Dr Vesna Bosanac appeared for the sixth time as a witness; she spoke about the events preceding the fall of Vukovar and the first mass execution in the wars in the former Yugoslavia. Did the Croatian government’s commissioner for the town of Vukovar manage to get in touch with Goran Hadzic and ‘give him the key to the city’ in November 1991?

Vesna Bosanac, witness at the Goran Hadzic trialVesna Bosanac, witness at the Goran Hadzic trial

After a one-month break, the trial of the former prime minister of the Serb Autonomous Region of Eastern Slavonia Goran Hadzic continued with the evidence of Vesna Bosanac, former and current director of the Vukovar Hospital. Dr Bosanac has already testified six times about the events preceding the fall of Vukovar and the killing of about 200 men at the Ovcara farm on 20 November 1991. Hadzic is charged with that crime and other crimes in Eastern Slavonia.

Although the hospital was clearly marked with a red cross, it was regularly targeted by the JNA until the fall of the town on 18 November 1991. The artillery rounds ‘lit up’ the sky over Vukovar ‘like fireworks’, Dr Bosanac explained. As she said, ‘it was a war without any rules’. The prosecutor played a series of video recordings showing direct damage to the hospital building and the red cross on white canvas marking the hospital.

In October and November 1991, Dr Bosanac made daily appeals for help to the European Mission in Zagreb, the JNA headquarters and the Croatian Army Main Staff. Although she approached ‘everyone I could’ for help, only the Médecins Sans Frontières responded. Many years later Dr Bosanac’s memos were used to ‘reconstruct the events’.

Dr Bosanac said that by mid-November 1991 there were about ‘3,000 men’ in the hospital, mainly civilians. The hospital was guarded by the ‘Croatian National Guard’. The ‘guardsmen’ were armed but couldn’t protect the facility from bombs and shells. Also, there were two police officers on the hospital premises who made the lists of the killed and deceased. The police officers were also in charge of collecting any weapons from wounded Croatian Army soldiers.

The name of the accused was mentioned only once, in the context of the negotiations about the evacuation of the civilians. Marin Vidic, the Croatian government’s commissioner for Vukovar, was supposed to negotiate it with Hadzic, who was the prime minister of the Serb Autonomous Region of Slavonia, Baranja and Western Srem at the time. Dr Bosanac claimed she was ‘surprised’ when Vidic told her that Hadzic should be given ‘the key to the city’. The witness didn’t know if Marin Vidic had gotten in touch with Hadzic since Vidic ended up in detention with her, Dr Bosanac explained. They were first detained in the JNA military barracks in Vukovar and later transferred to the military prison in Sremska Mitrovica in Serbia.

Vesna Bosanac will continue with her testimony Tuesday morning.