THE HAGUE | 16.09.2011.

EXECUTION IN BILJANI

At Radovan Karadzic’s trial, the court first heard a witness who spoke about the beating and killing of prisoners in the Penitentiary and Correctional Facility (KPD) in Foca. The prosecution proceeded to call evidence about the Serb forces’ crimes in Kljuc, one of the eight municipalities listed in the indictments as locations where the ethnic cleansing campaign reached the level of genocide. The witnesses survived the execution of a group of 144 men in the village of Biljani on 10 July 1992

As he continued his cross-examination of protected witness KDZ-239, Radovan Karadzic put it to him he was ‘exaggerating’, ‘insincere and untruthful’ in his description of the conditions in the Penitentiary and Correctional Facility in Foca and the beating and killing of prisoners by the Serb forces in 1992.

Karadzic was trying to prove that the detainees were not ‘taken out and killed’, as the witness said in his examination-in-chief, but were released after questioning, whereupon they joined the BH Army and ‘were killed in combat’.

The witness disagreed with Karadzic, noting that the bodies found later on the banks of the Drina river proved differently, just as did the exhumations in the Foca area. As he sat in his cell, he often heard shots immediately after a prisoner was taken out, and the sound of bodies being thrown into the Drina river from the Iron Bridge nearby.

The indictment charges Karadzic with the murder of more than 200 prisoners in the Foca KPD, between 18 April and 31 December 1992. Foca is one of the eight municipalities in BH where, as the indictment alleges, the ethnic cleansing campaign reached the level of genocide.

Kljuc is another municipality described in the indictment as the ‘most extreme example’ of the Serb forces’ intent to permanently remove the Muslims and Croats. The village of Biljani, where 144 ethnic Muslim men were killed on 10 July 1992, is in Kljuc. A protected witness, testifying under the pseudonym KDZ-75, testified about the incident. He is one of the survivors.

The summary of the transcript of the witness’s previous testimony at the trial of Momcilo Krajisnik was admitted into evidence today. The summary states that in the early morning of 10 July 1992, Serb forces overran a Muslim village in Kljuc municipality, separated the men between the ages of 16 and 60 from the rest of the people and took them to the school in Biljani.

The Serb policemen, commanded by Mile Tomic, escorted the prisoners to the school. About ten minutes later, they took out the first group of ten men. There was gunfire. Other prisoners were told there was fighting going on with the Green Berets, that there was nothing to worry about and that everything will soon be over. As the witness said, he knew there were no Green Berets nearby, but it was only later that he realized the gunfire was in fact the execution.

After about fifty people were taken out, the Serb forces put the witness and the remaining prisoners on a bus and drove them to a nearby house. They were ordered to get off the bus in groups of five. After each group was taken out, there was gunfire, and then a new group was told to get off. When the witness’s turn came to get off the bus, he fell to the ground after the first shot and pretended he was dead for a while. From his shelter in the immediate vicinity of the execution site he could hear the bulldozers and soldiers gathering the victims’ bodies into the small hours.

Witness KDZ-75 will continue his evidence next week.