Sajmiste is probably 1500 metres away. But looking from our part
24 towards Bogdanovci on the outskirts of the city up to Mitnica, that part
25 was called Sajmiste, the defence line. But the very Sajmiste Street, that
1 runs from the barracks towards the city. And the entire defence line was
2 named after the street, Sajmiste.
3 Q. Your answer was quite long. Could we try to clear up a few
4 things? Did I understand correctly that your house is relatively close to
5 Sajmiste, or rather close to the front line?
6 A. Yes, it is close to the front line.
7 Q. Thank you for that. Now, to go back to a period before that, and
8 could you please answer a couple of questions concerning Vukovar before
9 the outbreak of the war? To my colleague's question today you replied
10 that you were politically active, that you were a member of the League of
11 Communists up until the war. Is that correct?
12 A. Yes, it is correct.
13 Q. Could you tell me what were relations between the ethnic groups in
14 Vukovar and its environs before the first multi-party elections?
15 A. Even before the multi-party elections the relations were no longer
16 good. Most people in Croatia, after the speeches given by your
17 Milosevic -- well, not your, but the Milosevic of the Serbs, and one
18 would clearly see the threats stemming from his speeches, and we were
19 expecting an evil to occur.
20 Q. Now, you are referring to the period before the multi-party
22 A. Yes.
23 Q. If I may phrase it that way, there was a sort of mistrust between
24 the two ethnic groups?
25 A. Yes. We sensed this threat from the famous speeches by Milosevic.
1 And we knew that something would take place later. That he had something
2 in store. The Slovenians were the first to react to his speeches and then
3 of course the people from Croatia.
4 Q. It's not my intention to dwell on this, but one thing I would like
5 to ask you is: Slobodan Milosevic, the man you were talking about, was
6 also a member of the League of Communists, the only party in Yugoslavia at
7 the time, was it not?
8 A. Yes.
9 Q. Can you tell me what happened after the first multi-party
10 elections? In Croatia itself it was the HDZ that garnered the majority,
11 did it not?
12 A. Yes, the HDZ won. After this we expected that the same thing
13 would happen in the former Yugoslavia as it happened between the Slovakia
14 and the Czech Republic. We expected civilised negotiations leading to the
15 creation of separate states, as we see today. Or the same thing that had
16 happened in the former Soviet Union. This unfortunately was not the case.
17 I am greatly saddened by the fact that the matter could not have been
18 resolved in this way.
19 Q. Fair enough. I believe you have strayed quite far from my
20 question. I would like you to please stay true to the gist of my
21 question. I want to ask you about the result of the elections, the
22 outcome in Vukovar itself, especially the local elections.
23 A. Everything was perfectly normal and perfectly fine. However, even
24 at this early stage, Vukovar Serbs would send their wives and children
25 across the border to Backa or drive them there. I even asked some of our
1 people at the company why are you sending your families away, can you
2 please share that with us. If there is an impending danger, perhaps we
3 should send our families too. They refused to answer.
4 Q. You still haven't answered my question, Mr. Covic. Can you please
5 try and have another go. What was the outcome of the local elections in
7 A. The greatest number of votes was garnered by the HDZ. The other
8 parties were all minor parties. Despite this, everything was perfectly
9 normal -- or, rather, specifically in Vukovar it wasn't the HDZ. I really
10 apologise. It was the SDP carried the day in Vukovar at the local
11 elections. And we were quite happy to see that happen. That was what the
12 people decided. That was what the voters' body decided. That was all.
13 There were no further problems.
14 I do have to say, however, that the Serbs had already begun to
15 send their families away from Vukovar. We found this strange, and we
16 asked them about their reasons why were they doing this despite the fact
17 that the elections had been perfectly smooth.
18 Q. Again, I have you answering something that you weren't asked in
19 the first place. But now that you've said this, what about the fear these
20 people felt? Was this a fear grounded in reality? These people were
21 after all sending their families away. One probably wouldn't do this sort
22 of thing unless you had a real concern about their safety?
23 A. That may be your opinion, but it certainly isn't mine. As soon as
24 they refused to tell us, my own work-mates, for example, we had been
25 working together for 20 years, and you have this person refusing to talk
1 about their reasons. And probably these people were in the loop. They
2 knew why they were doing this and they knew exactly why they kept refusing
3 to share this with me.
4 Q. Mr. Covic, it's all right. I will try to go back to my previous
5 line of questions. Please bear with me, I do have several other questions
6 on this same subject.
7 Who was the first elected president of municipality of these first
8 local elections in Vukovar?
9 A. Well, I'm trying to tell you this: It is as a result of my
10 injury, the injuries to the memory cells in my brain, all I can say is
11 that he was a Serb who hailed from Trpinje residing, however, in Vukovar,
12 and he was the president of town. You must know this too, I believe this
13 individual was tried at this Tribunal and he eventually committed suicide.
14 Q. Yes. Obviously you remember that the gentleman's name was Slavko
15 Dokmanovic, don't you?
16 A. Yes, you're right. Thank you for reminding me. As I say, it's a
17 problem that I have because of my brain injury. Sometimes I find it
18 difficult to remember names. Names just tend to escape me. But, yes,
19 indeed, that's true, Slavko Dokmanovic.
20 Q. Mr. Covic, do you remember how long he remained in that position
21 and who he was replaced by?
22 A. He remained in this position for a certain time. I can't say
23 exactly. When the incident occurred at Borovo Selo and when Seselj's men
24 and Chetniks began to arrive, our electricians at company told me
25 personally as early as -- in March or April 1991 they had passed through
1 Borovo Selo to fix some electricity cables. And they told me, "Oh, we've
2 seen some Chetniks over in Borovo Selo." I didn't believe it at the time,
3 although they even went as far as saying, "Come on join us, get in the car
4 with us, we can just drive through and you can see for yourself." But
5 then he stepped down and he went somewhere else. Left Vukovar.
6 Q. Can I take that to mean that the Dokmanovic ceased to be president
7 of Vukovar municipality after the incident in Borovo Selo on the 2nd of
8 May, 1991?
9 A. I can't say that coincides with this date or not. But it was
10 roughly at this time, give or take a month or two. I can't say exactly.
11 I can give you very rough idea of what I remember. He was just gone. And
12 then another person came who occupied this post on a provisional basis, a
14 Q. Was it possible by this time to have communication between all
15 these different places, Trpinje, the place where Mr. Dokmanovic hailed
16 from. Could you reach Vukovar from Trpinje smoothly with no problems at
18 A. After the serious crime that occurred at Borovo Selo when 22
19 police officers were killed, in the predominantly Serb villages around
20 Vukovar, those that had a Serb majority, barricades were set up and it was
21 very difficult to drive through these places or to reach Vukovar from
22 Osijek, for example.
23 Q. Were there barricades before the 2nd of May, 1991, before
24 Borovo Selo?
25 A. No. It wasn't until after the incident that all these barricades
1 sprang up in Brsadin, in Trpinje, in Negoslavci and all those other
2 places. There was even a Serb from Brsadin who was a proper man, an
3 upright man. , and he still is. This man used to come over. It was very
4 difficult to obtain permission to go to work in Vukovar from Brsadin. He
5 was greatly aggrieved by this and he asked for our help so that we might
6 help him to continue to go to work. He still complained about the
7 difficulties that he faced on his way to Vukovar. He was an ethnic Serb
8 but he was an upright, honest person. And he still is.
9 Q. Thank you very much. Although he was an ethnic Serb, he was an
10 upright person. I'm glad to know that.
11 But I want to know about these barricades. Were Croats perhaps
12 erecting barricades too? Perhaps that's why he as a Serb had trouble
13 passing through.
14 A. There were a few Croats to begin with over in Brsadin. I don't
15 think they would have been in a position to erect any barricades. It was
16 a predominantly Serb village, and it was the Serbs who erected those
17 barricades, and they chose who they would let through.
18 Q. I didn't mean Brsadin specifically when I spoke about the
19 barricades, him being a local and all that. But what about Borovo
20 Naselje, for example? You will agree with me that it had a Croat
21 majority. Were there any barricades? Could he just drive through
22 Borovo Naselje since there were barricades there?
23 A. No. He was perfectly free to drive straight through
24 Borovo Naselje and get on with it. In Borovo Naselje and in Borovo Selo,
25 right after the incident, it was no longer possible to pass through. But
1 he did not have any difficulty going from Brsadin. He told us that he had
2 been verbally abused severely for continuing to go to work in Vukovar.
3 Q. Are you familiar with the following cafes in Borovo Naselje: Slon
4 and Zurich?
5 A. No, I didn't go to restaurants much really. I'm not much of a
6 restaurant-goer. It's always been like that. Not that I'm boasting or
7 anything, but it just wasn't a habit that I had.
8 Q. I'm asking you because we have information to indicate that this
9 was precisely where the barricades were that the residents of
10 Borovo Naselje had erected. I was saying that in order to perhaps refresh
11 your memory. But if not, not. I won't be pressing the point any further.
12 What about the time that preceded Borovo Selo? Do you perhaps
13 know that in predominantly Croatian villages or Croatian only villages
14 unarmed units were being set up and assembled that Croatian politicians
15 had a hand in this? Did you learn anything about that at the time?
16 A. The only thing I learned was about my own village Bogdanovci, but
17 not about any other villages. I knew about Bogdanovci because my folks
18 had told me. At this time, and I'm not sure about the date, it certainly
19 wasn't long after the crime in Borovo Selo. One day a column of tanks
20 arrived from Bogdanovci and wanted to drive straight through and onto
21 Vukovar. But the entire population rose in a bid to stop the tanks from
22 passing through the village. They were unarmed, barehanded. They just
23 lay across the road, most of them did, and said, "There you go, over our
24 dead bodies, if you have to." That is how they stopped this entire column
25 of tanks that was on its way to Vukovar.
1 Q. Do you know who Tomislav Mercep was?
2 A. Mercep, yes, I do. He had been appointed this military sort of
3 thing, I'm not sure what it's called. It used to be called different
4 before. I really can't remember. But this is another consequence of my
5 brain injury. He was appointed to some post or other on behalf of this
6 military office that was in charge of recruiting young men to go to the
7 army. I'm sure you know the proper name for this office.
8 Q. But he hailed from Bogdanovci, didn't he?
9 A. No, no. Not from Bogdanovci. It wasn't until several years
10 before the war when he started building a house in Bogdanovci. But he
11 resided in Borovo Naselje and that's where he worked. It was just that
12 several years before the war he and two of his brothers bought some land
13 and built houses there. They lived there for a brief period of time,
14 perhaps as long as a year or two. That was all.
15 Q. I think you described this accurately. It was some sort of chief
16 or head of this military recruitment office, right?
17 A. Yes, the recruitment office, I think that would be the exact name,
18 the exact term. That's where he was appointed. He was appointed as chief
19 or head.
20 Q. After relations began to cool and the first incidents occurred,
21 was his role changed and was he not appointed to a rather more important
22 position inside of Vukovar?
23 A. Yes, he had a prominent position in the party. He was the
24 president of the local HDZ branch, so this was his other role, in a manner
25 of speaking.
1 Q. Do you perhaps know that it was he of all people who organised a
2 review of the forces in Bogdanovci, one that was sponsored by the HDZ?
3 A. I do know that he had a lot of people assembled there, and I know
4 he introduced himself to them and he said that after Borovo Selo and in
5 view of all the barricades, worse things were certain to happen. He
6 called on the young to be ready in the eventuality of an attack against
7 Vukovar. He said Vukovar should be ready to defend itself.
8 Q. Was a proper military review carried out on that occasion? With
9 units and people in charge of these units, whatever they were called,
10 because they were still unarmed at the time, weren't they?
11 A. Yes, they were all unarmed. And I don't think any commanders had
12 been appointed by this time. He just called these people to assemble so
13 that he could warn them about possible attacks, and he said that if any
14 attacks should take place they should all stand up and defend their town.
15 Many of the boys who were there told me about the reasons for them
16 assembling there, and the gist of this meeting was if Vukovar was to be
17 attacked, everybody would be prepared to defend it.
18 Q. Did you perhaps learn from them or from a different source what
19 would be used in defence of the town? Is it not true that the purchase of
20 weapons started, Kalashnikovs, that sort of thing?
21 A. Yes. And unfortunately these were the days when the first
22 purchases were made. I saw this for myself. Unfortunately, about 90
23 per cent of the total of the weapons they had was made up by hunting
24 rifles. You could hardly see anybody carrying a proper rifle, an M-48 or
25 something like that. It was a great surprise whenever I saw someone
1 carrying a proper Kalashnikov. It was very rare. Once Vukovar had been
2 attacked there were more of those kinds of weapons gradually and more and
3 more weapons came in, and this is the only reason they managed to defend
4 Vukovar for so long.
5 Q. But I'm talking about the period preceding the outbreak of the
6 war, I'm talking about the military reviews, I'm talking about armament.
7 I'm asking if you know whether any weapons had been obtained unlawfully.
8 You will agree with me that it was not a lawful thing to purchase a
9 Kalashnikov then or now?
10 A. There is one thing I have to tell you. It's the truth and nothing
11 but the truth. I'm not sure if you're familiar with this. You might find
12 this surprising. A large number of Kalashnikovs was purchased by our
13 people from the Serbs. I know this. I couldn't help but laugh when I
14 found out that some of the Serbs were selling weapons to us of all people.
15 Q. Thank you for this piece of information. It's difficult to
16 surprise me, but this really is a surprise because I didn't know about
17 this. So this was yet another way of purchasing weapons at the time?
18 A. Yes, this was one of the channels used.
19 If I may be allowed to ask a question, perhaps.
20 Q. Not to me. To the Chamber, perhaps.
21 A. It's to the Chamber. Are we having a break any time soon? Or are
22 we just pressing straight through? If we could have another short break,
23 that would be much appreciated, Your Honour. But if we only have a short
24 time to go on, perhaps we should just continue.
25 JUDGE PARKER: We would normally finish in about eight minutes
1 time from now, but if you feel uncomfortable, we'll finish now. Which
2 would you prefer? Are you able to carry on for eight minutes?
3 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] Yes, yes. Certainly, Your Honour.
4 Eight minutes shouldn't be a problem. Thank you very much.
5 JUDGE PARKER: Thank you for that.
6 Yes, Mr. Domazet.
7 MR. DOMAZET: Thank you, Your Honour.
8 Q. [Interpretation] You said several times that you were a reserve
9 officer with the JNA. My question is: Which school for reserve officers
10 did you complete and when?
11 A. The one in Zadar back in 1961. That was tantamount to my military
12 term, military service, the regular one. I was, I just have to say this,
13 I was sent there to that school because I excelled as a student at my own
14 school. I later spent six months in Zadar at the military school. I was
15 one of the best students in terms of my grade-point average, so I was sent
16 to serve with Tito's guards for another six months. So that was my
17 military service, the long and short of it.
18 Later on when I was already employed, they would call me at least
19 two or three times a year to join the reserve forces, which caused a
20 certain amount of grief back in my company. But I had to go, I had no
21 choice. I was promoted several times over the years, eventually reaching
22 the rank of captain first class. That was back in 1968 that I was awarded
23 the rank following the attack on Czechoslovakia when the general concern
24 was that Yugoslavia would be attacked by the Russians. It was then that I
25 was appointed as a commander of the artillery company along the border
1 with Hungary. So that was a success for me. I was awarded a relatively
2 high rank, but this was nothing but a source of trouble back at work.
3 That would be my answer your question.
4 Q. If I understand you correctly, you said you were sent to this
5 reserve officer school because you were a good student at the time,
6 weren't you?
7 A. Yes.
8 Q. I hope you can answer this one. What about your membership in the
9 League of Communists. Don't you think this had anything to do with your
10 scholarship and being sent to the reserve officers' school?
11 A. No, that had nothing to do with that. In our class back at school
12 there were about 30 or 40 persons. They said right at the start the two
13 with the best grades, once school was over, would be sent to Tito's
14 personal guard, as some sort of a reward, and I came in at number two.
15 Q. Are you talking about the reserve officers' school or prior to
17 A. I'm talking about the reserve officers' school, that's what I'm
18 telling you about, the one back in Zadar.
19 Q. But I'm talking about being sent there to that school in the first
20 place. Don't you think your party membership favoured you being sent
21 there? Was this a perk or a privilege that you enjoyed at the time? In
22 view of the fact that you had only completed your secondary education, was
23 this the reason that you only stayed in the army for 12 months, otherwise
24 regular military service would have been 18 months?
25 A. Yes, that's correct, that was the reason.
1 Q. We have several minutes left, and I would like to use this time to
2 ask you a number of questions about Vukovar and what went on just before
3 the clashes started. Do you know anything about explosions, fires
4 shopping and newsstands being blown up?
5 A. Yes, I did hear about that. There were several newsstands, and
6 restaurants too, pubs. What I couldn't understand was why this always
7 seemed to happen when there was nobody around, at daybreak. I felt that
8 somebody was putting on a show in order to lead someone else down the
9 garden path, but that's just my take on it. Obviously there were
10 explosions in restaurants and pubs, but fortunately not a single person
11 was wounded or killed.
12 Q. Can I take your answer to mean that you personally harboured
13 certain suspicions about the owners themselves perhaps setting fires to
14 their own establishments?
15 A. Yes, the owner themselves. There was one at Bogdanovacka Street.
16 It was called Gornje Brdo [phoen]. The owner was someone who was later
17 with the so-called TO attacking Vukovar. There was several explosions in
18 his establishment, which was a tavern. No one was ever hurt. The next
19 day he would fix it a little. He would stay open for a week, and then
20 there would soon be another explosion, that sort of thing. Thank God no
21 one got hurt. I had suspicions about this. No one was getting hurt. I
22 suppose that he was staging these explosions and fires.
23 Q. Do I understand you correctly that this owner as well as all the
24 other owners who had this happening to their establishments was a Serb, an
25 ethnic Serb?
1 A. Yes, they were Serbs. Those that I know of. I can't speak about
2 everybody. Vukovar is not such a small town after all, but things were
3 happening. And I was at home, I was busy at work. I didn't have time to
4 just walk around in order to find out what was happening. I only knew
5 about those that were near me.
6 Q. Just another question for today, and then I'm winding up. What
7 about the Borba newsstand? Borba is a newspaper based in Belgrade, as you
8 probably know. Was there any explosion? Was this kiosk blown up too?
9 A. I don't remember that one, I'm sorry.
10 MR. DOMAZET: [Interpretation] Your Honours, I believe this is a
11 good time to wrap it up for the day.
12 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] I think so too. I absolutely agree.
13 JUDGE PARKER: Thank you, Mr. Domazet.
14 We will adjourn this evening and resume tomorrow at 2.15.
15 --- Whereupon the hearing adjourned at 7.01 p.m.,
16 to be reconvened on Wednesday, the 1st day of
17 February, 2006, at 2.15 p.m.