Testimonies from the trial for war crimes committed in the Croatian village of Lovas

"A Legacy for the Future"

Persa Vucic

During the four hearings (17 April - 09 September 2008) held in the trial for war crimes against civilians and the indictment for "Breaking the rules of international law contained in the Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (12 August 1949)" raised against 14 persons accused of murdering 79 civilians in the Slavonian village of Lovas in October 1991, despite complete U-turns in testimonies of the indictees, their minimization or complete denial of their role in crimes committed over Croatian civilians in Lovas, and though the trial is not over yet, many things have become clear. First of all, the fact that innocent inhabitants of the village of Lovas were victims only because they were Croats and owned large, beautiful houses, and because Serbia committed aggression on Croatia.
According to the 1991 census, the 73% of the villagers were Croats and 7.5% were Serbs, but even after the aggression on Croatia, there were no even the slightest intra-national incidents or provocations. Here are some undeniable facts revealed at the trial, which is still underway.

Preparation of the diabolic plan for expulsion of the Croats
Mirko Jovic (SNO), from Nova Pazova, helped by Ljuban Devetak (1947, Lovas, Croatia, holds economic high school degree, clean police record, completed the school for reserve military officers in Bileca and several courses for intelligence and counter-intelligence officers, Serbian resident, arrested on 28 May 2007) recruited volunteers at the request of Dusan Loncar, the then active colonel of the Yugoslav National Army (YNA).
Devetak lied the volunteers claiming there were around 300 Zengas (members of the Croatian National Guard) in Lovas and that they needed to protect the threatened Serbs who could be killed any moment by the Croats.
Galenika pharmaceutical factory from Zemun, in a valid clearance procedure, provided a

bus to transfer the volunteers to Lovas. The volunteers went to Sid and from there to military barracks where they were equipped with uniforms, bombs, arms and ammunition by the YNA. When after their conquest of Lovas they moved to Tovarnik, colonel Loncar supplied them with an army transport vehicle that they had to paint to hide its origin.
While they were on Galenika's bus on their way to Lovas, M. Jovic and Lj. Devetak told the volunteers that the Croats in Lovas were amazingly rich

"Peace in Bosnia, Spring in Serbia", antiwar protest of Belgrade citizens, March 1993, photo: Goranka Matic
and their houses large and beautiful, claiming that each volunteer would be able to choose several houses for himself as soon as the Croats were expulsed from Lovas.
Before the volunteers headed for Lovas, the Serbs in Lovas were informed about the imminent attack on the village. They were told to hide in their houses and not to get out into the street or their own yard for any reason: anyone seen on the street or in his yard would be considered a Zenga or Croat and killed at the spot. It was agreed with the YNA that the army should fire ten grenades, the tenth grenade being a sign for volunteers and reserve forces to attack the village, as they promptly did. Lovas Serbs, in agreement with Jovic and Devetak, marked the Croatian houses with a secret mark agreed on the night before the attack.
Unsuspecting Croats were watching TV or sleeping, while the volunteers, supported by Serb reserve forces, quickly conquered ("liberated") Lovas. They immediately set on throwing bombs on Croatian houses, but only on those that did not have a basement - since a bomb thrown into a basement would damage the house immensely, which would be rendered useless for the Serbs who wanted to appropriate it.
Three Croats were murdered in the attack. The next day, in the basement of the building in which Territorial Defense, the newly formed police station and Municipal Council of the Lovas Village were situated, a prison was set up. The volunteers and reserve forces foraged the village, going into yards of the Croats, incarcerated them and started tortures. A curfew was introduced, as well as mandatory labor on VUPIK company's estate and the ban on freedom of movement for all Croatian inhabitants. The Croats went to their assignments accompanied by armed Serb volunteers and reserve forces. Croatian inhabitants aged between 16 and 65, including women, were subject to mandatory labor service. They worked in the steer fattening farm, picking grapes and corn - but the expressions "grape-picking" or "corn-picking" among the volunteers and reserve forces meant taking Croats into a vineyard or cornfield to kill them.
The Croatian women that were not married, or had been married but their husbands were killed or imprisoned, had to take into their houses Serbian volunteers or members of the reserve forces and to live with them like husbands and wives. This was presented on the news of the TV Beograd television station as a proof that Serbia was not in a war and that Croatian women from Lovas gladly married Serbian soldiers, the patriots, who had "liberated" Lovas.
"Take her, f her and kill her!"

Aleksandar Nikolaidis (1959, Pancevo, semi qualified locksmith, served eight times, undergoing another investigation of fraud, resident of Serbia, arrested on 28 May 2007) testified he saw Snezana Krizmanic (who was 15 at the time) running out of the building where the Territorial Defense, the Municipal Council and police station were situated. She was completely naked, screaming in distraught and is if in a trance, and ran from the building onto the street and into some shrubs, started rolling on the grass and acted uncontrollably. Lj. Devetak also mentioned this case and asked police officer Milan Devcic if Colonel Slobodan Subotic had spent that night in the room with Snezana Krizmanic. Some of the other accused also mentioned Slobodan Subotic's name along with Snezana Krizmanic's. Several days before the incident, Lj. Devetak had brought Snezana Krizmanic to Aleksandar Nikolaidis and told him: "Take her, fuck her and kill her" (a quote from the charges), which Nikolaidis refused. Snezana Krizmanic told the Croatian media, disclosing her full identity, about the ordeal she went through in the night she spent with Colonel Slobodan Subotic, and she also gave a testimony for the Serbian War Crimes Panel. Marija Djakovic and a few other Croatian women that were raped in Lovas also testified about those tantalizing moments.
Petronije Stevanovic (1952, born in the village of Brdjani, Srebrenica municipality, Bosnia and Herzegovina, has primary school education, nickname Pera Louse, served five times, resident of Serbia, arrested on 28 May 2007) testified that Lj. Devetak enjoyed walking before a line of remanded Croats, chatting with them with a smile on his face. He would then suddenly force a knife, hidden up his sleeve, into a person's stomach. Lj. Devetak testified that Petronije enjoyed ripping up legs of the Croats and waiting for them to bleed to death. P. Stevanovic testified that M. Jovic and Lj. Devetak promised that all volunteers would be able to take a few Croatian houses each, as soon as the Croats had been expulsed from Lovas. However, the expulsion did not go as planned, because the Croats offered no resistance and even a murder of some twenty Croats caused no intra-national incidents or conflicts, while the Serbs killed a catholic priest who advised Croats not to do anything to provoke Serbs.
Lieutenant colonel Dimitrijevic spoke about the YNA doctrine when he suddenly said: "I knew about the mine field! And Lovas authorities knew about it! The division commander ordered creation of a quality minefield and a quality map of it. Devetak was present when the mines were planted. I know that the mines were planted on 17 October 1991. That is why I told Peric (Darko Peric, 1954, Valjevo, completed high school, runs a private business, has been sentenced, resident of Serbia, arrested on 29 May 2007) to make a reconnaissance, not to search the minefield, and to estimate whether he had the experts who could assess where exactly the mines were. I SAID that, but I did not ORDER that"!

"I could have warned them, but I did not want to interfere!"
"Peric had an entire night to contemplate. Colonel Dusan Loncar was commander of the Second Proletarian Guard Brigade, which was subordinated to the First Proletarian Division, and I came to Lovas as a volunteer. Veljovic was First Class Captain and commander of Valjevo squad. I saw they were taking Croatian civilians toward the minefield, but I did not think they were crazy to take them onto the mines. I could have warned them, but I did not want to interfere! Yes, it is true, I could have shouted to them not to go into the minefield, but I thought that Peric was not that crazy. Devetak decided which Croat would walk into the mines. I was not among the men who took Croatian civilians into the minefield and I did not want to shout not to take them there, I did not want to interfere, I had nothing to do with it!
I was not in the group that took Croats into the minefield and I therefore have no command responsibility"!
However, at the third hearing (09-13 June 2008) lieutenant colonel Dimitrijevic changed his testimony during the trial: "I knew there were a minefield and a map of it, and I knew that some Croats died there because they voluntarily laid on the mines. I knew about the minefield - the army planted the minefield, and the map of the minefield was hanging on the wall of the office in Lovas. I saw Darko Peric taking Croats onto the mines, I could have stopped him but I did not want to - it was not me that took Croats into the mines! I had no business informing anyone they were going to die; I was already packing, as I was leaving Lovas on 19 October". "I knew nothing about the planted mines, no one informed me nor asked me about anything, I was nobody in Lovas, they were thinking 'I don't give a damn about lieutenant colonel Dimitrijevic', pardon my language, your Honor! I had no idea that this Darko Peric was taking Croats into the minefield"! "I was in Lovas only as psychological support to soldiers who were afraid and in crisis, and wanted to defect: my role was to encourage them to stay".
Names most frequently mentioned during testimonies were a captain Tito from Zenica, Colonel Slobodan Subotic and certain captain Kovac ("The greatest number of Croatian houses was set on fire when captain Kovac was in Lovas", Lj. Devetak testified at the second hearing).
At the fourth hearing (15-19 September) lieutenant colonel Dimitrijevic felt ill due to his blood pressure and the trial was adjourned on 19 October 2008, the next one scheduled for 15 October 2008.
1st - 31st October 2008

This is an abridged version of the original text published in the Serbian issue of the magazine.




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