Protected prosecution witness testifying at the Vojislav Seselj trial describes how the Serbian Radical Party volunteers terrorized captured Muslims from Zvornik. Miodrag Vukovic Cele, the commander of ‘Seselj’s men’ and a Chetnik vojvoda, war leader, beat an elderly captive to death at the ‘Ekonomija’ farm

Vojislav Seselj in the courtroomVojislav Seselj in the courtroom

The indictment against Vojislav Seselj alleges that the volunteers recruited by the Serbian Radical Party took part in the brutal torture and killing of Bosnian Muslims from April to July 1992 in the ’Standard’ shoe factory, in the ’Ciglana’ roof tile factory, at the ’Ekonomija’ farm and in the culture centers in Drinjaca and Celopek. The witness testifying under pseudonym VS-1013 with protective measures of image and voice distortion was held captive in the first three of those locations. Today he described a series of crimes committed there by the so-called ’Seselj’s men’.

The witness and his four friends were captured on 4 May 1992 as they attempted to leave Zvornik. They were taken to the administration building of the ’Standard’ factory where a group of Serbian soldiers from Loznica brutally beat them up a number of times in the days that followed. ’Seselj’s men’ were there in the building but they didn’t take part in the beating. The witness identified six of them. Their leader was vojvoda Cele, he said; there was also a major called Toro and volunteers nicknamed Pufta, Zoks, Sasa and Sava. All they did in the ’Standard’ administration building was to threaten the captives, and they made good on their threats after the witness and the other prisoners were transferred to the warehouse at the ’Ekonomija’ farm, where they found fifteen or twenty Muslim men.

’The two months that I spent in captivity at the ’Ekonomija’ farm were the hardest months of my life. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy’, the witness said, before going on to describe the torture he and other captives had gone through. In one of the torture sessions, his shoulder was broken. In his words, they were regularly beaten up by Serbian soldiers and volunteers. They were humiliated on a daily basis, and forced to beat each other up. According to the witness, the men from Loznica were the ringleaders but ’Seselj’s men’ would join them.

One night, vojvoda Cele entered the warehouse, the witness recounted, and forced all the prisoners to strip down to the waist, to kneel down and pray to Jesus Christ. He singled out two of them and took them out to beat them. Soon after, the older of the two men crawled back to the warehouse. He was barely able to move and was all covered in blood. He died soon after. Niski, a member of ‘Arkan's men’, put a stop to Cele’s reign of terror, when he said he needed the prisoners to work; they should therefore not be killed. Vojvoda Cele is an alias of the SRS volunteer Miroslav Vukovic, one of the SRS volunteer commanders promoted to the rank of vojvoda by Vojislav Seselj in the spring of 1993. Apart from Cele, the witness recounted, major Toro and Sava also took part in the beating of Muslim prisoners at the ’Ekonomija’ farm. Abdulah Buljubasic died of the injuries he sustained as they tortured him.

After a while, the witness and about twenty other captives were transferred to the roof tile factory known as ’Ciglana’. On the orders of Pufta and other ’Seselj’s men’, they went to Zvornik to loot the Muslim houses for them. They had to load trucks with building materials and other goods. In the witness’s words, Pufta forced Muslim prisoners to steal the property of their fellow Muslims. One night, Pufta came to Ciglana, took out Ismet Cirak and slit his throat. Together with two other ’Seselj’s men’, Sasa and Zoks, he drove Cirak’s body away in a white car.

In mid-July, the witness was taken to the prison camp in Batkovic. When he was released on 4 December 1992, he met some former prisoners who had been detained in the Culture Centre in Celopek. They told him they had survived the torture and that ’Seselj’s men’ Pufta, Zoks and Toro had taken part in torturing them.

As today’s hearing drew to a close, the accused Vojislav Seselj started his cross-examination of the witness. The cross-examination is expected to be completed tomorrow.