Vilim Karlovic, former Croatian National Guard soldier, testified at the trial of Goran Hadzic about the six months he had spent in detention. His ordeal began in the Vukovar Hospital, continued in the former JNA barracks, at the Ovcara Farm, in the Velepromet warehouse and in an isolated facility at Petrova Gora. Karlovic was finally taken to Serbia, to a prison in Sremska Mitrovica and exchanged from there

Vilim Karlovic, witness at the Goran Hadzic trialVilim Karlovic, witness at the Goran Hadzic trial

Vilim Karlovic was transferred from the Lepoglava prison to The Hague to give evidence against Goran Hadzic, former prime minister of the Serb Autonomous Region of Slavonia, Baranja and Western Srem. Karlovic is serving a six-year sentence for murder. The witness’s statement was admitted into evidence and today he clarified some of its parts.

In the fall of 1991, Karlovic fought on the Vukovar front as a soldier of the Croatian National Guard. A day before the town fell, on 17 November 1991, Karlovic went to the Vukovar Hospital. Three days later, he and more than 200 persons – the sick, the wounded and the hospital staff, were taken by bus to the JNA barracks. There, they were met by the JNA soldiers, the Territorial Defense troops and the volunteers: they all threatened they would kill the prisoners. The buses then took the detainees to the Ovcara farm. Some 15 soldiers were waiting for them. The detainees had to run a gauntlet and were badly beaten by the soldiers. Karlovic avoided the fate of about 200 prisoners from Ovcara when a man by the name of Spasoje Petkovic Stuka took him out of the hangar. Stuka was a JNA soldier, Karlovic said. Sinisa Glavasevic, a journalist from the local radio station, was at Ovcara too, Karlovic added. The witness said that Glavasevic had been tortured; his tormentors were ‘yelling with joy’ as they tortured him. The thugs took turns at a blow of a whistle.

Karlovic and six other persons were first taken to the Velepromet warehouse and then to a company called Modateks, where civilians who were to be exchanged were held. During the night, a group of several men headed by a man by the name of Bulidza came in. The group beat the prisoners, put guns in their mouths and threatened they would kill them the next morning. The detainees were then brought back to the Velepromet. Karlovic was later separated from the rest and put into a house where there were about 20 bearded volunteers. The volunteers were happy to see that they ‘got a young Ustasha to have fun’. Karlovic was cut on the hand and back, his body was burned with a candle, his nose was broken and he was beaten about the head. A woman urged the volunteers to rape Karlovic but that didn’t happen. Marko Ljuboja Mare and Predrag Milojevic Kinez saved him from that house, as Karlovic put it, ‘under difficult conditions, amid gunshots’. Ljuboja and Milojevic stood trial for the Ovcara crime in Belgrade, and Karlovic was their key defense witness. Milojevic was sentenced to 20 years for his part in the murder of about 200 persons at Ovcara in Vukovar. Ljuboja was acquitted.

Karlovic was brought back to the Velepromet for the third time, and was finally transferred to Serbia, to a prison in Sremska Mitrovica, on 22 November 1991. Goran Hadzic visited the prison but he didn’t say anything. Members of Hadzic’s entourage ‘made loud comments at prisoners and taunted them’. Karlovic was exchanged six months later, in May 1992.

In a brief cross-examination, the defense counsel put it to the witness that JNA officers controlled the situation at Ovcara. Karlovic confirmed it, saying that the JNA was in control of the situation and supervised everything that went on.