At the trial of the former Croatian Serb leader, Goran Hadzic, a protected witness has recalled being forced to walk through a minefield as a human shield in Croatia in 1991.The protected witness, GH-059, was living in the Croatian village of Loves when it was occupied by Serb forces in the autumn of 1991.
He said that the first time he heard shots in his village was in October 1991, when the Serb forces destroyed the local Catholic church.
Following the occupation, ethnic Croats in the village were forced to wear white arm bands and mark their houses with white scarves so that they can be distinguished from ethnic Serbs, said GH-059.
He said that in October and November 1991 a number of Serb forces, consisting mainly of voluntary members of Yugoslav People’s Army, JNA, and paramilitaries, entered the village robbing majority of the Croatian houses.
The witness recalled how he, and other imprisoned Croats, were forced by paramilitaries to walk through a minefield.
“We were walking through the field and then someone said “Look at the wire”. I lied down, we all did. I heard shots and mines blowing up,” said the witness.
“Afterwards we were forced to pick up the survivors and put them onto a truck so they can be taken to a hospital in the Serbian town of Sid,” he added.
GH-059 said that he did not know who placed the mines in the field, adding that he had heard from a JNA soldier that the army did it as they entered the village.
In June, the Special Court in Belgrade found 14 men guilty of war crimes in Lovas. The court found them responsible for the killing of 40 civilians and sentenced them to a total of 128 years in jail.
According to the ICTY indictment, Goran Hadzic is allegedly responsible for the killings in Lovas, as he was the president of the government of the self-proclaimed Serbian Autonomous District Slavonia, Baranja and Western Srem, which included the village of Lovas.
The ICTY prosecution claims that Hadzic’s role was to secure the removal of the non-Serb population from these areas and to help local Serbs and militia in achieving that goal.
According to the ICTY indictment, Hadzic was part of a joint criminal enterprise, JCE, together with Slobodan Milosevic, Milan Martic, Milan Babic, Jovica Stanisic, Franko Simatovic, Vojislav Seselj and Zeljko Raznatovic (also known as Arkan).
Hadzic faces 14 charges of war crimes, including persecution, extermination and torture of non-Serb civilians from Croatia between 1991 and 1993.
The trial will resume on November 28 with the cross examination of the witness.