by Drago HEDL
Behind almost daily bombardment of almost totally surrounded Osijek and fierce efforts of Croat soldiers to defend the city, in 1991 and 1992 crimes that had nothing to do with the defense of the city took place in Osijek. Civilians were taken from their apartments, questioned in several locations in the city, after which they would disappear. Some of them were found dead later; some of them are still classified as missing. The story about executions of civilians in Osijek, as well as those of Croat soldiers and policemen, is not any less grave than the one about executions that took place in Gospic. However, unlike the in the case of Osijek executions, those responsible for murders in Gospic have been tried and sentenced for their crimes.
Several murders that took place in late 1991 in the same manner, are part of that Osijek story.
Distinguished oncologist from the Clinical Hospital Osijek, Dr. Milutin Kutlic, was taken from his house in Mreznicka Street in Osijek on December 7, 1991. Around 4p.m. neighbors saw two soldiers in army fatigues who came to pick up Kutlic. They drove up in a Yugo without number plates, with a smashed windshield. Kutlic's body was found the following day floating in the Drava river, together with another corpse, close to the restaurant Bastion. The other corpse still hasn't been identified. On the spot of the murder, besides traces of blood, the police found 12 bullet casings of 5.6 caliber, and two bullet casings of 7.65 mm caliber. Police found that Kutlic and the other victim were murdered by one bullet fired in their head. They also found traces of brown duct tape, 55mm wide. Victims had their hands tied and their mouths were closed with the tape.
International chess master Bogdan Pocuca, graphic artist by profession, was taken from the house of his much better known brother Janko, in 19 Villson Street. Neighbors saw on December 19, 1999, around 1 p.m., persons in army fatigues picking up Pocuca. They came in a car without number plates, make Skoda. Pocuca's corpse was found a few days later floating in the Drava River with a single bullet wound on his head, with tied hands.
Branko Lovric, director of the Osijek Post Office, was taken from his house in 11 Sisak Street on November 25, 1991. A witness, who rented an apartment in the house, saw two men and one woman, all in uniform, ringing Lovric's bell. They asked him to come for a questioning, and told him that they would bring him back in 30 minutes. Lovric set on the back seat of a metallic gray BMW, without number plates, between the two men, while the woman drove the car. They did return very soon, but without Lovric. They drove away a car, make Zastava 101, from Lovric's garage. Lovric's body has never been found.
Radoslav Ratkovic, employee of the Clinical Hospital Osijek, is the only survivor among about ten persons, who, like Kutlic, Lovric and Pocuca, were executed in the same manner. Ten years later Ratkovic gave his statement to the Croatian police, within its 2001 investigation of numerous murders in Osijek. His testimony was recorded on a video tape. The public hasn't been informed what Ratkovic said in his testimony, but his first public testimony was broadcast fairly quickly after the event on TV Baranja, which at the time broadcast from the occupied Croatian territory. On that occasion Ratkovic described how on December 7, 1991, he was taken from his nephew's house by three soldiers in Croatian Guard (ZNG) uniforms.
They took him to Dubrovacka Street in Osijek, where they questioned him, asking him several times only one question: "Who are the Chetniks [derogatory term for Serbs] you know, and with which Chetniks do you cooperate?" They beat him and in the end pushed him in a green Audi 80. They tied his hands with duct tape, pushed paper in his mouth and shut it with duct tape. They drove him to the Drava River, to the area close to Bastion restaurant, dragged him to the stairs and shot in his head from a hand gun. The bullet passed through Ratkovic's jaw. They pushed him in the water and then fired another bullet, which passed through his mouth and came out around his jaw. Ratkovic was pulled by the current, and the assassins, convinced that he was dead, left. Ratkovic managed to loosen up and remove the tape, and swam to the shore. He hid in the bushes and waited. Soon afterwards the same car came back. Dr. Kutlic was in the car. He was murdered. Ratkovic recognized two of three soldiers and gave their names. He said that another eight persons had been questioned in Dubrovacka Street, including one woman, and that all of them were later executed in the same manner.
Feral has contacted Kutlic, Lovric and Pocuca families. They had a lot of trouble trying to report disappearance of their loved ones. Dr. Kutlic's wife was told to wait for a few days; that her husband was probably with his mistress. Police forged the date on which Branko Lovric's wife reported his disappearance, which later caused a lot of trouble for her. Drazen Matijevic, attorney from Osijek and member of the State Judicial Council, has these days stated that Lovric, otherwise known as an exemplary husband and devoted father of two children, had escaped to Germany because he had been a KOS [Serbian] agent. Marija, the wife of late Branko Lovric, whose body, as we have mentioned, has never been found, has filed a lawsuit against Matijevic because of his statement.
However, murders on the Drava shore are only a small part of the story about executions of civilians that took place in Osijek, far from the frontline where the fierce battle against the greater Serbian aggression was being waged. While true patriots and honorable defenders of Croatia died defending the city, and innocent citizens perished daily from enemy grenades, death squads operated in the city. Dusko Bekic and his father Dragan were pulled from a cellar in Vukovarska Street in Osijek, near Osijek Metal Works where they were hiding, together with a group of citizens, from an artillery attack. They were taken away by a group of soldiers in army fatigues. Soldiers executed them on the nearby railway tracks. There are witnesses who claim that one of the soldiers in army fatigues, before they murdered Bekics, called someone in the Crisis Headquarters on his mobile radio and asked: "Which one?" The answer was most likely "both", as after that bursts of fire from a machine gun were heard and both Bekics were killed. Their relative, contacted by Feral, claims that after the murder of Dusko and Dragan they were warned not to come to their funeral as they would also be killed.
According to Feral's sources, Dusko Bekic was an acquaintance of Vladimir Seks, president of the OSijek Crisis Headquarters in the fall of 1991. According to one story, Seks, as an attorney, before the war, defended Bekic in court. Bekic was charged with forging driving licenses. Other sources claim that Seks and Bekic met in prison in Stara Gradiska, where both were serving their sentences. Before the murder Bekic boasted that he was doing "jobs" for Seks in Baranja.
The body of Dragan Stojic, driver in Osijek company IPK who was taken on October 20, 1991 from his apartment in 2b Kresimir Svacic Street, has never been found. Persons who took him away, first drank coffee with Stojic's neighbors (witnesses know their name), and then took away then 39-years-old Stojic, who has been missing since then. Stojic's brother claims that Dragan was taken to the Military Police base in the building of Osijek Obnova, where he was interrogated and then executed. He says that some time after his brother's disappearance he was visited by a stranger who told him to stop investigating his brother's disappearance unless he wanted to end up like him. When after the war he tried to find out whether Gruic's [Croat] commission for missing and imprisoned persons had his brother's name on its list, a man told him, cynically, to contact Vojislav Stanimirovic [Croat Serb politician] and his Serb commission in Vukovar.
Court clerk Mile Stanar, known as Toro, was murdered in the autumn of 1991 in Bosutsko Naselje, part of Osijek, and with hands tied by wire thrown in a small nearby artificial lake. More than three years ago Feral wrote about spectacular liquidation of the "assassin" who tried to kill Glavas, Cedomir Vuckovic from Hebrang (formerly Bekulic) street in Osijek. That man was literally murdered as a service for Bozic's ST [Slobodni Tjednik, or Free Weekly]. He was arrested in the street, beaten and tortured, and then murdered. His body was dragged to the courtyard of the current County building, which at the time housed Glavas' headquarters. Robert Pauleta, journalist who wrote about "the Chetnik assassin who tried to kill Glavas" confessed to Feral that he had not seen any assassination. Instead, he was simply given a photo of murdered Vuckovic and wrote the rest of the article based on what he was told. Vuckovic was an elderly man, overweight, and owner of a small pet store - a rather unlikely assassin. However, Serbs were not the only victims of executions in Osijek. One of never explained murders that took place in Osijek was that of retarded Ante Abicic. Everyone in Osijek Donje Grad knew Ante. He always carried a radio playing Radio Sabac [Serbian radio station]. Ante supported himself by collecting and selling used paper.
"It is unlikely that the police would do anything to find perpetrators of these murders, if nothing has been done to find murderers of policemen," a former high ranking Police official said for Feral. In Osijek, several days after the fall of Vukovar, Dusko Bosnjak, at the time the third highest ranking officer of the Osijek Police, in charge of logistics and supply of police units, was murdered from behind, in the street, from an automatic gun. His murderers were never found, and police conducted a perfunctory investigation obviously trying not to find the perpetrators. Just like Bosnjak, two other murdered policemen, Djekic and Pokrajac, were loyal Serbs, whose work did not warrant any complaints. Djekic and Pokrajac were killed by a Croatian bullet on the Drava, near Sarvas, where they held defense lines with other policemen. Their death was never explained. The situation in Osijek at the time is perhaps best illustrated by a desperate plea of the then second ranking officer in the Osijek Police for a transfer to Zagreb, due to fear for his life. Unlike Bosnjak, he was transferred, and he is today alive.
the fact mentioned in his public appearance by Ladislav Bognar, that Croat defenders were also murdered in Osijek and then taken to the frontline so that they could be portrayed as victims of the Serb aggression, was confirmed to Feral in May of 2001 by Vjencislav Bill, a former member of the headquarters guard in Osijek, which provided security for the then local executive council. Croat defender Tihomir Medjugorac, also known as Kyoto, was murdered in August 1991. His body was then dumped in front of Glavas' office, and the driver said: "Here, you have him". The investigation conducted by the military police, our sources claim, showed that Medjugorac's corpse was then driven from Nemetin to Donji Miholjac where an attempt was made to convince local defense commanders to report him as a victim of the Serb aggression. However, they all refused, so that the body was finally dumped in a canal. Witnesses of this murder exist.
However, there are also witnesses who are willing to confirm a grave incident that took place on the celebration of the first anniversary of the Operations Zone Osijek. The current Chief of Staff of the Croatian Army, General Josip Lucic, who was appointed head of the Operation Zone Osijek in the spring of 1992, after [General] Gorinsek was fired, publicly, in front of several witnesses, accused Glavas of trying to murder him. "I knew what you were trying to do and hid in Hotel Central in Osijek. When the electricity blackout came that hight, I picked up my things and went to Zagreb that very night, with four bodyguards, in a military vehicle, to see Tudman and tell him that I could not be in Osijek under such circumstances. I haven't been to Osijek since". That probably speaks volumes about the situation in Osijek at the time.
Feral is in possession of a written report of a former policeman from Osijek who for a while, in 1991, during the war, worked for the SZUP [one of Croatian secret services]. The report (a high ranking former police official has confirmed for Feral that the report is "realistic and authentic") lists horrendous things. Based on that report, an investigation would, if the authorities were willing, easily uncover a part of the criminal chain that ran death squads in Osijek during wartime. "Numerous corpses have been pulled out of the Drava River with their hands tied by wire. I have personally inspected those corpses. Then we would take wire off their hands and take them into the fields. There we would throw bombs and grenades on them, so that it would look as if they were killed in the bombardment," says the report of a former policemen and later SZUP secret agent.
Murders of two journalists from abroad, Paul Janks and Christian Wuttenburg, were also never explained. They were murdered in Osijek in 1991. The former was a member of the international platoon, and Janks [sic] came to investigate his unusual death, only to end up dead as well. One member of that platoon later, for a fee of $1,000, showed to journalists Serb houses in the village of Cepin that had been blown up by members of the platoon.
In early 2000, in a big interview to Feral, Petar Kljajic, then president of the County Court in Osijek, after clashing with Glavas, his close collaborator until then, accused Glavas of participating in a series of murders. Charges made by Kljajic at the time (he was president of the County Court at the time) were much more serious and graver than those made recently by Bognar.
However, at Glavas' request, he and Kljajic met in Kljajic's son's café and agreed to stop accusing each other in public, lest it produced unwanted consequences. Feral's sources claim that recently, after Bognar made his charges, Glavas and Kramaric met to plan their future public appearances.
Can a reaction be expected from the judiciary after everything that has been recently said about wartime murders in Osijek? The best reply to that question came from the Chief State Attorney, Mladen Bajic. During a recent visit by representatives of the Osijek Center for Peace, who gave him a file about eviction of citizens from apartments in 1991 and 1992, Bajic called on citizens to send their statements about wartime events in Osijek straight to Zagreb. That was the best indication of his opinion of those in Osijek who are supposed to resolve these cases.