At the trial of Radovan Karadzic, Ibro Osmanovic from Vlasenica described the torture in the prisons in Vlasenica and in the prison camps in Susica and Batkovic. Osmanovic spoke about how it felt to lose almost his entire family. Most of them are still missing. Osmanovic found the head of one of his brothers 25 km from where his body was found and was able to find ‘only seven and half percent’ of his sister’s bones

Ibro Osmanovic, witness at the Radovan Karadzic trialIbro Osmanovic, witness at the Radovan Karadzic trial

Ibro Osmanovic from Vlasenica testified at the trial of Radovan Karadzic about the crimes the Serb forces committed after they seized power in the municipality in April 1992. Osmanovic also talked about his terrible ordeal in the 14 months of captivity in four places: in the police station and prison in Vlasenica and then in the prison camps in Susica and Batkovic.

Osmanovic’s written statement based on his previous evidence in five trials before the Tribunal was admitted into evidence. Prosecutor Carolyn Edgerton read out the summary of the statement. On 22 April 1992, the Novi Sad Corps of the JNA entered Vlasenica. Working in tandem with the local Serb forces, the troops disarmed the Muslims. After the JNA left in mid-May 1992, the Muslim villages around Vlasenica came under attack.

The witness was arrested on 22 May 1992 in his house. He was held captive with other Muslims in the police station in Vlasenica. The Serb police and soldiers beat them all the time. Osmanovic was then transferred to the prison in Vlasenica. On 2 June 1992, about 30 men were taken away from that prison. There were only three survivors from that group: the rest were shot in the head and buried in a place called Drum.

In the Susica prison camp, the guards, police and the warden Dragan Nikolic beat the witness and 500 prisoners on a daily basis. The witness was shown a list of prisoners and recognized the name of Reuf Rasidagic. Nikolic beat Rasidagic every day. When Rasidagic begged to be killed, Nikolic said, ‘a bullet is too expensive for you, it costs three German Marks’.

In late June 1992, the witness was transferred to the prison camp in Batkovic. Osmanovic’s younger brother remained in Susica ‘as a guarantee’, Osmanovic was told, to prevent Osmanovic from escaping. The witness never saw his brother again. Osmanovic lost another brother and sister and is still looking for 33 other family members. He said today it was impossible to describe the hell he had gone through and the loss of his family. ‘You pick through the bones and turn them over, hoping you will find at least some bones to bury them... I found my brother’s head, 25 kilometers from his body. His throat had been cut. I have managed to find only 7.5 percent of my sister’s bones’, Osmanovic said.

In the cross-examination, Karadzic contended that the witness knew ‘only half of the truth’ about the events in Vlasenica. According to Karadzic, the witness didn’t know about the talks to divide the municipality into a Serb and a Muslim part and that the SDA trained its members and sent them to the battlefields in Croatia to fight the JNA. At the same time, the SDA was arming Muslims and in April 1992, the Patriot League units existed in all municipalities including Vlasenica.

Karadzic put it to the witness that when there was an imminent threat of war, it was necessary to check the people and make sure they weren’t ‘terrorists, deserters or persons with bad intentions’. The witness replied there was no need for the kind of checks the Bosnian Serbs carried out of Muslim. Vlasenica is a small town where everyone knew each other’s business. The point was that all of a sudden everything became ‘Serbian’ and Muslims were no longer welcome, the witness explained.

The trial of Radovan Karadzic continued with another witness whose evidence went on entirely in closed session. The trial continues on Wednesday, 31 August 2011.