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November 15, 1993
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 112
War Crimes

The Balkan Archeology

by Aleksandar Ciric

However, all until the public has looked into some additional facts and until some local or the above mentioned tribunal has established who's guilty, leader of the Serbian Radical Party (SRS) Vojislav Seselj's original response to accusations coming from the Socialists' camp will continue to carry weight. ``'Our volunteer, who are reputed to be best fighters, are a part of regular military units.' According to him, it is the Socialist who are forming paramilitary units. They've got several gangs.'' (quoted from the Belgrade daily ``Politika,'' September 23)

The trouble is that the Serbian ruling party has ``forgotten'' it has had a hand in the history of local (``Yugoslav'') crimes, and that naming of those who ``have taken part and made personal contributions'' is only a thread, which if pulled may unravel the knitting. Therefore, it would be best for the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) if Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and Bosnian Serb Foreign Minister Aleksa Buha were wrong to think it is only a ``family fight.''

The mass grave in Ovcara near Vukovar was not opened two weeks ago. In spite of the permission issued by Serb Krajina officials, local Serb authorities have prevented a U.N. team, comprising some 60 forensic medicine specialists, Dutch engineers and other experts, from going ahead with their work. And, they added, no one will be allowed until ``a general political solution for the former Yugoslavia is reached.'' About a year ago, at the end of October 1992, the then District Council of the then Serb Region of Slavonia, Baranja and Western Srem, believed that the digging in Ovcara ``was being undertaken with ulterior motives and tendencies to frame our side.'' This month the Republic of Serb Krajina, the successor of the former Serb Region, has justified the ban on unearthing the grave with a request that ``the exhumation of bodies from mass graves in villages Pakracka Poljana and Marino Selo in Western Slavonia be carried out,'' which the U.N. Commission allegedly failed to do (except only partially), but used the ban on Ovcara to ``turn a spotlight on the case and thus continued to vilify the Serbian people.''

The accusations, according to which at least 200 Croat POW's, most of them the wounded and medical staff of the Vukovar hospital, were killed at the Ovcara farm after the ``liberation'' of Vukovar were made about the same time. November 19 will be the ``liberation's'' second ``anniversary.''

John Geiger, a forensic medicine specialist and member of the U.N. expert team who toured the area around the Ovcara farm on October 18 and 19, confirmed when asked by VREME in January this year that there was irrefutable evidence of the remains of at least twelve skeletons on the surface of what probably is a much larger grave. The team was and still is in possession of medical files where types of injuries which patients admitted to the Vukovar hospital had suffered are recorded. Keeping this detail in mind, it is highly likely that victims of the Ovcara massacre will be identified. On the other hand, this detail may give one a clue as regards the reason why the authorities of the Serb Republic of Krajina have for two years been refusing to allow the exhumation.

The Ovcara farm is mentioned here because many parties were involved in the events which took place there on November 19 and 20, 1991, and not only ``Seselj's Chetniks.'' While Major Veselin Sljivancanin, the then security officer of the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) was reasoning with Cyrus Vance, EC monitors, International Red Cross representatives and journalists why they were not allowed to enter the hospital, several dozen (eyewitnesses claim about 200, even 300) lightly wounded, together with about thirty hospital employees were led out through the back door. They were put into JNA buses (60 people in each, with two guards, JNA soldiers), transported to the Vukovar military barracks, and then taken to the garage at the Ovcara farm in the vicinity of Vukovar the same afternoon. Captives were beaten while taken off the buses. According to eyewitness accounts which the Commission recorded, at least two people were beaten to death within several hours' time. They were then divided into groups of 20 people and driven away by trucks. An empty truck returned each 1520 minutes, to fetch a new load.

One witness claimed he had jumped off the truck. In January this year ``The Washington Post'' published an interview in several sequels with a Serb from Vukovar, who recounted stories told by drunk ``Serb volunteers'' killing ``Ustashi'' near Ovcara. The world press carried a report which was drawn up by the expert commission headed by Clyde Snow (John Geiger who talked to VREME was also a member). ``The International Herald Tribune'' published this story on January 27 classifying it as indisputable.

The ``liberation'' of Vukovar ensued after severalweeklong military and severalmonthlong political chaos, to which Yugoslavia's letting go of Slovenia largely contributed (also signed by General Veljko Kadijevic, the Federal Defense Minister). Organs of the JNA security service were detached to Sid only in October 1991. A host of problems with reservists, members of territorial units, volunteers, ``guards,'' ``liberators'' of private property, etc. were awaiting them there, besides their regular ``work in the field.'' First warnings against crimes were made, and ``coordination'' between the JNA; the Serbian Ministry of the Interior, the Territorial Defense of Serbia, and the Serbian Defence Ministry began to break down. The Serbian Police was at a ``loss'' as to whom Arkan belonged, how come there a center for military training in Erdut set up under the banner of the Territorial Defense of Slavonia (which did not exist at all) ar how come there were ``Chetniks'' in the field, why some JNA officers had become so close with various ``paramilitary formations'' and so frightened that they gave up any discussion, turned a blind eye and delivered prisoners right away.

It was later to turn out that there were strong reasons, as those in the know claim, for the Serbian police to ignore the questions pertaining to the origin of ``Dusan Silni (Dusan the Mighty)'' (a crime in Lovas, when the local population was employed on ``clearing'' the mine fields; a formation of Mirko Jovic's Serbian National Revival Party; a little later an ``unidentified local group'' killed over a hundred prisoners abducted from the JNA in the same town), ``Chetniks'' (``The Serbian Chetnik Movement'' of Vojislav Seselj) and ``all kinds of selfstyled volunteers'' (according to a report submitted by Colonel Milan Eremija), including the origin of ``red berets,'' ``panthers,'' ``tigers'' and other beasts, since by the end of 1990 at the latest some of ``good'' Serbs had already worked out and prepared ``military tactics'' at the Serbian Ministry of the Interior.

This part of the story is only seemingly a diversion from the topic of clarifying ``personal merits'' of Vojislav Seselj, which is how his activities were described in a statement issued by SPS in September, where a democratic Serbia was poised against fascist/feudal/ warcommunist/Chetnik one. Regardless of whether this (preelection) plan works or not, it is certain that many will lose sleep. Not as much because of their ``guilty conscience'' or nightmares prompted by questions such as: where was I? What did I do?, as because of fear that they are doomed to die politically which for them is a greater evil than the actual death. JNA killed itself a while ago, the Serbian state will see to it that hatred is brought up Chetniks, while a whole lot of clay pigeons remain to spared until Milosevic's turn comes. Zoran Sokolovic, Radmilo Bogdanovic, Mihalj Kertes and their ``contacts'' will be the last but one. No one knows what the toll will amount to until then.

One thing, however, is definite: this is no nightmare, there's no sweet waking up. Definitely not for the victims. Neither for those in Gospic, Pakracka Poljana, Kinjicke on Banija, Struga, Blinjski Kut, Vocin, Stupni Dol, Brcko, Prijedor, Foca, Bradina near Konjic, Bratunac, Dretelj, Mostar, Zvornik, Bijeljina, Visoko, Sanski Most, Karlovac, Eminovo Selo, Skrabnje, nor for those missing from Strbci, Priboj, Sjeverin, Bukovica near Pljevlja... Some time ago Slobodan Milosevic was doing everything to persuade various representatives of the international community that ``there are no paramilitary formations'' in Serbia. Nowadays his, i.e. Serbian police is hunting down the members of those (nonexisting) formations, founded by the secondlargest political party in Serbia.

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