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Tribunal Hears How Serb Saved Young Croat's Life at Vukovar
Survivors Testify at Hearing On Alleged Serb
Massacre that Began Ethnic Cleansing Binge

Bodies of Vukovar Victims (THE HAGUE, March 27—Reuters) Survivors of an alleged Serb massacre of 261 Croats at Vukovar in late 1991 told the U.N. war crimes tribunal for former Yugoslavia on Wednesday how they were beaten but were lucky enough to live through their ordeal. Vilim Karlovic, a Croatian National Guard captain, said his life was saved after he was befriended by a young Serb soldier. Karlovic was among three witnesses to testify on the third day of hearings against three Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) officers accused of the massacre after Serb forces overran Vukovar in November, 1991.

Mile Mrksic, Miroslav Radic and Veselin Sljivancanin were charged by the tribunal with war crimes last November. Belgrade has refused to hand them over and the tribunal has resorted to public hearings to step up pressure on the Serb authorities and to allow survivors to tell their story.

A Survivor's Story
Karlovic, testifying from behind blinds to protect his identity, told the tribunal that a young Serb, known only as Ilja, questioned him on arrival at a hangar outside Vukovar. When he was neither beaten nor abused, Karlovic said he thought he "could establish some human contact with him."

He asked the Serb where he lived and told him how he had visited a friend in the soldier's home town of Ruma before the war. When the Serb said that he also knew this friend, Karlovic pleaded with him to save him from being beaten. But Karlovic was forced to run the gauntlet of JNA soldiers to get from his bus to the hangar. "They took my jacket, papers, money, my ring and my rosary. They kept beating me. Inside the hangar many men were beaten—with large sticks, chains, rifle butts..."

Karlovic said that the young Ilya later asked a higher-ranking Serb to spare Karlovic's life, saying he was a friend from before the war. He was told to take Karlovic outside the hangar and watch over him in case he was killed. Hours later Croat detainees were taken outside to wait for transport. Karlovic asked Ilya what was happening. "He told me: 'They're all probably going to be killed, but I'm trying to save you. If they ask you, tell them we're old friends,' Karlovic said, adding that the Serb gave him money.

Sounds of Mass graves Being Dug
He said he heard the sound of machinery and asked the young soldier what it was. "He told me that graves were being dug for those who were to be killed." Karlovic was released in May 1992 and returned to Croatia as part of a mass prisoner exchange.

Prosecutors allege that 300 men, sheltering in Vukovar hospital, were rounded up and slaughtered by JNA forces in a systematic orgy of violence which became a blueprint for "ethnic cleansing" in the former Yugoslavia. They claim the men were driven to a farm outside the town and beaten until, in darkness, they were taken in small groups to a field and shot before being buried in a mass grave. The atrocity followed months of bitter siege which reduced the medieval city to rubble and drove its people underground.

Survivor Tells of Fatal Beatings
Zarko Kojic, a Croat who was 18 at the time of the bloody three-month siege, recalled how he was badly beaten by Serbs. Asked by prosecutor Clint Williamson what was going through his mind as he waited to be taken to the hangar, Kojic replied: "I thought everybody would be killed. It looked very bad." He said Serbs beat their prisoners with batons, flexible iron rods, chains and axe handles. "One man said he was an Albanian. He was beaten with extra passion. When he was unconscious they (Serbs) jumped on him. He was beaten until blood streamed out of his mouth and nose. He died then."

The tribunal is due to hear from five more witnesses. The hearings are expected to continue on Thursday and could lead to confirmation of the indictments and the issue of international arrest warrants for the accused. The tribunal, which has charged 57 suspects—46 Serbs, eight Croats and three Muslims—has held similar Rule 61 hearings against Croatian Serb leader Milan Martic and Bosnian Serb camp commander Dragan Nikolic. Set up by the U.N. Security Council in 1993, the tribunal is the first international body for the prosecution of war crimes since the Nuremberg trials of Nazi leaders after World War Two.

Additional resources
International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia
Account of the Siege of Vukovar
The People of Vukovar
Photo Exhibit from Pavao Pavlicic
The History of Vukovar
Vukovar City Net Home Page
Human Rights at Vukovar
Vukovar County Chamber
Home Page of Stanislav Banic, a Vukovar Area Aresident

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