“ … There were insults, slurs directed at us. They wanted us to admit to being Chetniks, which I didn’t do because I wasn’t one in the first place, and … it was an insult. ”
Nedeljko Radić, was one of many Bosnian Serbs who was maltreated by Bosnian Muslim guards at the Srebrenica police station in the autumn of 1992. In his testimony, he described what happened before and during his detention. He testified on 13, 14 and 17 January 2005 in the case against Naser Orić.
“ On one occasion, Mr Radić’s fellow detainee, Slavoljub Žikić, described other detainees as 'more like dead people than people who were still alive'. ”
By April 1992, tension between local Bosnian Muslims and Serbs in the region reached a crisis point. During the early months of 1992, Serb paramilitaries arrived in Srebrenica area and began, with the help of the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA), to distribute arms and military equipment to the local Bosnian Serb population. On 18 April 1992, Srebrenica was forcibly taken over by Bosnian Serbs, after most of its Bosnian Muslim inhabitants had fled. Mr Radić described a similar situation in the mine. “When the [political] parties were established, the Party of Democratic Action (SDA) and the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS), then workers of Muslim – or rather, Bosniak ethnicity, started leaving the mine en masse. So, by the end of May, I think all Bosniaks had left the mine”. In late April, early May, following the capture of a bus carrying workers who were released the following day, Mr Radić, along with other workers, was assigned additional duties to guard the mine and watch over equipment. He was issued with a company rifle but he still considered himself a miner. As tension in the area increased some vehicles coming out of the mine were ambushed and drivers were killed and on 24 September 1992 the mine came under attack. Mr Radić was working that day and he testified that he was captured by Zulfo Tursunović, a man he knew before the war. Mr Radić was driving a loader with two fellow workers who were both killed by gunfire directed at their vehicle.
After his capture, Mr Radić was escorted by three armed men. He recalled that they, “… went up to Zulfo’s house, where those armed escorts awaited further orders to transport us to Srebrenica.” Mr Radić and his co-workers were transported to the Srebrenica police or SUP building, by truck and taken “inside the SUP building, to a room that was three or four square meters”. Five of them shared the room, which had no toilet facilities, no bed or chairs and no proper window. The witness testified that they had no space in the room because “there were two square metres of floor down there, and the rest was just a concrete slab. So it was too cold”.
On the second day of his imprisonment, Mr Radić was taken out of the room for interrogation by a man he identified as a police chief. He testified that he was treated as a prisoner of war because, “they wanted to know my name, whether I was a soldier, and what my rank was, who my commander was.” Furthermore, he explained that when he told them that he had no rank, that he was not a soldier, he was hit and kicked in the face and the chest by the chief. Mr Radić recalled another man being taken from the cell where they were being held and interrogated, he said “…he had a tougher time than I did, because he was bleeding when he came back.”
Apart from being interrogated, all the detainees suffered severe beatings, cruel treatment and broken bones. The maltreatment took place “mostly at night, both inside the cell and in the reception room, and was inflicted by or in the presence of Kemo, a certain Mrki, a certain Beli, and others, who had entered the police station from the outside.” On one occasion, Mr Radić’s fellow detainee, Slavoljub Žikić, described other detainees as “more like dead people than people who were still alive.”
“ There was a police car waiting for them and ... a tractor carrying 20 dead bodies, including the body of Akif Hrustić, which the witness later found out was a relative of Naser Orić. 'We were then exchanged for those dead bodies.' ”
During the second night, detainees were badly beaten by two guards in particular, a man called Kemal Mehmetović, known as Kemo, and a man named Mrki, as the witness described: “They cracked me over the back and over the chest with the log. I had fractures. … I was suffering severe pain and some of my teeth were smashed.” The next night was described by Mr Radić in the following terms: “Kemo started to beat me again, and then he took pliers and extracted the bits of teeth that were left after the beating of the previous night, the teeth that were already broken. The pliers were very broad, so he could get two or three teeth in the same go. And after that, he disinfected the wound with urine.” He claimed that it was only during the times when Čude, an SUP guard, was on duty that inmates would be spared beatings and not otherwise abused.
He suggested that the fear he felt during his imprisonment was further reinforced by “… insults, slurs directed at us. They told us, ‘Chetniks, you are firing at our children, throwing grenades’, and then the beatings followed. They wanted us to admit to being Chetniks, which I didn’t do because I wasn’t one in the first place, and secondly, it was an insult.”
Other detainees were also beaten and mistreated in the same room within the Srebrenica SUP building. A fellow mine worker, Dragutin Kukić, was brutally killed after he had cursed the guard’s “Ustasha mothers”. “…they brought Kukić, and then they started beating him. Mrki beat him down to the ground…. Then Kemo took this piece of wood, and as Kukić was lying on his back, he hit him on the chest, and he was dead on the spot.”
The physical state of detainees deteriorated, as they were mistreated on regular basis, provided with little water and kept in inhumane conditions. While testifying about the physical appearance of the other detainees, Mr Radić stated that “… they were black and blue and very tired, exhausted. Nevenko [a security guard at the mine] could not even stand up.” They were constantly cold as it was late September and they had been stripped of their clothes on capture. The detainees were psychologically worn out. Mr Radić testified that “… my brain was practically numb. I couldn’t remember anything. I couldn’t even think straight.” Mr Radić also testified about degrading conditions such as being forced to clean toilets that had no flushing water, with their bare hands. Unable to clean their hands afterwards, “…they would just wipe them on their own clothes.”
Mr Radić indicated that Naser Orić was one of the people who visited the SUP building while he was detained and that he saw him at least two times between 24 September and 16 October 1992. He testified that Orić “… would only introduce himself saying: My name is Naser Orić, in case you didn’t know. But he never really introduced himself as being the commander. He would come in uniform, with the fleur-de-lis camouflage uniform.” The witness said that Orić did not mistreat detainees during his visits. He asked detainees if they had been beaten and what had happened to Dragutin Kukić . “We replied that no one was beating us, that Kukić has suffered a stroke. I’ve told you already why we were in no position to say what happened. It was for reasons of our personal safety.”
On 16 October 1992, Mr Radić left the SUP building in Srebrenica. Other detainees were also released. They included Zoran Branković and Slavoljub Žikić, as well as Nevenko Bubanj and Veselin Šarac, employees from the mine. On the morning of 16 October 1992 the guard named Čude arrived, unlocked their cell and told them that they would be exchanged. They were given some water to wash. “We didn’t have enough water to drink let alone wash. …We couldn’t have any drinking water except when Čude was around. And I remember that twice a police officer in uniform came to bring us water, but not the rest of them. We would not have any water for half a day at a time, not even to drink, let alone to wash our faces. There was a shortage.”
A yellow lorry was parked outside the SUP building and “…we hoisted Nevenko’s body up because he couldn’t climb himself, and then four of us boarded the lorry.” Kemo drove the lorry to the Yellow Bridge, near Potočari, where the detainees were exchanged. The witness said that there was a police car waiting for them and a police officer named Jokić from Bratunac. There was also a tractor carrying 20 dead bodies, including the body of Akif Hrustić, which the witness later found out was a relative of Naser Orić. “We were then exchanged for those dead bodies.”
After the exchange, the men were taken to a hotel in Bratunac. Mr Radić remembered: “That same evening Nevenko was taken to Zvornik, to the hospital there. He died several days later. The same evening the postman was visited by some of his relatives and left with them. Veselin Šarac, Zoran, and myself, remained at the hotel until the next morning.”