TV B 92 FEATURES
A Project of VERAN MATIC
"THE INDEPENDENT FOR THE TRUTH"
22 October 1992
Around 11: 45 A.M.
NARRATOR: In the morning hours, a truck transporting a group of people in civilian clothes was noticed in front of the police headquarters in Visegrad. Milan Lukic, Oliver Krsmanovic and a soldier from Gorazde nicknamed 'The Poulterer' were seen by the truck. All of them belonged to a paramilitary unit called Osvetnici (The Avengers).
Two days after the abduction, Federal Minister for Human and Minority Rights Momcilo Grubac and members of a special government commission formed by the order of the Federal President Dobrica Cosic arrive to Priboj. Ratko Mladic, at the time the Defense minister of the Republic of Srpska, also comes to Priboj on that day. At the Priboj municipality, they hold a meeting with the local officials.
ZVONKO PRIJOVIC: Mladic claimed that he had learned about the abduction from the papers, that he knew nothing about it, and that he had come to see what was going on and to say that the Army of the Republic of Srpska had nothing to do with it and that he would do everything in his power to help locate these people.
NARRATOR: Zoran Cirkovic, at the time a deputy in the Serbian Parliament for the Serbian Renewal Movement from Priboj, was also present at the meeting.
Zoran cirkovic, MP for the serbian renewal movement: Do you think that seventeen heads is a small number? Should even more people perish? Should we kill them all? Should we cleanse all Muslims? So that Serbs could spread? There won't be any room for me, a Serb, if we are to kill them. I refuse to be involved in this bloodshed! And just who are you supposed to represent here, Mr. Grubac? You and I have known each other for a long time… What kind of power do you have? You have no authority whatsoever!
MOMCILO GRUBAC: We shall be resolute, whoever the perpetrators of this act, of this misdeed, may be…
ZORAN CIRKOVIC (OFF): Have you delivered an urgent protest note to Mr. Karadzic's Government? Have you demanded that the perpetrators be extradited?
MOMCILO GRUBAC: That's why we have come here, to see what this is all about.
October 22, 1992
Around 12: 30 P.M.
NARRATOR: The truck is going in the direction of the Visegrad spa, followed by a passenger vehicle. It stops at about seven kilometers from Visegrad, where the soldiers take the abducted commuters into the Vilina Vlas (Fairy's Lock) hotel.
Before the war, this hotel used to be a tourist resort. But during the war in Bosnia, imprisoned soldiers and civilians were tortured and sexually abused in these facilities.
Representatives of the Federal Government, the High Command of the Army of the Republic of Srpska and the municipality of Priboj go to Sjeverin, where the families of the abducted and their neighbours have assembled.
SAVRIJA HODZIC: We were on a common, by a plum-orchard, when this vehicle suddenly appeared.
RAMO GIBOVIC: It was a van with black doors, with skull and crossbones.… And of course they were wearing those caps with cockades…
FIKRET DZIHIC: It was a group of eight men, and one of them was Milan Lukic – according to all available information, it was the same group that had kidnapped those people.
RAMO GIBOVIC: They got out of the van and three or four of them came up to the mass of people who were standing there – and they just looked around the people like this.
FIKRET DZIHIC: He was looking up at us like this, holding an automatic rifle in his hand, and he had maybe four cartridge belts around him, hanging down to the ground, as this was a tall man, around two metres tall, and we got very scared.
RAMO GIBOVIC: I was very frightened – very much so.
MOMCILO GRUBAC: The locals told me that such things were happening almost every day, sometimes even several times a day, and sometimes these men would shoot in rapid fire above the rooftops.
SAVRIJA HODZIC: They got ready to go, but I threw myself onto the mayor's car, on the hood. "You're not leaving," I said, "you should be the ones to perish here tonight – if we can die, so should you, they'll soon come back here to kill us." And so he drove for about five meters with me on the hood, kind of slow, you see, and then when he stopped he said, "All right, I'll send a bus to take you all home."
NARRATOR: Talks with government representatives and their promises did not help the inhabitants of Sjeverin. Ratko Mladic returned to the Republic of Srpska, where he was soon promoted to the position of the chief commander of the Army of Republic of Srpska.
After the government commission had returned to Belgrade, there was a series of Federal Government meetings devoted to the abduction of sixteen Yugoslav citizens from Sjeverin. However, there were no results. All this time, Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic refuses to receive the missing persons' relatives, while the Yugoslav President Dobrica Cosic ends his efforts by establishing the commission. Neither of them ever addressed the inhabitants of Sjeverin, who were still living in fear.
MINA GIBOVIC: One evening several houses were torched down in Rudo, I don't know the names of the owners, but smoke drifted up the Lim river, all the way to the tunnel, and no one slept a wink that night. We were in our house, and there was a lot of commotion, people said "Let's get away from here," somebody said we should do it, somebody that we would not…
ZVONKO PRIJOVIC: Serbs told them to stay, that they would protect them… That they hadn't participated in all this. There were even some Serbs who cried together with them. In any case, the idea that they should move out circulated on Saturday and Sunday, and on Sunday and Monday smaller groups of people already started going towards Priboj.
NARRATOR: Not daring to go along the road Sjeverin-Priboj, the refugees take the longer but safer road leading through the territory of Serbia.
HALID KUJUNDZIC: My mother, who was an old woman, a sixty-five-year-old, had the luck that Sredo Susanj, a Serb neighbour of ours, took the elderly women in his ox-cart and brought them to the main road.
RAMO GIBOVIC: In front of my house, I took my daughter into my arms like this – she was hardly forty days old, and I carried her all the way to Priboj. We travelled the whole day, but I carried her over, just like a Gipsy woman, when she takes a shawl, ties it and fixes it like this.
NARRATOR: After walking for eight hours and traversing twenty kilometers, they arrive in Priboj.
The journalists of the state-run television announce the abduction of sixteen Yugoslav citizens only on October 26, four days after it had happened.
TV ANNOUNCER: Our correspondent reports from Priboj.
REPORTER: In order to investigate the Abduction of eighteen persons of Muslim nationality from Sjeverin, in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which happened in Mioce, on the territory of Bosnia, the government commission established for this purpose by the President of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia Dobrica Cosic has made a one-day visit to the Priboj area, but even after this the fate of these people remains unknown. On this occasion, yesterday evening the government commission, together with the Federal Human Rights Minister Momcilo Grubac, paid a visit to Sjeverin, where it talked with the locals.
October 26, 1992
Around 5: 00 P.M.
NARRATOR: In Sjeverin, Serbian police stop Milan Lukic and Dragutin Dragicevic, who were driving in a car. When asked to show his ID, Lukic produced a forged ID and driver's licence, issued by the Visegrad police. The police searched the vehicle and found a lot of weapons and ammunition.
Lukic and Dragicevic were taken to the Uzice prison and placed in thirty-day custody on charges of illegal possession of weapons and forging of personal documents. The minimum penalty that the law imposes for these criminal acts is ten years' imprisonment.
On November 1, Radmilo Bogdanovic, president of the defense and security committee of the Yugoslav Parliament's Chamber of Citizens and a grey eminence in the Serbian police visited Uzice and Priboj.
On November 4, Lukic and Dragicevic were released from custody by the decision of the court council presided by Petar Vladisavljevic, with the strange explanation that Lukic was a citizen of another country, that he had not used a forged ID and that at the time of the arrest he had been sent to perform a specific duty.
And while Lukic's patrons from the government are releasing the criminals, the family of the abducted Alija Mandal receives a notice of his dismissal from work, since, as the notice says, he has not come to work for five consecutive days.
DZENANA MANDAL: As my dad had been employed at the FAP factory, a notice of his dismissal was sent to us in December, because, as it said, he had not reported to the factory for five days, so that we were left without his salary… without anything.
MILIC POPOVIC: I didn't know about this case, and I also don't know if FAP had known about that specific case. Probably no one would have sent such a notice if they had known that it referred to this particular person. But, honestly, I can't answer your question as I didn't know that this man had been abducted, I don't remember these names anymore and I haven't heard about this case – that a notice of termination of employment was sent to a man who had been abducted.
NARRATOR: In order to be able to claim some rights and thus secure their subsistence, some families decide to declare the abducted persons dead.
ZINETA HODZIC: It was suggested to me that we should have my husband declared a dead person, so that we could claim certain rights, for as long as he was officially registered as a missing person, I couldn't even claim child's allowance as a single mother.
BEHUDIN HODZIC: Actually, the court declared him to be a dead person. He shall never be dead for me.
NARRATOR: After the abduction, Admir Dzihic leaves with his family for Priboj. There they live at a hotel as refugees – on the territory of their own municipality!
ADMIR DZIHIC: A different life begins, and the life I had been living up to that time and which had really been super, had gone. One day I was told somebody had been looking for me, they'd asked for me the previous evening, they'd stopped their BMW right there in front of the hotel, at night… This is how it started, and I was afraid a lot. Once I saw a soldier making a phone call – from a black booth at the Priboj hotel, there was a black phone box there, and he had put his head inside and was talking – and I thought I saw that his face was blackened! Then I got scared even worse – there, I thought, a guy with a blackened face is at the hotel… That was the story, that they had been looking for me, and I was convinced that he had come to get me. After that, mother told me one day that a woman had said to her in front of the municipality that somebody had been looking for me, "they were looking for your son," this woman said. That night we left Priboj.
NARRATOR: In order to protect Admir from the possible revenge of the kidnappers, his parents took him to Novi Pazar, and later on to Turkey, with the help of non-governmental organizations. Ten years later, the Dzihic family moved to Sarajevo. Admir has never been to Sjeverin again.
Having spent five months in the Yugoslav Army, Behudin Hodzic comes to Priboj on a leave.
BEHUDIN HODZIC: I asked at the police station if they could give me a lift home, since the bus line wasn't operating anymore. They told me that it wasn't safe for me to go. I couldn't believe what the man was saying – this was a reserve unit – that I couldn't go there together with them, even though I was a soldier, just like they were.
The following morning I set out on foot. I had to walk for about six or seven hours to reach home. When I came to the front door, everything was different – there was no din of voices, no pealing of laughter like there used to be, no sound, no merriment – everything was silent, desolate, only smoke coming out of several chimneys. We lived in fear throughout the summer.
NARRATOR: According to the Humanitarian Law Center, by January 20, 1993, around fifty houses in Sjeverin had been looted, and several had been torched. The families of the abducted persons were still kept in suspense. The government behaved as if they did not exist.
SAVRIJA HODZIC: To this very day I don't even know where his bones might be, or what exactly happened to him, or how – absolutely nothing. No one ever told us anything.
HANKA PECIKOZA: We would go to the municipality, and we'd beg, we'd implore, we'd entreat, we'd pay – was there any man who could tell us the actual truth? Nobody. Milic Popovic, the mayor, told us we shouldn't come to him anymore. "Go away," he said, "it's not my fault."
MILIC POPOVIC: There is no responsibility whatsoever, since this incident occurred on the territory of another country, an internationally recognized one, though the victims were our citizens – it's just the same as if someone was kidnapped in Bulgaria, Romania, Albania, and so forth.
ZORAN CIRKOVIC: It was the territory of another country, but the bus belonged to the Serbian state, and the driver was a Serbian citizen, and the passengers were Serbian citizens, and therefore, when our bus is on the territory of another country, it is extraterritorial, and our state has to take full responsibility for it.
NARRATOR: As no investigation was conducted, the families were getting various information, but all this information turned out to be false.
MEVLUDIN HODZIC: There was a flood of misinformation, saying that they were alive, that they had been abducted in order to be exchanged, that they would be back soon, that somebody had already seen them at one place or another, and that the negotiations about their release were under way. On the other hand, there were also claims that they had all been killed immediately, that they were not alive anymore. And in such a situation you just don't know what to do – you can't do anything, but even so the whole thing troubles you and hurts you.
ZINETA HODZIC: I heard that my husband was in a detention camp in Visegrad, that he hoped he would be transferred to Rudo…
NARRATOR: The daughter of the abducted Alija Mandal receives several anonymous telephone calls from a man who demands twenty five thousand DEM to bring her father back from captivity. After several contacts, the calls stop.
MOMCILO GRUBAC: Various stories were launched, on purpose – one of them was that some people from this group were seen at a hospital in Foca. These stories were changing with fantastic speed, and new ones were constantly being launched. This was obviously being done purposefully, in order to create false leads in case an investigation was carried out.
End of October 1992
NARRATOR: According to the findings of The Helsinki Committee office in Sandzak, Muslims from Sjeverin were abducted in order to be exchanged for twenty eight Serb soldiers and civilians who had been captured several days earlier by the Bosnian Army. After this had been refused, the abducted persons from Sjeverin were murdered at the Visegrad spa.
According to other sources, the aim of this crime was to intimidate the Sandzak Muslims in a planned manner, so that the area near the border with the Republic of Srpska would be ethnically cleansed.
According to the report made by the Serbian police in 2001, around twenty members of Lukic's group took the abducted persons from the Fairy's Lock hotel in the direction of Visegrad. They stopped approximately two kilometres down the road, near the river Drina. Soon after that, several bursts of rapid fire were heard from this direction, followed by a series of single shots.
RAMO GIBOVIC: Until recently, maybe until two years ago, I believed that they were alive, but then I admitted to myself that there was no hope, that they'd all been killed.
DZENANA MANDAL: You always cherish a hope, you know…
MEVLUDIN HODZIC: I have this dream, like, we are at some place and they are about to be exchanged – I can see them all, both him and three or four other men who were taken together with him, and I'm happy at last, you know – but the next moment it all goes away, you wake up and realize that none of this is true… that it was only a dream.
ZORAN CIRKOVIC: The families would certainly have felt relieved if they could at least have seen the bones of their loved ones. However, I doubt that any remains have ever been found. And these people were really just ordinary citizens of Priboj, they weren't soldiers, or extremists, or mujaheddin, or the Bosnian Green Beret units, they were just workers of this town and residents of this municipality.
NARRATOR: In the interview he gave to the Belgrade magazine Duga in November 1992, in which he was portrayed as a hero, Lukic denied that he had been in the area of Sjeverin at the time of the abduction. "At that time I was busy with other Muslims," he said. Asked if it was true that he was responsible for the death of more than 3,000 Muslims, Lukic replied: "I hope it is more than 3,000, but my conscience is clear. I have never shot at a woman, a child, an old man or an unarmed one – never."
ZORAN CIRKOVIC: When evil times come, the dregs of society rise to the surface.
NARRATOR 2: The Serbian police arrested Milan Lukic two more times: in 1993, when they suspected him of having murdered a resident of Visegrad on the territory of Serbia, and in 1994, when he was suspected as the commander of a group that had abducted several passengers from a train in Strpci. In both cases the investigation was stopped and Lukic was released.
In 1998, The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) issued an indictment against Milan Lukic for crimes against humanity and violation of conventions and rules of war. The indictment is related to crimes committed in Visegrad and elsewhere on the territory of Bosnia-Herzegovina. It is believed that Lukic is still hiding in the area around Visegrad.
BEHUDIN HODZIC: I can never pass by the Amfora pub without looking at it. And I can never get that place out of my mind. My father always came home with some treats, sweets – these are the most vivid and enduring memories one can have. Or the moment when he saw me off to the army, and I didn't find him at home when I came back – I wish I could have returned and hugged him.
Fairy's Lock Hotel
NARRATOR: Milan Lukic and his Avengers took photographs of themselves with the abducted people from Sjeverin at the Fairy's Lock hotel.
The following citizens of FRY were abducted on October 22, 1992:
MEDO HODZIC, 37, married, with three children
MEVLIDA KOPDZIC-HODZIC, 30, single mother of one child
RAMAHUDIN CATOVIC, 24, married, with one child
MEDREDIN HODZIC, 30, single
MUSTAFA BAJRAMOVIC, 44, married, with two children
MEHMED SEBO, 30, single
IDRIZ GIBOVIC, 50, married, with two children
Hajrudin Sajtarevic, 37, married, with two children
MITHAD SOFTIC, 42, single
DERVIS SOFTIC, 39, single
SEAD PECIKOZA, 30, married, with one child
MUJO ALIHODZIC, 42, married, with two children
ALIJA MANDAL, 38, married, with three children
MUZAFER HADZIC, 36, married, with two children
RAMIZ BEGOVIC, 59, widower, with three children
ESAD DZIHIC, 24, single
On October 23, 2002, the public prosecutor's office of Belgrade issued indictments against Milan Lukic, Dragutin Dragicevic, Oliver Krsmanovic, Djordje Sevic and five other persons for war crimes committed against civilians.
Narrator: Tomislav Grujic
Directed by: Ivan Markov
Screenplay: Ivan Markov and Jasna sarcevic-jankovic
Interviewer: jasna sarcevic-jankovic
Produced by: Veran Matic
Executive producer: Ksenija Stefanovic
Camera: nikola majdak
Camera in reconstructed scenes: Aleksandar mastilovic
Camera assistants: aleksandar brajovic
Edited by: aleksandra milovanovic
Assistant editor: dejan urosevic
Music by: igor gostuski
Sound engineer: IVAN STIFANIC
Sound designer: VLADIMIR JANKOVIC
Chief production manager: ANA GRUDEN
Production manager: IGOR STIFANIC
Camera assistants: ALEKSANDAR SIMIC
Production designer: JOVANA CVETKOVIC
Artist: NIKOLA MARKOVIC
Costume designer: MIRJANA MIRKOVIC
Assistant director: BOJAN VULETIC
Production managers: NEDA MILUTINOVIC
Chief extra: SLAVA VULANOVIC
Drivers: dobrosav milenkovic
Titles, graphic design, digital image processing:
AUTHORS OF PHOTOGRAPHS:
Dobrica Cosic – DRASKO GAGOVIC
Slobodan Milosevic – DRASKO GAGOVIC
Radmilo Bogdanovic – DRASKO GAGOVIC
Ratko Mladic – NENAD STOJANOVIC
Translated from the Serbian by: SRDJAN SIMONOVIC
We wish to thank ARHITEL TV production, weekly VREME and the Radio and Television of Serbia for the permission to use their archive materials
This film was made with the support of the National Endowment for Democracy
Produced by TV b92/2002