by Emir SULJAGIC
Hunting season: Late afternoon on the same day, August 4, six hundred members of the Fourth Brigade of People's Defense surrendered after negotiations that lasted for several hours. The Autonomous Province Western Bosnia was nearing her end and Atif Dudakovic, commander of the Fifth Corps, had reasons to be satisfied. Only two weeks later his soldiers entered Velika Kladusa and raised the flag with six lilies on top of Muja Hrnjica's fort. Their advance was followed by looting, burning and numerous murders. The war against autonomy, actually only its first part, was over, but the war against autonomy supporters would go on for years. Cazin Krajina remained branded for years, the hunting season for supporters of Fikret Abdic, branded as traitors, remained open even after the end of the war, and the terror of minority against majority was carried out unpunished first by the soldiers of the Fifth Corps and then by local bullies.
"At four o'clock we shall fire a warning shot, and if you do not surrender by then we shall continue shooting(...) If you do not surrender we shall fire from tanks, cannons and mortars. I do not know what the consequences will be, but I will not be responsible for them," Dudakovic warned the soldiers of the Fourth Brigade of the People's Defense before the start of negotiations. In the meantime, in the café bar "Man" at the entrance to Pecigrad negotiations between Besim Muhamedagic, the commander of the 4th brigade on the one side, and Dudakovic, on the other, went on. When Muhamedagic returned to the Pecigrad fort, to convey to the soldiers Dudakovic's conditions for surrender, Dudakovic lost patience and at five minutes before five o'clock a tank grenade fired from the positions of the Fifth Corps hit the fort. Muhamedagic was killed, with a few more soldiers who were standing on one of the fortress walls, and Zuhra Kovacevic, one of civilians who had sought shelter in the fort, was wounded in the belly. Soldiers of the People's Defense started to surrender, and Dudakovic promised, before they laid their arms, on behalf of the commander and my behalf that no one would be maltreated, beaten and that everyone would have the right to his own word [sic]." All prisoners were taken to the camp in the barracks "Adil Basic", together with many civilians arrested on that day.
Muhamed Skrgic, who spent his whole life in Pecigrad, was arrested on that day and taken to Bihac. "They did not beat me in the camp, but they did beat me on the bus. They beat me so hard that I pissed in my pants," he says. When after 12 days he came back from Bihac to Pecigrad, his house had been burnt to the ground. He says that all the houses in the neighborhood had been destroyed. Only one was standing, but it was thoroughly looted. Since then he had had to report three times a day to the police station, and in his late sixties, under Police supervision, he was forced to do physical work for families of the members of the Fifth Corps. "We mostly cleaned roads and harvested wheat," Muhamed says.
Unlike Muhamed, some prisoners remained in captivity until the end of the war, and many of them disappeared in the prisons of the Fifth Corps. Some of them were killed, some died while digging trenches, others were released and then arrested a few more times.
Picking, picking grapes: Hakija Beganovic, morale officer of the Fourth Brigade of the People's Defense, also surrendered on August 4 1994. "I kneeled in the bus all the way to Bihac, with hands behind my neck, while they beat me with batons. When we arrived in Bihac, I could not stand," Beganovic recalls. He was held, with another 1,600 prisoners, in the hangars of the Bihac barracks "Adil Besic". Walls and roof of the hangars are made of sheet metal, so that the inside was extremely hot during the day and cold at night. All prisoners had at their disposal 20 tin dishes and the same number of cups and spoons. "We had to line up for food and the first twenty would get food. Then the twenty first person in line would get the dish and spoon from the first person, regardless of whether he had finished the meal or not," he says.
Only rare individuals managed to finish their meal, on the occasions when there was food. "Sometimes we would line up for food, but they would only tell us that there was no food that day." While he was in Bihac, two prisoners died, Beganovic says. Even after the other prisoners were released after an amnesty, he was transferred together with another 33 prisoners to prison Luka and from there to Cazin... "I can recall some 30 locations at which I was imprisoned." Forced labor followed. On one occasion they cut firewood, another time dug trenches, then exhumed dead Serb soldiers for exchange... "We had to cut firewood for days and carry it from Pljesevica to the apartments of the officers of the Fifth Corps. At the end of the day, although totally exhausted, I was taken out by the guards and forced to pretend to be picking grapes and shout 'picking, picking grapes!'" After fifteen months spent in prisoner camps, Beganovic was released on August 21, 2995. Although the International Committee of the Red Cross had registered him as a prisoner of war, upon release the command of the Fifth Corps gave him a document confirming that he had spent the whole year being "processed for security reasons".
Members of the Fifth Corps, judging by other witnesses, treated members of the People's Defense without mercy. One of the witnesses, he refused to give his name, surrendered to the soldiers of the Fifth Corps with another three soldiers in June 1994. "We discarded our weapons, and they started shooting at us from machine guns. Senad Libic, Mirsad Brkic, and certain Osmankic were killed on the spot, and I was wounded in the chest," he testifies. After the soldiers approached them, they realized that he was still alive and one of them put the barrel of the gun into his mouth and fired. "However, he did not hold the gun straight, so that the bullet passed through my cheek." He was found a day later by his neighbors, who drove him to Velika Kladusa and from there to a long recovery in a hospital in Karlovac [in Croatia].
His fellow fighter Amir Karajic, who was also captured, had worse luck. After being captured on August 4, 1994, he was taken to Buzim and imprisoned in the cellar of the hotel "Buzim" (the headquarters of the 505th Buzim Knightly Brigade were in that hotel). Another two soldiers of the People's Defense were kept in the same cell with him. Late in the afternoon on that day, according to one of them, Suljo Karajic, member of the 506th Velika Kladusa Brigade, came to the prison and ordered them to come close to the bars. "I stood on the left from Amir, and Cisic (the third prisoner, author's remark) was next to me. Suljo Karajic placed a gun on the bars, roughly where Amir's chest was. He asked Amir what he had fought for. While they talked, Fikret Karajic, Amir's cousin, came by. He was the member of the Fifth Crops, also from Velika Kladusa. He told Amir: 'What's up cousin?' Suljo Karajic asked Fikret 'What, you feel sorry for him?' and fired a bullet in Amir Karajic's chest," this witness testifies. He was imprisoned in the Buzim prison until the March of 1995.
Karajic's beastly crimes: Suljo Karajic today lives in Velika Kladusa. After the war he opened a restaurant, then another one, and residents of Kladusa mostly speak about him with fear. "I know for sure that he killed my brother. And I meet him every day," says one of our interlocutors, who also requested to remain anonymous. At the time Dani tried to contact him, Karajic could not be found in either of his restaurants. One of his employees first said that he was praying in the town mosque, and ten minutes later that he had gone to the bank. Another ten minutes and several calls later, Karajic in a short telephone conversation said the following: "I've already responded to those accusations. I have nothing to say. As far as I am concerned, that case is over. That's that."
On July 19, 1999, officer of the International Criminal tribunal Brid O'Toole took over in Velika Kladusa voluminous evidence about crimes committed against the autonomy supporters. The document stamped with the Hague Prosecutor's Office stamp states that he took over "three folders with statements, two envelopes full of photographs, four video tapes, and four audio tapes" with testimonies of the victims. According to the statement of one of the witnesses, in January 1995 Karajic cut off the head of Rasim Dizdarevic, captured soldier of the People's Defense. The witness, at the time a member of the work platoon of the 506th Brigade, claims that Dizdarevic lay on the ground, on his back and begged for life in pain, trying to defend himself with his arms, while Karajic was trying to saw his head off. Then he ordered another prisoner to give him an axe and finished Dizdarevic off. The body was found on the spot of the murder, while the head was found buried a few kilometers away. Dani was also shown a video tape of the exhumation and autopsy conducted in March 1995, which clearly shows cuts on the hands and arms of the victim, as well as head wounds.
The bloodthirsty nature of the above described murder confirms that, regardless of how bloody, the end of what is in the Krajina jargon known as "the first autonomy", cannot be compared with its definite end in August 1995. Between October 1993 and August 1994, when the "second autonomy" was destroyed, there were hardly any clashes between the soldiers of the People's Defense and the Army of Bosnia-Hercegovina. Furthermore, civilians daily crossed the front line in columns several miles long going from Bihac to Pecigrad, Jabukovac or Trzac, on the territory of the Autonomous Province of Western Bosnia to buy food. "We proposed to the authorities in Bihac to take food to every village in the district with two conditions. That the price be the same as in Velika Kladusa and that they guarantee security of the drivers. However, the then representative of the Bosnia-Hercegovina government for the district, Mirsad Veladzic, rejected that proposal," Ibrahim Djedovic, at the time responsible for the transport of food through Abdic's "economic corridor", says. For the sake of comparison, the price of one kilogram of flour in Bihac was at the time $5 and in Velika Kladusa $1; a box of cigarettes was selling in Bihac for $5 while in the autonomous province the price fluctuated between $.5 and $.6; cooking oil was five times more expensive in Bihac, sugar seven times and coffee twenty times!
Madam, we killed your husband...: The state of neither war not peace ended in July 1994 when the Fifth Corps attacked the Autonomous Province of Western Bosnia and by the end of August crashed all resistance of the soldiers of the autonomy. During the following months, between the two attempts to establish the autonomy, a new wave of violence struck the territory around Cazin and Velika Kladusa. Soldiers of the Fifth Corps, following their old custom, at night arrested former members of the People's Defense and people suspected of supporting Abdic. These individuals would then disappear. Several days after arrests they would return home beaten up or their corpses would appear in front of their homes. As a rule, village imams refused to conduct religious burials of the victims, and families were forced to bury them in front of their houses, without a religious ceremony.
Asim Kovacevic, retired policemen from Pecigrad, was arrested in the evening on August 4, 1994, together with his neighbor, village teacher Hazim Beganovic. This was the first one in the series of arrests both of them would go through. They were escorted by the police to Bihac the following day, to the headquarters of the Fifth Corps military police. Kovacevic's son Asmir, captured as a policeman of the People's Defense, was in the neighboring cell. Both of them survived a week in that prison. Deformed by daily beatings, they were moved to the prison Luke. "They spit in our mouth, some of them would come and defecate in our cell, and one night guards let in some twenty soldiers who came to our cell and beat us up." Both of them spent a month in the prison and returned home convinced that they had repaid their debt to the authorities that had accused them of treason.
But both of them went through a few more similar arrests; Kovacevic was arrested for the last time in December 1994, when he was killed. This was the peak of "the second autonomy", and Kovacevic was "suspicious". "That night, at about 7pm, someone knocked on the door. When I opened, I saw three armed men in uniforms," his wife Ajka recalls. She says that they were looking for Asim, who quickly put on some clothes and went with them. She went to the local police station, which was located in the neighboring house, to find out what was going on, but the policemen did not know anything about the abduction of her husband. Three days later, Asim's corpse was found next to the road between Pecigrad and Cazin. His clothing was strewn around and the corpse, according to Ajka, was covered with wounds, black and blue. Doctor Miroslav Rakocevic in his autopsy report claimed that Kovacevic had died from natural causes. Two years later Ajka Kovacevic received an anonymous letter from one of the alleged murderers. In a brief message, obviously written with a lot of trouble in large capital letters, someone wrote: "Madam Kovacevic, I feel bad for writing this to you. Your husband was killed by Ale Samardzic from Coralic, Sisic Hasim and I. The police paid us. Halil commander, Juso Hodzic and Saned the policeman. I am from Sana."
505 carved in with knife: Meho Jusic is another victim of night raids. He was seventy-years-old and lived in Gornja Vidovska. Unfortunately for him, he lived on the front line and was frequently visited by the patrols of the opposing armies. "It was five in the morning. Someone knocked on the door and shouted 'Meho, open up!'," says Meho's daughter in law Zekira, seven months pregnant. According to her, the soldier who stood in the yard told Meho to get ready and follow them. He refused and while he was closing the door the soldier fired two bullets into him. One bullet hit Meho in the arm and the other one, probably the deadly one, in the belly. Because of this murder the Bihac district prosecutor issued in June 1999 an indictment against Zuhdija Tahirovic. His fellow fighter Muhamed Dzakulic confirmed in court that Tahirovic killed the old man on the threshold of his house. "When we came to the house where the old man lived (Jusic, author's remark), he (Tahirovic, author's remark) told me to bang on the door and set my gun to automatic fire. I refused his order and he started banging on the door.(...) Zuhdija in silence cocked his gun and fired in the direction of the old men through the entrance door." Bullet traces can still be seen on the door. Behind the house there is the grave in which old Jusic had been buried until his body was moved to the local cemetery. The panel of judges of the Cantonal Court in Bihac acquitted Tahirovic of all charges on September 27, 2001.
The worst was yet to come. The violence culminated with the final destruction of the Autonomous Province of Western Bosnia in August 1995, which was followed by rapes and executions.
"Fifteen days after the fall of the second autonomy, a man in military fatigues broke into my home. (...) I escaped to the garden (...) and he caught up with me... and then threw me on the ground," one of the rape victims testifies. She recalls that the attacker put a gun on her neck, tore her clothes off and then raped her. "I managed to get back into the house through a window, with a lot of trouble, went into the room and covered myself with a comforter. I was hurting a lot, so that I cried because of pain and fear. Fifteen minutes later, he came back and raped me again."
B.D. from Polje near Velika Kladusa was also raped. She was aged 22 at the time, and was raped by the members of the 505th Brigade in September 1995. Namely, during the check up conducted by Dr. Ivo Navratil in the Karlovac hospital, Dr. Navratil noted that B.D. had been raped, but also that her "right thigh had 505 carved on it. The numbers were about 10 centimeters long and 5 centimeters wide and were carved by double cuts, separated by 1 cm. All together there are three cuts, each measuring 1 by 45 cm and 2 by 33 cm."
Supporters of autonomy and of the Fifth Corps: During those days people disappeared without trace, they were murdered without fear of punishment, as if the war would never end. Twenty-years-old Senad Pilipovic was arrested in his family home in Mala Kladusa and has not been seen since then. His wife Zumreta, after her return from the refugee camp in Kuplensko, started an exhausting and seemingly hopeless search for her husband. In February 1999, with the assistance of the Ombudsman's office in Bihac, she finally managed to find out his fate. The cantonal prosecutor sent to the Ombudsman's office the explanation in which he claimed that Pilipovic had been arrested by "members of the 510th Brigade of the Fifth Corps". "He was brought to the INCEL premises in Cazin, where he died after being beaten by soldiers," this document states.
Fikret Pilipovic is another one out of tens of hundreds of those who never came back from the prisoner camps. He, although at the time had the status of prisoner of war ("member of paramilitary formations of Fikret Abdic") died digging trenches at the positions held by the 511th Brigade, near Cazin well. The letter sent to his wife Munira by the municipal defense office in Velika Kladusa states that he died of August 12 "when the Serb-Chetnik aggressor fired a grenade from the direction of Koliste". What a consolation!
Apparently the only consolation that numerous families from Kladusa and Cazin that are still searching for their loved ones can count on. Unfortunately, this small war within the war, apparently still hasn't ended. Inhabitants of Cazin Krajina are still divided to the "supporters of autonomy" and the "supporters of the Fifth Corps". Actually, that is the only important distinction. While I was leaving the office of the Democratic People's Union in Velika Kladisa, a group of high school students, leaving a bar across the road from the office, obviously drunk, broke the heavy (or at least that is how it seemed to me) silence that shrouds this town by singing and chanting "Babo, Babo!" [Fikret Abdic] I had a premonition that a few hundreds of meters or a few kilometers away another group of young men or boys was also stumbling around chanting "SDA! SDA!". Actually, it was not a premonition. I knew.
And the silence shrouding this town will be as heavy as on that day, in spite of their youthful noise, for a long time to come. At least until they, boys, become ready to look each other in the eye and stop blaming each other for the sins of their parents. Or some other parents who pushed their parents to the point of desperation where they had no other choice but to slaughter each other. Until then, Velika Kladusa will transmit to the rest of the country silence that has been coming from there until now and crimes will remain carefully hidden.
Considering the recent developments in Bihac muftidom, which led to mutual spilling of Muslim blood, and regarding different interpretations of the treatment of slain members of the Bosniak nation who support the rebels, Bihac Mufti professor Hasan ef. Makic issued the following
Bihac, November 23, 1993, Hasan ef. Makic
Bihac, November 23, 1993, Hasan ef. Makic
The literal meaning of fatwah a permission or instruction. According to sharia law, fatwah used to be issued by Mufti's as the supreme religious authority for a certain region, mostly in form of answers and questions. The supreme authority that at first issued all fatwahs was Sheik-ul-Islam [the religious head of all Muslims], but that right was later passed on to the muftis as well. Fatwahs always deal with religious issues and never encroach on the domain of politics or secular law. Therefore, the Bihac fatwah sets a precedent. Besides of regulating relations already regulated by the war law, it is actually a call for war, permission for killing of hundreds of individuals who differ only by their opinion. Dani tried to obtain the official comment on the content of this fatwah from the Bihac muftidom. Unfortunately, we were unable to reach anyone there, despite persistent phone calls.
In December 1995, units of the Fifth Corps of the Army of Bosnia-Hercegovina liberated a large territory between Bihac and Banja Luka. Near Sanski Most, members of the 505th Buzim Brigade, somewhere between Jesenica and Lusci-Palanka, captured a soldier of the Army of the Republic of Srpska who had fallen behind his unit. The interrogation that was recorded by an amateur camera, as well as this whole expedition, was led by two members of that unit. One of them is an Arab, the other one a Bosniak. The prisoner is visibly scared and other soldiers of the 505th Brigade stand in semicircle around him.
"What's your name?"
"Listen, Chetnik, are you good? (the Arab hits him in the face) Are you good?"
"Screw it!" (he turns his head away)
"Do you know who I am?" (the Arab again hits the prisoner in the face)
"I don't know."
"What do you mean, you don't know?"
"This is an Arab, a mujahedeen," the others interject.
"What is this?" the Arab asks pointing at other soldiers.
"Screw it, I don't know. Soldiers?"
"Where did they come from?"
"I don't know. From abroad."
"And why did they come here?"
"Screw it, probably to fight here."
"Abu You, Abu You, Abu You..." (the Arab hits him with fists in the face)
"Screw it!" (the prisoner lowers his gaze)
"Don't swear, that's not allowed here, do you know!" (the Bosniak hits him with the hand in the mouth)
"How old are you?"
"Do you have children?"
"I have two children."
"What did you have the rifle for?"
"I did not shoot."
"Sure, you did not shoot."
"Take a look at the gun, you'll see I did not shoot."
"What's your rank?"
"What's this, what's this?" the Arab again wants to know, holding the prisoner's rifle in his hand. "Where were you?"
"Up, screw it, in the forest."
"And what did you do in the forest?" the Arab asks.
"Where did you fight here, around Bosanska Krupa?" the Bosniak soldier asks.
"Nowhere. They've just mobilized here. We were the work battalion. If it were up to me and you, this certainly would not have happened."
"I'm going to kill you," the Arab says.
"Screw it, kill me."
"Stop saying 'screw it'!" the Bosniak soldier hits him again. "What kind of habit is that?"
"Fine, I won't."
"Have you heard of the 505th Brigade?"
"Tekbir!" the Arab demands.
"Say 'Allahu ekber'!" Bosniak soldiers explain his demand.
"Don't, don't, don't!" (the Arab puts his hand over the prisoner's mouth and slowly hits him on the left side of the neck.)
The recording is interrupted at this point and continues in a yard, in front of a house. The soldiers sit around, resting. Some of them are in front of the house door, other sit on the logs piled up in the yard, some of them are picking and eating grapes. One of them speaks up. "Here is the brother, he's coming." The Arab enters the yard accompanied by a member of the Army of Bosnia-Hercegovina. "Hey brother, did you kill him, the motherfucker!" one of the soldiers laughs.
The camera focuses on the corpse of the Serb soldier. His head is facing towards the ground, between two stones in the meadow, covered with blood. The Arab approaches the corpse and pulls the head up by the hair. Three cuts can be seen on the face, one over the neck, another one over the mouth and the third one over the forehead.
Muric, now in his late thirties, is one of the people who passed through the whole Krajina circle. Trained as a soldier, he was the head of the Defense Secretariat in the Bihac district during the war. After the war he was branded as "a supporter of autonomy". Articles published by Prezent have totally changed his life, but in the meantime he only remained loyal to his principles. "When the initiative for the founding of the Autonomous Province of Western Bosnia was announced, I fully supported it. However, Abdic started to take control of the units of the Fifth Corps and I could not accept that as a soldier and stayed behind in Bihac, with the Fifth Corps." After the end of the war, Muric left the local authorities and after being unemployed for three months decided to attend a graduate course in political science in Bihac. "Everything was fine until my second exam. Preparing for the exam in communications, I read something about the local press, and decided to start a newspaper." Muric admits that the first issues had a totally amateurish look and were the ideal combination of lack of experience and burning desire to create a newspaper. With the benefit of hindsight, he says, he would have done better by opting for a different enterprise.
During the first few months Prezent was one of many boring local newspapers, covering only topics from daily life of a small and provincial town such as Cazin. Prices at the green market, advertisements, anniversaries of medresas, and appointment of the mayor, were some of the common topics. "It was a profitable business, I was getting a lot of advertising and I lived well," Muric says. But he soon got bored. "I wanted to do something others wouldn't dare!" And the opportunity waited round the corner. In November 1998, on the eve of the elections, Prezent published an interview with Fikret Abdic, candidate for the Presidency of Bosnia-Hercegovina. "As soon as I entered his office, I told him 'we defeated you in the battle field!', and he responded 'I'll defeat you politically!' That was one of the most difficult moments in my life," Adem recalls his first meeting with Kladusa Babo [boss]. Interview was a shock, an event after which nothing will ever be the same. "I immediately started getting threats, but as they got more numerous, I had more will, I was getting more spiteful and defiant. Those threats determined my future course."
In the summer of 1999 the president of the SDP in Cazin, Ekrem Prosic was beaten up. Investigating that incident, Muric for the first time heard stories about beatings, torture and murders committed during the war. "At first I did not believe those stories. However, after several conversations with the victims, I compared their stories and realized that that was a very serious matter indeed." But even after he decided to publish articles about that, he did not have any idea where that decision would take him. "I came to the idea to call that 'decade from hell', but I thought that the serial would be finished after two or three issues." The first testimony, published in August 1999, was anonymous, but, to Muric's disbelief, the whole print run was sold out. As the time went by, he discovered more and more victims, men and women who were not afraid to talk about that. "I felt better once I realized that crimes were not committed by members of armed forces to which I belonged. One should not generalize things. It is clear who the culprits are, but they haven't been punished." Until today, Muric has published more than a hundred similar testimonies.
After a year, Muric got a collaborator, Esad Sabanagic, who has been investigating crimes committed by the soldiers of the Fifth Corps in Bosnan Krajina since his arrival in the Prezent. Unlike Muric, Sabanagic spent the war in the Autonomous Province of Western Bosnia and it was strange to see them at the same job. "Esad is one of those who are referred to as 'supporters of autonomy' and at first we had trouble sorting out who was 'ours' and who 'theirs'," Muric says with a smile.
Testimonies of the victims published by Prezent often lack details. Some of them do not include location of the crime, others time of the crime. Names of the culprits are repeated almost every issue and, although these individuals are today businessmen and policemen, only two of them bothered to deny the accusations published in Prezent. "I do not claim that we are flawless professionals. There are definitely some mistakes there. But, I cannot try to balance things out by publishing in one issue testimonies of the victims of the Fifth Corps and the other those of the 'autonomy'. Simply, there are far more of the former," Muric comments.
Prezent is still sold practically illegally and bought far away from the prying eyes. It is distributed through a network of village stores, local bars and market stalls. According to Muric, the links between the culprits, police - where some of them still work - and the judiciary are still obvious, and his mistakes should be observed in this context. Namely, neither the judiciary nor the police have conducted a single investigation in connection with the accusations published in Prezent. In those cases when the Cantonal Prosecutor in Bihac did issue indictments that only occurred after tremendous pressure coming from the international organizations. Adem Muric owes his life to some of them.
After a series of very serious threats, last year he requested their protection. During our conversation, there was a SFOR armored troop carrier in front of his apartment and the building was guarded by Canadian soldiers. "They offered me protection of the local police, but I declined it. For God's sake I've been writing about them all this time," he says bitterly. Finally, when the threats got too serious to ignore he left Cazin and sought shelter in Great Britain for a month. Today, the situation is different. "I meet people I write about every day, but now they only give me mean looks." Concerned about his life? "No. In the first days I was saved by the reputation I earned in the war as the district secretary for defense. Now I have bodyguards, who follow me at all times." Considering the environment in which Prezent is published, the small community until recently tightly controlled by the SDA, cut off from the rest of the country, and prejudice regarding anything related to the "autonomy" that is common in other parts of the country as well, his courage is striking. Now, three years later, he does not have any regrets, but he would hardly do all of this again, if he had a chance. "There are many easier and more profitable things. However, I'm afraid I've become addicted." Addicted to what? Probably to the truth, to which he sacrificed his marriage, although he refused to discuss that.
Satisfaction? A few months ago, at a bus station in Skokovi I saw an elderly woman holding a copy of Prezent upside down in her hands. I realized that she was illiterate and asked her why she had bought the paper if she could not read. She told me: 'There is a kid in my neighborhood. He goes to school. Tonight, we'll gather at my place and he'll read for us and later we'll talk'."
CAUSEVIC: I do not think that there is any need for us as a municipal organization to take a stand regarding that issue. All possible war crimes are processed by the judiciary. We are a political party. Our party has no jurisdiction over the investigation and prosecution of possible war crimes...
Since the end of the war, the SDA had absolute power in the Una-Sana canton, all the time until the most recent elections, and only one or two suspected war crimes have been processed, while according to some sources war crimes number in hundreds.
I am not aware of that information, but you must be aware of the overall number of victims in Bosnia-Hercegovina. How many people have been killed in Srebrenica, and how many perpetrators have been prosecuted? I do not want to draw parallels, but it cannot be denied that here there were camps that were registered even by Tadeusz Mazowiecki, the UN rapporteur for human rights. It is undeniable that humanitarian convoys were not allowed to pass through the territory of the so-called Autonomous Province of Western Bosnia...
That is precisely why Fikret Abdic has been indicted and is currently on trial. But, is it possible to discuss crimes committed by the members of the Fifth Corps against the supporters of the autonomy? Do you believe that there were such crimes?
I am not aware of any.
Do you read Prezent?
No. I do not read newspapers.
What is the path towards reconciliation between ordinary citizens if you deny that there were any crimes against those branded as "supporters of the autonomy"?
I did not pick a fight with anyone, consequently there is no need to reconcile with anyone. This, so to speak, conflict between Bosniak, under quotation marks, is specific. If we were to put on one side things we have in common and on the other side those that separate us, there would be a lot more in common. Unfortunately there are quite a few negative consequences for the overall atmosphere that is created by newspapers that publish unverified or bombastic information, frequently deliberately distorted. The topic you've chosen is the topic whose purpose is to increase the circulation of your magazine. The daily events are not noted and registered. You did not come to write about the number of new roads in the Velika Kladusa municipality...
If I understood correctly, you've just said something like "let's forget about crimes and build new roads, and one day we'll hopefully reconcile"...
No, that's not what I said. Crimes were committed and all of us are aware of the aggression committed against Bosnia-Hercegovina. So far 87 mass graves, and over 100 individual graves have been found in Krajina...
I am convinced that Dani journalists have personally seen more mass graves than you.
Excellent. How many criminals responsible for those graves have been prosecuted?
Please, could you answer my question. I am trying to ask you about a totally different issue. What should be our attitude towards those crimes, regardless of who committed them?
Simply, those crimes should be processed by courts. That's the only way. The independent judiciary should do its part of the job.
When in one of the previous answers you mentioned conflict between Bosniak, you said that that should be put within quotation marks. Why?
I was a member of the Fifth Corps and I do not think I fought against Bosniaks, but instead defended Bosnia-Hercegovina against aggression. I do not care who sided with the aggressor.
Are you claiming that supporters of Fikret Abdic are not Bosniaks?
No, I'm not.
Do you think they are traitors?
Many of them were mobilized by force. I do not want to generalize. It should be left to courts to decide who is to be blamed for this war and to find all those who bloodied their hands.
DOLIC: The fierceness of the conflict was dictated by propaganda. Religious leaders declared that all the supporters of the autonomy were murtads, apostates, and military propaganda services claimed that in Velika Kladusa we were setting mosques on fire, raping Muslim women etc. Considering local mentality, this could have only resulted in heavy fighting. Unfortunately most crimes were committed with knowledge of the command of the Fifth Corps and religious leaders.
Cooperation with the Republic of Serb Krajina, with Milan Martic, in the midst of the war, was viewed by the rest of the Bosnian public as treason. Could you explain the circumstances that led to the cooperation with the RSK?
The Autonomous Province of Western Bosnia obtained her food in Croatia. Croatia approved that convoys with food pass through the territory of the RSK, which was in war with Croatia. As far as the deal made with the Serbs is concerned, it was achieved thanks to the Fikret Abdic's influence, and signing of the declaration with Franjo Tudman and Slobodan Milosevic. That document is in no way different from the Dayton Agreement. The only difference is that Abdic did not wait for the death of 200,000 people before signing. In the first part of the autonomy there were no Serbs here at all, apart from those who lived here. When the first autonomy fell, we left with the intent to emigrate. Croatia did not allow us to continue over her territory, we could not come back, as that would mean certain death, and we had no choice. We spent that winter in Agrokomerc farms located at the then territory of the RSK, in hangars at one point used for breeding of chicken. A thousand individuals slept in each of those hangars, only six kilometers from Velika Kladusa. The only way out was to return with weapons. When we escaped we handed weapons over to the Serbs. When we realized that we would be not allowed to emigrate to Western Europe or North America, and that we could not return here with dignity, we requested our weapons back. At that time we were assisted by Serb military instructors and in the first wave of attacks we had their artillery support. When we returned, there were no Serb troops with us. In some parts there were Serb units, but it would have been better if there weren't any, because they are bad soldiers. And it's nonsense that Serbs raped women here. I know that one woman was raped and the rapists were caught, tried and sentenced, one to ten years and the other one to twelve years in prison.
How would you characterize the use of the artillery support provided by the RSK Army? Treason?
At the time we were trying to return to our homes. I would have requested assistance from Hitler personally, if necessary. And would have accepted assistance from anyone, to return to my home.
When will you, and the Democratic People's Union (DNZ) take a stand regarding the crimes committed against the members of the Fifth Corps?
Against the members of the Fifth Corps...?
Yes, as for example crimes committed at the farm in Drmeljevo?
We have already taken a public stand regarding that. We fully agree that all those who have committed crimes should be prosecuted. How many leaders of the DNZ have been tried? Alija Besirevic member of the presidency of the party, Fikret Kudic another leader of the party, Ibrahim Djedovic secretary general of the party spent three years in jail [he was finally acquitted], Fikret Abdic is now in prison... One could say that that is a form of prosecution. Let the court decide.
In your opinion, what is necessary for reconciliation in Bosnian Krajina?
I think that hatred among the local Muslims has been rather exaggerated. Until 1997, when the DNZ took control of the local authorities in Velika Kladusa and the truth started slowly to leak out, it was very difficult. Things are already slowly thawing, and when the SDA finally looses its influence here crimes will finally be prosecuted. In 1999 we turned over a series of documents to the Hague Tribunal, with names of 106 victims, with names of executioners, and we got a number and code of the investigator in charge of the case, but we haven't received any additional information since then. Whether he was here and whether he did anything, we really don't know. About a month ago we requested from the Hague additional information about their activities.
In your opinion, who should be held responsible for these crimes?
If there is justice, someone must end up in the Hague, based on command responsibility, in addition to executioners. Based on command responsibility the most responsible individual is Atif Dudakovic. There are also a few individuals who killed more than one person, including one who committed 20 murders, and we've collected evidence for some 11 or 12 or those. But some people still do not want to talk about that.
Who is that person?
He is from Velika kLadusa, Suljo Karajic, also known as Hodza; he now owns two cafes, one is called "Europe", the other "America". Such an individual is free to walk through the town, his victims and their children meet him daily.
When will the division of the inhabitants of Krajina to "supporters of the Corps" and "supporters of the autonomy" end? Will that legacy, unfortunately, stay with us for a long time?
Krajisnici are hot tempered, they quickly draw knives and guns, but also quickly shake each other hands. They will shake each other hand when the truth comes out and when crimes are punished.