Pakračka Poljana – camp without war crime?

The case «Pakračka Poljana» disgraced again Croatian judicature. Although on first sight there were spectacular judgements – ten years for Munib Suljić, eight for Siniša Rimac and five for Igor Mikola – explanation of judgement that on area of Pakračka Poljana founded a camp in which people were treated as in nazi time, but it is not war crime but crime in war conditions, is opposite of common sense. By that is given partly a right to former President of Supreme court, Milan Vuković, who said that Croatian soldiers couldn’t commit a war crime, because they defended themselves.

Novosti 

Independent Serbian weekly magazine (Zagreb/Vukovar)

Issue 301, 23rd September 2005., page 5.,6. and 7.

Theme of the week

Pakračka Poljana – camp without war crime?

 

The case «Pakračka Poljana» disgraced again Croatian judicature. Although on first sight there were spectacular judgements – ten years for Munib Suljić, eight for Siniša Rimac and five for Igor Mikola – explanation of judgement that on area of Pakračka Poljana founded a camp in which people were treated as in nazi time, but it is not war crime but crime in war conditions, is opposite of common sense. By that is given partly a right to former President of Supreme court, Milan Vuković, who said that Croatian soldiers couldn’t commit a war crime, because they defended themselves.

 

 Recently finished repeated trial in case «Pakračka Poljana», despite of on first sight spectacular judgements – ten years in prison for Munib Suljić, eight for Siniša Rimac, five for Igor Mikola and four, that is, three for Miro Miralem Bajramović and Branko Šarić – again showed that Croatian judicature is not ready enough to face with dark part of Civil War. The explanation of judgement itself that was not a war crime but crime in war conditions, and that on area Pakračka Poljana founded a camp like nazi ones in Second World War, it is in contradiction with common sense. Namely, if Munib Suljić and Siniša Rimac condemned for murder of Aleksandar Saša Antić, in «camp in which people were treated as in nazi time», and Igor Mikola helped them in that, if Miro Bajramović and Branko Šarić condemned for illegal kidnaping of Serb from Zagreb, Miloš Ivošević and two workers on building-site of his house, Rade Pajić and Marko Grujić, killed in the same camp, by which logic it is not a war crime?

I experienced a physical assault on 14 September 1999, in Mandalić Street in Zagreb, when I was intercepted and pushed against the wall by Munib Suljić.

Unpunished organizers of camp

If it is known that from collecting center on Zagreb’s fair (Section 22), from military custody Kerestinec, and from a place in western Slavonia under control of Croatian authorities loyal Serbs, war convicts and undesirables Croats were taken to camp in Pakračka Poljana, that is war crime itself, because there was no legal basis to do something like that. If those poor people were killed there, as it was proved in judgement, there was no basis by which judge Rajka Tomerlin Almer could conclude that it was a war crime in war conditions.

Legendary statement of former President of Supreme court, Milan Vuković that Croatian soldiers by definition couldn’t commit a crime because they were defending, is said at the 90-ties exactly as a comment of first serious headlines about war crime in Pakračka Poljana. So, Milan Vuković thought under defense of Croatia also kidnaping of loyal Serbs and undesirable Croats, their placing in «camp in which people were treated as in Nazi time», where they were, honestly, killed on a bit more primitive way: not in gas chambers, but with bullet in head. In certain way judge Rajka Tomerlin Almer agrees with thoughts of Milan Vuković. It would be better if judge didn’t mention nazi character of camp in Pakračka Poljana, because then at least those totally ignorant, but anyway more intelligent, couldn’t ask: well, who organized that camp, who was the commander of it? Why didn’t you punish them?

Tudjman appalled over Bajramović’s claims?

How come that Tomislav Merčep, commander of reserve police unit, whose members was five condemned «Merčep men», was not in custody ever because of these crimes? Even Zvonimir Trusić, owner of cafe «Stil» on Zagreb’s fair as a commanding headquarters for collecting center in Section 22, at beginning 1992. with several «Merčep men», was under custody and under investigation, but Merčep didn’t. «In time of incriminating events wounded lied in hospital and we couldn’t accuse him», replied in 1997. Anto Nobilo, at that time deputy of county public prosecutor on question of deceased Leader Franjo Tuđman in one conversation in President’s office. Tuđman and Nobilo talked about strategies of defense of Tihomir Blaškić, but Tudjman got news about interview of Miroslav Bajramović for «Feral Tribune», so Nobilo offered to say what he knew about Pakracka Poljana case, and Tudjman asked about rolle of Tomislav Merčep in all that. By stenogram of his conversation, which «Nacional» published last year, and Nobilo publicly confirmed it, Tuđman sincerely was appalled over Bajramović’s statements that he alone killed about 70 people, and that Merčep’s unit, so called «Autumn rains», in Pakračka Poljana liquidated 280 people, mostly Serbs.

Anto Nobilo and Miro Miralem Bajramovic (illustration)

Consulting with Miroslav Šeparović, at that time Minister of judicature, Tuđman ordered to deputy of main state attorney, Marijan Hranjski, to arrest immediately Bajramović and others whom he mentioned that were with him in crimes. Nobilo claimed that he didn’t read that interview, but that he came to similar things in 1992. when as a deputy of county prosecutor, led the first investigation. Last year Nobilo in interview for «Vecernji list» boasted that he said to Tuđman that everything what Bajramović said for «Feral Tribune» to journalist Ivica Đikić, was correct.

Bajramovic fake witness – provocateur?

In fact, exactly that interview of Miroslav Bajramović is one of the key spots of suppressing of truth about Pakracka Poljana and honest processing of all outrages that happened there. Miroslav Bajramovic was previously read by investigators of ICTY who in 1997. investigated despairing and murders of Vukovar Serbs from 1991., in time of absolute rule of Tomislav Merčep in that town. Belgrade’s professor, Vojin Dabić, who cooperated on that investigation with Graham Blewit, at that time deputy of main ICTY’s prosecutor, Louise Arbour, told to the author of these lines that Bajramović offered himself as a witness of crime of «Merčep men» in Vukovar and said about 20 names of Serbs whom, namely he and his companions, killed and threw into the Danube. –We found out that he made up all those names, and only accurate information that we got from Bajramović is the place on the bank of Danube where corps were thrown, said to the author of these lines Dabić, swearing that Miroslav Bajramović is proved fake witness – provocateur. It is not clear why Anto Nobilo still claims that Bajramović’s statement to «Feral» is accurate, nor why around Bajramović at the end of 90-ties engaged Čičak’s HHO.

At the very beginning of the interview for «Feral», Bajramović brings out proved untruth: «Our group is down (in Gospić, author’s remark.) liquidated between 90 and 110 people, because we were too short time, not even a month. For Gospic was an order- «ethnic cleansing»: we killed director of the post, hospital, the owner of restaurant and some other Serbs. The murders were done by a gun in a forehead, because we didn’t have enough time. I repeat, from headquarters we got the order to reduce the percentage of Serbs in Gospić». From previous appearances of Milan Levar, and through all different testimonies and documents, revealed before so called Bajramovic’s story, it was known that role of «Merčep men» in war crimes in Gospić in comparison of roles of Tihomir Orešković and Mirko Norac, was insignificant. By all this, Bajramović’s statement for «Feral» (author Ivica Đikić) should serve to one part of government to show that Croatian public and Croatian government appalled over war crimes done by Croatian units, and that would immediately be processed acts about he gave testimony. Of course, as soon as he was in custody, Bajramović denied that he gave interview for «Feral», and by that the contents of recognition.

Tomislav Merčep (center standing) and his men: Nebojša Hodak (left), unknown (right);  Igor Mikola and Sinisa Rimac (Bottom Row).

No corps – no crime

Tomislav Merčep and Zvonimir Trusić, whom Bajramović marked as organizators of crime in Pakračka Poljana, were not in custody. And from those in custody, some useful informations in investigation to prosecution gave Stipe Manđarelo, a man who was before the war member of the Serb-ortodox church, Gipsy, and in war, changed his identity, gave statements as he was bigger Ustasha than Ante Pavelić. The same Manđarelo in custody suddenly got sick and died. And to make the thing more bizzare, his body was cremated, although there are rare cases to cremate bodies of catholics. But after the cremation no post mortem examination can be done, that is check the cause of the death, what is by many spactators the biggest reason why he was cremated. By rather reliable datas, the body of Marina Nuić, the member of at some time party of Marko Veselica, HDS (Croatian Demokratic Party), who was in Pakračka Poljana to give humanitarian aid, and under accusation that she was a spy, after many rapes she was killed, finished in crematorium on Šalata, so for her death nobody was accused. No corps – no crime.

The statement that Manđarelo gave before he suddenly died, and there were serious indications that he would continue to talk freely if death didn’t stop him in that, was used only as an evidence that two-three «Merčep men», on that first trial for Pakračka Poljana, condemn only for illegal kidnaping. Others, as Munib Suljić, Siniša Rimac and Igor Mikola, without any judgement in June 1999. were released from prison. Prosecution didn’t get any other evidences, and the court the statements of two witnesses, citizens of Serb nationality (Nikola Peleš and Branko Velagić), who gave testimony in 1992. that they were forced to dig a grave for Aleksandar Saša Antić, marked as inconsistent and contradictory.

Intimidation of witness on court’s hall

When Supreme court in 2001. cancelled a part of judgement from 1999. and ordered another trial for «Pakračka Poljana» case, happened even bigger burlesque. Accused Suljić and Mikola, defending from freedom, on court’s hall intimidated two mentioned witnesses, after what the witnesses in front of the judge showed even bigger amnesya and contradictory that on first trial. Judicial police didn’t prevent such intimidation of witnesses, or reacted in any way, when in breaks of the trial, Suljić and Mikola went to the toilette, from which could be heard sniffing, and two of them with narrower pupils of the eyes, and hectic reactions continue to follow the trial.

So, SuljićRimac and Mikola were condemned this time on basis of even more inconsistent, contradictory and more amnestic testimonies of Peleš and Velagić.  It was unbelievable that one of those witnesses during trial suddenly started to talk that Munib Suljić told him that «he would next time work on digging even bigger, massive grave», and that statement not prosecution nor court took into record and ordered further investigation.

Also, it was absolutely unbelievable that no Croatian investigation of crimes in Pakračka Poljana didn’t take in record the act of Military court in Zagreb in 1993. (act number: III-Kir-32/93), in which one of accused for stealing on battle field, Franjo Krčelić, claimed that he got approval that from Serb houses he can take things he needed for his (tractor, television etc.) from his first superior Nikola Cvitanović. To that act was attached ratification of police of Croatia nr. 511-01-231-1/92, dated 4 February 1992. addressed from Pakračka Poljana, and with which advisor of Minister, Tomislav Merčep, confirmed that Franjo Krčelić was «engaged in reserve unit of police since 1st October 1991. till 31st January 1992. on Pakrac-Lipik battle field». That time is the time of crimes in Pakračka Poljana and that is the proof that Tomislav Merčep in that time was commander of mentioned unit.

Siniša Rimac, Nikola Rukavina Pop, Igor Mikula and Miljenko Zadro Pika in Gospić, September 1991. Igor Mikola and Miljenko Zadro went to Herzegovina in 1992 as a unit of war criminal Mladen Naletilić Tuta, for whom the New York Times 1996 wrote that he was a co-worker of the Yugoslav UDBA.

Responsibility of SDP

Besides, it is not clear why Croatian judicature didn’t get statements from witnesses from villages around Pakrac, Lipik, Daruvar and Kutina who gave testimonies, available to ICTY, about taking and killing their neighbours and relatives (especially is tragic story about killings lots of people of Serb nationality from village Kip). Nikola Ivkanec, chief of police in Pakrac 1993. helped with investigation about crimes over Serbs which was led by commission of UN, with Cherif Bassiouni  on head, which was the beginning of ICTY and which discovered graveyard with 18 corps. It is unknown whether Croatian investigators ever took statement from Nikola Ivkanec, to clear up the crime in Pakracka Poljana.

For a long time the relatives of the murdered couldn’t get ratification about death of their dearest. When Pakrac’s judge, Vojin Mrzić, gave such one ratification to wife of Jovo Žestić, in which, among other, said that «missing Jovo Žestić died in prison Ribnjaci in Marino selo in 17 November 1991. in which with several people from village Klisa, took by members of ZNG (Croatian Army)…», the same man got a dismissal on court.

The shadow of Pakračka Poljana falls on at that time leading men of SDP, who through Zdravko Tomac participated in work of Government of national unity. So, Tomac was in that Government in charge for following the situation in western Slavonia. There is also a written testimony that a member of Kutina’s leading team of SDP went for previously arranged meeting with headquarters of the party in Zagreb to inform the center about crimes in his area, so the criminals kidnaped him and killed him, and from SDP center nobody didn’t even protested against that.

The number of murdered on several locations known under one name – Pakračka Poljana, moves from 18 , that number at the beginning managed to prove Bassiouni’s commission, to several hundreds, as some organisations claimed from Serbia, which were dealing with those problems. The accurate number will be known one day for sure, and on Croatian judicature stays a shame that it brought a verdict for only one killed Croatian policema, with Serb roots, Aleksandar Saša Antić, and his companions named him for a spy, and for kidnaping but not a murder, three Serbs from Zagreb: douane worker Miloš Ivošević and two workers from his building-site, Rade Pajić and Marko Grujić.

Writes: Željko Peratović

Aleksandar Saša AntićBranko ŠarićCherif BassiouniFranjo KrčelićFranjo TuđmanGraham BlewitIgor MikolaIvan Zvonimir ČičakIvica ĐikićJovo ŽestićLouise ArbourMarijan HranjskiMarina NuićMarko GrujićMilan VukovićMiljenko Zadro PikaMirko NoracMiro BajramovićMiroslav ŠeparovićMladen Naletilić TutaMunib SuljićNikola CvitanovićNikola IvkanecNikola RukavinaRade PajićRajka Tomerlin AlmerSiniša RimacStipe ManđareloTihomir BlaškićTihomir OreškovićTomislav MerčepVojin DabićVojin Mrzić
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