The name of the president who devoted so much attention to the commemoration of the Ustashe victims held in Zagreb is Bill Clinton, and the republic whose leader he is is the United States of America; the envoy who sharply denounced fascism is the American ambassador [in Croatia],Peter Galbraight, and the officer was the American military attache in Croatia.
The president of the Association of Antifascist Veterans Ivan Fumic, Jewish community president, Dr. Ognjen Kraus and the president of the Union of Roma Vid Bogdan also spoke at the commemoration. Dr. Franjo Tudman didn't send his envoy; the Croatian Army neither. Croatian president is certainly preoccupied with the preparations for the trip to London to the celebration of the 50th anniversary of victory against fascism. Glede & unatoc, that is only a sign of his consistency. Yes to antifascism, but only abroad. At home, it is another story...
These were the words of the Croatian knight Tomislav Mercep in July 1994, at the opening of a UHDDR [Association of the Croatian Volunteers from the Patriotic War] branch in Pula. A year later, it turned out that his observations about the respect of civic freedoms and the surplus of rights for "us ourselves" were accurate. The district Court in Zagreb awarded to Mercep 130,000 kuna [Croatian currency] for "the severity of experienced pain" caused by the article "Killing Fields in Pakracka Poljana" (Feral Tribune, issue 433). The article very delicately and cautiously treats the murders and crimes committed by the members of the the reserve police unit under command of Tomislav Mercep.
The court in Zagreb passed the verdict based on the plaintiff's testimony "in which the court has complete confidence," because it was "delivered with confidence and clarity." The verdict also says the following:" It is undeniable that the plaintiff has never been sentenced for a criminal act related to a murder of a robbery; hence it cannot be imputed that the unit under his command committed any crimes or robberies, as is claimed in the article in question." Therefore, it was concluded that in the Feral article, "the plaintiff's dignity, honor and stature are severely offended and that his morality, and his reputation of a man and a veteran from the Patriotic war, who has been decorated several times for his successes in war operations, are questioned."
After shameful cover up of crimes, Pakracka Poljana was turned into a test for detection of the freshest enemies of the state, those who - by poking through the epic war journey of Tomislav Mercep and his golden boys - "persistently insist on alleged crimes of Croatian warriors." A certain paramilitary weekly then accused Feral of trying to "turn Tomislav Mercep and his unit, all heros of the Patriotic war, into cruel murderers"; all that was "an attempt to undermine the Croatian state," meaning that "the ultimate goal of that project is disappearance of Croatia in its present constitutional shape"!
Former State prosecutor Vladimir Seks assessed that the casting of a moral shadow on the so-called Mercep's unit aims to "soil the whole patriotic war, especially volunteers." Those who do that "are trying to soil their honor and to portray their leaders as ordinary criminals," and "attempt to claim that the Croatian state policy has, at least, tolerated war crimes." Finally the enemy payed the price; with that punishment all more visible factors were satisfied: Tomislav Mercep received 130,000 Kunas, patriotic war a cleaning fluid and Croatian state policy Vladimir Seks' reserve honor.
Several testimonies, which we are publishing in this Dossier, are only a small part of the voluminous police documentation about the crimes of the so-called Mercep's unit; this part is just sufficient to give an idea of the atmosphere in which this wild cordon of death acted. However, it is only a small part of the whole truth about the events in Pakracka Poljana. Serial executions, kidnappings, torture of prisoners in the Pakrac jail, blackmail and banditry... Due to the hellish conspiracy of political and judicial power brokers these crimes remain unpunished. Probably the moral is that in the state of Croatia it is not that important that the justice is blind as much as it is important that everyone else is deaf and dumb.
The indictment, signed by the head of the department, Ante Gugic, states that the members of the unit under command of Tomislav Mercep, the accused Miroslav Bajramovic, Stjepan Mandarelo and a few others, on 10/31/1991 following the orders of their commander Zvonimir Trusic abducted Milos Ivosevic, Rade Paic and Marko Gruic at the building site of Ivosevic's house in Zagreb (81 Rudeska cesta). They took them to Pakracka Poljana and handed them over to Branko Saric a.k.a. Kosa, the headquarters commander at the time, who kept them imprisoned for 10 days.
"During that time, the accused Mijo Jajic and other members of the unit physically mistreated the victims (beatings, electric shocks and other)". During the night between 11/11 and 11/12 the three victims, together with nine other unidentified prisoners, were taken to the village of Bujavica near Pakrac and massacred in the cellar of a family house.
The indictment also states that, following the orders of Tomislav Mercep and Zvonimir Trusic, Igor Mikola and Sinisa Rimac abducted Ina Zoricic-Nuic a.k.a. Marina, who was a member of the crisis headquarters in the borough of Kraljevica near the city of Rijeka, from the burial of Pavo Mlinaric (also a member of the Mercep's unit) at the Mirogoj cemetery in Zagreb. After interrogation at the Zagreb fair grounds they drove her toward the locality known as Janja Lipa, about half a mile from Pakracka Poljana, where the accused Antun Jurgec executed the victim.
At the same spot, in November 1991, Igor Mikola and Munib Suljic executed Aleksandar Antic, a.k.a. Sasa, also a member of the reserve police unit; according to the indictment, all that happened "according to the orders of and in collaboration between commanders Tomislav Mercep, Zvonimir Trusic, Demal Palos and Zvonimir Zakosek."
Stevan Brajenovic's case is also mentioned in the indictment. Stevan Brajenovic, a customs officer from Zagreb, was arrested on 12/8/1991; then, Munib Suljic took him to the jail in Pakracka Poljana. "On 11/11/1991, around 6 a.m., Brajenovic tried to grab a rifle which had been set aside in the room in which he was together with Boris Tucman and Zoran Karlovic. The accused Karlovic shot Brajenovic from a hand gun and inflicted a serious abdominal wound, after which Brajenovic was taken to a hospital; his car is still in Pakracka Poljana while the accused Tucman, Bajramovic, "Glava" and "Zuti" gave the money taken from Brajenovic (DEM 9,700) to the unit commander Demal Palos."
Zagreb PD submitted as evidence for these accusations, among other, testimonies and confessions of the accused, almost all of whom (all except for Tomislav Mercep) were in the District Court jail in Zagreb at the time.
However, the indictment covers only a part of the bloody events in Pakracka Poljana. According to the investigation of Helsinki Watch, for example, it can be proven that the following persons lost their lives in the jail in Pakracka Poljana: Mirko Cicvara director of "Ribnicarstvo", Blagoje Zabrdac accountant in "Ribnicarstvo", Duro Brkanjac pensioner from Kukunjevci, Pero Rajcevic head of the Bjelovarska Bank branch in Pakrac, Veljko Stojakovic, a worker in Kutina based company Petrokemija, Ivan Drekovic from Antunovac, Nada Radakovic and Milan Jerinic from Bujavica. Helsinki Watch report also has a list of a pretty large group of the murdered villagers from the village of Kip, which is located half way between Pakrac and Daruvar.
"They ordered him to take his clothes off and beat him all over the body with a 'police baton' made from an electric cable. At one point the forementioned man with moustache pushed the 'baton' into Velagic's large intestine; this was very painful. Besides the 'baton' they beat him with their fists and kicked him with their feet. Beatings like that one occured almost daily. All of the above mentioned persons took part in the beatings; besides Velagic all other persons jailed in Pakracka Poljana suffered from the same kind of treatment.
On one occasion, about 10 days ago, between 2 and 3 a.m., the previously described man, called 'Tomi' ('short, heavy built, about 30 years old; he always wore a black barret and fatigues') entered the room in which Velagic was held, together with a few other persons. They took him out of that room and led him to another one. Immediately, they started beating him and 'Tomi' delivered a strong blow to his face, which broke Velagic's jawbone. After that they took his t-shirt off and, while the others were holding Velagic, 'Tomi' took a knife and cut Velagic several times around his armpits. The wounds were surface wounds, deep enough to cause a bleeding."
Branko Velagic said in his statement that during the time spent in Pakracka Poljana he was taken outside the jail only once. That night "a man wearing fatigues, whom others called Igor" came for Velagic. The record continues:
"That evening Igor and another man in fatigues (whom Velagic neither remembers nor can describe) led Velagic and Nikola Peles out of the building and pushed them in a car, a compact Japanese model, and drove them to a meadow. There, they took them out of the car and forced them to dig a grave. When Velagic and Peles finished, two other men in uniform arrived in a car and brought another prisoner. Velagic cannot now describe neither those two men nor the prisoner, because it was already dark and Velagic was afraid for his life and didn't look around too much. One of the men in fatigues pulled out a gun, aimed it at Velagic and said that he would kill them all. Suddenly he heard the shots; Velagic at first thought they were shooting at him. However he didn't feel any impact or pain; he only saw that the prisoner fell in the grave."
Mikola thinks that Pavo Mlinaric was executing people even before Mikola and the friends arrived in Pakracka Poljana. Mikola remembers that a German whom they called Sasa and a Bosniac who lived in Germany beat on prisoners and pierced their ears with knifes ("every single one talked after that"); in this way they obtained names of other persons who might be 'interesting'. "That way they formed a list of persons which would be submitted to Tomislav Mercep." Mikola stated that himself, Miro and Pika took a man dressed in a military uniform who had a gun and two hand grenades to a meadow where they shot at him. "Tomica Mercep and Zvonko Trusic knew about this execution; it is assumed that the guys who interrogated the victim also knew about the execution. Mikola believes that the order for execution was given by Mercep or Trusic. The murdered man was found a day later by some villagers from a nearby Croatian village. He believes that they informed someone about this and were told to remove the body. He is certain that the body was buried, but he doesn't know where. By the way, he was rarely present during interrogations. As he says 'our duty was to take people away and kill them, nothing else'."
During the conversation in Zagreb PD Mikola remembered an eighty year old man who looked "as if he popped out of a movie: he had a beard, a fur hat and opanci [peasant shoes]". Mikola believed that the man had been captured by Guardsmen because he had been "their [Serb] boss in Lovska". The man was killed by Sasa Antic : he shot the man in the head from a machine gun from about three feet away. By the way, Mikola said this about Sasa:" he was taking risks, he wanted to become someone, he was the boss after Pavo died." Mikola remembered that Pavo liked "to do it" (carry out executions), and added that Pavo was "a legend". Before executions Pavo would talk to the victims, allow them to have a last cigarette and fulfill their last wishes.
The report based on Miksa's statement also says the following: "Pavo never told him how many people he had executed. Mikula personally remembers killing 5-6 prisoners. All together, including combat, he thinks that he has killed about 15 persons. He doesn't remember the date on which the executions took place. He thinks that this took place during the last 10 days. He doesn't know the names of the victims nor can he describe them. Their age was different, usually ranging from 30 to 50 years. All executions were done according to the orders. Nothing could be done without 'a green light'. He remembers how on one occasion Pavo showed self initiative by killing a prisoner; after that Tomica [Mercep] screamed at him and sent him home for a few days. Executions always happened during the night. However, he has heard that Pavo and Sasa would sometimes kill during the day. The prisoners would usually dig graves for those who were supposed to be killed. This was done by two or three captives. He has visited the jail from time to time and once saw a large number of people there; he thinks that the people he saw on that occasion were 11 persons who were later killed in a cellar in the village of Bujavica. These people were killed by Miro Barisevac, Piko, Sasa Antic and Tonci Jurgec. They shot at the victims from a 'scorpio', 'pumperica' and a machine gun. He couldn't show the place where these people were killed.
He was one of the people who carried out executions; the order for an execution could have been received by anyone serving with the unit in Pakracka Poljana. When Mikula, Rimac, Brisevac, Hodak, Suljic and Sasa were not around, the commander would find someone else to carry out an execution. Normally, Mikula was not present when others were executing people; hence he doesn't know the number of people murdered by others."
According to the Mikula's statement, the meeting [domjenak] in the Zagreb restaurant "Trnjanka" which was attended by Mercep, Branimir Glavas, Stipe Spajic, Zvonko Trusic and Miro Brisevac had the crucial role in the death of Sasa Antic. Munib Suljic brought Sasa in a blue Volkswagen Rabbit, with police markings. Sasa was disarmed at the fairgrounds; when Trusic passed by, he said:" What is he doing here; don't do that here, take him away." Sasa was taken handcuffed to Pakracka Poljana; there two prisoners were picked out and they dug a hole at a meadow. Sasa told Mikola: "You should kill me, but quickly." Mikola responded:" Don't be afraid." Sasa turned and asked him: "How do you want me to stand?" He told him to kneel. When Sasa knelt, Mikola shot him from a hand gun in the back of the head. He thought that he shot from a "zbrojovka" which he usually carried with him. When the dead man fell in the hole he fired another bullet, into his heart. After that the two prisoners buried the corpse. Rimac and Suljic were also present at that execution. The report also says this:" He remembers that he was a good friend of Sasa. Sasa even gave him a sweat shirt as a present in Osijek and also gave him a gun. The day before the execution they went for a walk around the city [Zagreb] and had fun. He thinks that Sasa's murder was a test, the purpose of which was to check how obedient he was and whether he was ready to follow any orders. He believes that he would have been next if he refused to obey that order."
Mikola also stated that he thought that people from Zagreb were also brought to Poljana. He remembered that on one occasion Mlinaric together with Tonci went to Istria [peninsula in the far west of Croatia, several hundreds of miles from Pakracka Poljana and Zagreb], but he didn't know if they were supposed to pick someone up or whether Pavo simply wanted to visit a woman who lived there. As he said:" People could be brought from anywhere." Mikola said that he often went to the Ministry of Internal Affairs to see "Tomica [Mercep] and Kvaternik." "He was allowed to visit whenever he wanted. He remembers that on one occasion he was in front of the minister's office while Tomica was talking to the minister. He heard that the minister was telling Tomica that some guys had 'screwed up' in Gospic."