Former cook in the Territorial Defense center in Erdut started her testimony with image and voice distortion under a pseudonym at the trial of Goran Hadzic. Members of Zeljko Raznatovic Arkan’s Serbian Volunteer Guard trained at the center

Goran Hadzic in the courtroomGoran Hadzic in the courtroom

Last week, a protected prosecution witness started his testimony at the trial of Goran Hadzic, who is charged with crimes in Eastern Slavonia from 1991 to 1993. This morning the witness completed the testimony in closed session. Another protected witness was called next; parts of her evidence were heard in open session. The witness testified with image and voice distortion, under the pseudonym 099, to protect her identity. The witness’s statement to the OTP investigators in 2005 was admitted into evidence but prosecutor Friedman didn’t read out the summary of the document as has been the practice at other trials.

In the fall of 1991, when violence against Croats erupted in the area, as alleged in the indictment, the witness worked in the kitchen of the Territorial Defense center in Erdut. Zeljko Raznatovic Arkan’s Serbian Volunteer Guard trained there. As the witness described, these soldiers had ‘iron discipline’. The unit members ‘were mostly criminals’, but they treated women who worked in the center ‘with respect’, the witness said in her statement. While the villagers of Erdut lived in poverty, the witness said that food was ‘plentiful’ in Arkan’s training center.

In the video recording showed by the prosecution today, the witness was able to recognize the scene she used to watch every morning through a kitchen window: the review of ‘Arkan’s men’, the hoisting of the Serb Orthodox flag and the playing of the Serb national anthem. The footage shows Arkan’s motivational speech in which he said ‘the time of the 21st century inquisition has come: they want to kill us and convert us’. Arkan told the volunteers that they had the ‘honor to defend the Serb nation’. As alleged in the indictment, Arkan’s men committed a number of crimes in the region, under the patronage of Goran Hadzic and his government.

At one point, the witness was transferred to a job in the Dvorac facility, located very close to Arkan’s training center. The witness said that Goran Hadzic, who was the prime minister of the Government of the Serb District of Slavonia, Baranja and Western Srem, and his cabinet were there. After the fall of Vukovar in November 1991, the mayor of Belgrade, Slobodan Unkovic visited the Dvorac building. That was the last major event the witness could remember because she resigned soon afterwards.

The witness is a Serb woman married to one of few Croats left in Erdut. Most of the Croats left the village under various forms of pressure, the witness recounted. By the summer of 1992 the demographic composition of the village had completely changed. Erdut, which used to be an ethnically mixed place, became almost purely Serb, after Serbs from Western Slavonia moved into the houses abandoned by Croats.

In her statement to the OTP, the witness described her three meetings with Goran Hadzic during the war but this topic was discussed in closed session. The defense will cross-examine the witness tomorrow.