Radovan Karadzic completed the cross-examination of Sefik Hurko today, who was tortured in the village of Kosovo near Rogatica, as were his family members. Armin Bazdar was called to the witness stand next. In August 1992, when he was made to join a group of prisoners destined to be executed, Bazdar was only 15 years old

Armin Bazdar, witness at the Radovan Karadzic trialArmin Bazdar, witness at the Radovan Karadzic trial

In the cross-examination of Sefik Hurko from the village of Madjer near Rogatica, Radovan Karadzic tried to contest the claim that former commander of the Serb troops in Rogatica Rajko Kusic was present when the witness and members of his family were tortured on 14 August 1992 in Mico Andric’s garage in the nearby village of Kosovo.

‘Do you know that many persons falsely claimed they were Rajko Kusic’, Karadzic asked the witness, bringing up a written statement of a person whose identity was not disclosed. ‘I don’t know’, the witness replied. As the witness said, he was sure beyond any doubt that Kusic personally oversaw the abuse of the witness and his relatives, and that he later drove them to Rogatica. The witness and his family were detained first in the high school and were then taken to the Rasadnik prison camp.

Karadzic also insisted that the witness was a member of the Territorial Defense and had a pistol and about 70 bullets at the time of his arrest. The witness’s license to carry arms was not valid ‘outside of his house’, Karadzic stressed. ‘So what am I supposed to do with the pistol when I have to flee my house’, the witness retorted. The witness agreed that as of 20 July 1992 he was in the Territorial Defense, but insisted that he was in a work squad.

Armin Bazdar from the village of Seljani near Rogatica was called next to the witness stand. In August 1992, he and some other underage boys were ordered to join a group of Muslims of military age from the Rasadnik prison camp; the group was to be executed. Bazdar was only 15 years old at the time. At the trial of Radovan Karadzic, the witness recalled the moment when he stood in a line with a group of prisoners from the Rasadnik prison camp with his hands tied behind his back. The group had just returned from a front line where they had been used as a human shield.

‘I touched my uncle with my elbow and asked him where they were taking us, and he quietly told me that we were done for, that they would kill us all’, the witness said. According to the witness, the Serb commander, Dragoje Paunovic Spiro, ordered one of his soldiers to take the prisoners into a field and to open fire. As the witness recalled, someone in the column yelled, ‘don’t do it, sir, we’ve done nothing’. Paunovic cocked his rifle and fired a burst at the prisoners.

The witness was wounded in his upper left arm. A while later, as the soldiers went from prisoner to prisoner, finishing off those who were still alive, he was hit in the right arm by the bullet that killed his uncle. At one point, the witness got up and ran away from the execution site into the woods nearby. After wandering in the woods for 18 hours, the witness reached a BH Army position where he was given first aid. Out of 27 persons led to the execution that day by the Serb forces, only the witness and two other prisoners survived.

As Bazdar recounted, he lay wounded at the execution site and heard Paunovic talking to Rajko Kusic on the radio. Kusic wanted to learn ‘who is shooting’, and Paunovic asked ‘who wants to know’. In his written statement that was admitted into evidence the witness said that the Serb troops captured his village, Seljani, on 3 June 1992. The villagers were under house arrest for a couple of months and were then moved to Veljko Vlahovic school in Rogatica and then to Rasadnik prison camp.

Karadzic started the cross-examination by noting that the Serb troops took the villagers of Seljani to Rogatica ‘for their own safety’. The witness confirmed that they were given that explanation, adding ‘Or rather, they lied to us’.

Armin Bazdar’s cross-examination continues tomorrow.