The first war crimes against Serbs in Bosnia and Herzegovina took place in the village Sijekovac near Brod on March 26, 1992.
Among the people murdered in Sijekovac on March 26, 1992, there were also Luka Milošević and his two sons, Željko born 1968 and Dragan born 1974. Luka’s third son Saša, who was nine at the time, stayed alive. A Croatian soldier had already taken out a knife to slaughter him, but another soldier came by and saved the child…
In the space of just one hour, Jelica Zečević from Sijekovac near Brod lost her husband, two brothers-in-law and father-in-law in an atrocious rampage of the Croatian Defence Forces /HOS/ and other Croatian-Muslim paramilitary groups.
On the same day, March 26, 1992, another 16 Serbs were killed in Sijekovac. The Serbs were slaughtered by the regular army of the Republic of Croatia, together with the paramilitary units formed by the SDA /Party of Democratic Action/ and HDZ BiH /Croatian Democratic Party of Bosnia and Herzegovina/.
The attack in Sijekovac was preceded by the execution of Andrija Martić, his son Momir, and their neighbour Dušan Dujmić, and the wounding of Andrija’s wife Merima, and Branko Dujmić in Brod the day before. A café owned by Andrija Martić was mined prior to these events.
Croatian soldiers brought out from the house the Martić family and their neighbours who happened to be in the house, ordered them to run down the street, and then opened fire at them. According to the collected evidence, this crime was committed by the Croatian armed forces, which also included the members of the Handžar Division from Sisak, Croatia, led by the certain Alija Halibašić and Jozo Kožul.
In the afternoon of March 26, to Sijekovac came the members of HOS, paramilitary Croatian-Muslim units from Brod, members of the Croatian National Guard Corps /ZNG members/ and Handžar Division, as well as the Intervention Platoon of HVO /Croatian Defence Council/ from Sijekovac.
They executed a dreadful attack against the Serb civilians. In the space of just one hour of rampage, they killed 19 Serbs. The youngest victim was 17-year-old Dragan Milošević, the eldest Jovo Zečević, aged 72. In the following days, 41 more Serbs were killed.
However, this is still not the final list of murdered civilians. The bodies were later thrown into the Sava River. The then members of the BiH Presidency, Biljana Plavšić, Fikret Avdić and Franjo Boras later on paid a visit to Sijekovac, and the footage of the attack was shown on RTV Sarajevo and Yutel TV network.
”I had a feeling something terrible was going to happen. My late husband was going to go to work in the Refinery, but he didn’t get there. Our Croat and Bosniak neighbours, who set up guards at all village entrances that day, ordered him to go back,” recalls Jelica Zečević.
Around 5 pm, the village was subjected to a terrible bombardment. Several of their Serb neighbours hid in the basement of their house. When the mortar fire died away, a big group of soldiers of the Republic of Croatia stormed into the Zečević house. “Among them I recognised our neighbours – Croats and Bosniaks. They were wearing the Croatian Army uniforms. They immediately started swearing, threatening to kill us,” Jelica tells Srna.
They picked out her husband and took him to a nearby tree, to which they tied him. Then they came to get her too.
”They threatened to rape me, and said they would pour gas on me and burn me. I begged them not to do it. First they killed my husband. They didn’t spare my brothers-in-law or my father-in-law either. I stayed alive thanks to a Croat neighbour who said they weren’t supposed to kill the women,” Jelica said.
Apart from the Zečevićs, the Croatian soldiers killed three members of the Milošević family – the father and tow sons. They also killed Marko Radanović and Sreto Trivić who were taken out from the Zečevićs’ basement, where they had found shelter from the grenades. Ten more Serbs were killed as well.
Ljubica Sedlić is also a witness to the crime committed in Sijekovac, March 26, 1992. She saw the crime against the Zečevićs being carried out. The following day, her house was set on fire while her immobile husband was inside. She recounts that the criminals were shouting: “These are Paraga’s and Ante Prkačin’s troops. Serbs, remember us!”
Ljubica and some other people were taken to a centre in Sijekovac, and later on to prison camps.
Marko Grabovac, the head of the Association of Search for Detained Veterans and Missing Civilians, says that the Sijekovac crime was not accidental. “Sijekovac was not chosen by accident. The place was an example of co-existence of different ethnicities and was located on an important road through which the Croatian forces were supposed to push forward to Derventa towards the inland of Bosnia and Herzegovina.”
Of grave concern, says Grabovac, is the fact that despite all evidence, even 21 years after the crime, no one has been prosecuted yet. “Known are all those who committed the crimes and ordered them. In my opinion, the ones to blame for the failure to prosecute the crimes are the foreign powers. They have played an important role at the beginning of the war in BiH, and their role is even more significant today,” says Grabovac.
Among the people murdered in Sijekovac on March 26, 1992, there were also Luka Milošević and his two sons, Željko born 1968 and Dragan born 1974. Luka’s third son Saša, who was nine at the time, stayed alive. A Croatian soldier had already taken out a knife to slaughter him, but another soldier came by and saved the child. Mladenka Milošević died of grief after her husband and two sons were killed.
The murdered people of Sijekovac are the victims of the first Bosnia and Herzegovina’s war crime. There are many pieces of evidence to that crime, just like there are numerous pieces of evidence to other crimes in Brod the victims of which were Serbs. The case including evidence was submitted on May 22, 2002 to the Hague war crimes tribunal investigators and the Tribunal transferred it to the Prosecutor’s Office of BiH in 2006. The Prosecutor’s Office has not done anything yet to prosecute the crime.
The District Prosecutor’s Office in Doboj has confirmed the indictment against Nijaz Čaušević aka Medo, Marko Miloš, 62, and Miroslav Kopljar, 44, for crimes against the Serb civilians in Sijekovac of 1992. Nijaz Čaušević Medo was the commander of the so-called HVO Intervention Platoon, whose members committed the crime in Sijekovac. The platoon had 68 soldiers.
The Military court of the former Yugoslavia submitted the evidence of the crime committed by the Intervention Platoon to the Doboj District Prosecutor’s Office even back in 1993. It also submitted witness statements and a list of perpetrators’ names. Marko Grabovac thinks that the Prosecutor’s Office of BiH is shrinking from the Sijekovac case in order to avoid the questions that would arise.
It is a public secret that the troops of the then internationally recognised Republic of Croatia entered Brod in the night of March 3, 1992. It is well known that they took part in all crimes in the Brod municipality, including Sijekovac. If this case were opened, everything would start falling into place and Croatia’s role in setting fire to the flames of war in Bosnia and Herzegovina would be exposed.
On March 26, 1992, members of the regular Republic of Croatia Army together with the paramilitary Croatian-Muslim forces from Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina killed 19 Serb civilians in Sijekovac. Over the next few days they killed another 41 Serbs. The bodies were then driven by cooler trucks for days, and eventually buried in mass graves or thrown into the Sava.
The search is still on for several other Sijekovac Serbs who are still listed as missing.
The persons accused of these crimes are Nijaz Čaušević aka Medo, commander of the HVO Intervention Platoon from Sijekovac, together with the members of the unit, Slavonski Brod HOS commander Ante Prkačin, as well as several others.
At present, the Court of BiH is trying Zemir Kapetanović, who is charged with crimes against Serb civilians and taking part in the execution of civilians on four buses which included the people from Podrinje who has fled the war-affected areas and were planning to cross over to Croatia at Brod and continue the journey to Europe.
A commemoration for the innocent victims, organised by the committee marking significant dates of liberation wars, will take place in Sijekovac on Tuesday. Top officials of the Republic of Srpska and the high representative to Bosnia and Herzegovina have been invited to attend the event.
FBR – Dara Kishic