Viktor Ivancic Feral Tribune, 8/21/95, Split, Croatia
Feral has recently obtained original documents which were submitted as the incriminating evidence together with the indictment against Tomislav Mercep and the members of the reserve Police unit under his command; the indictment mentions a number of murders and other criminal acts committed in Pakracka Poljana at the end of '91 and the beginning of '92. The official report made by investigating detectives from the Zagreb Police Department (PD), compiled after the end of the investigation, contains unequivocal confessions of the accused as well as the testimony given by those who were brutally assaulted in Poljana. These papers disappeared in darkness as the result of a signal from above. Now when the Croatian justice system has cynically rattled its chain of absurd events, there are many more than 130,000 reasons for exposing these documents to public scrutiny.
"Croatia is today an independent country; human rights and civic freedoms are fully respected; but we shall never allow that someone has more rights than us [Croatians] ourselves."
These were the words of the Croatian knight Tomislav Mercep in July 1994, at the opening of a UHDDR [Association of the Croatian Volunteers from the Patriotic War] branch in Pula. A year later, it turned out that his observations about the respect of civic freedoms and the surplus of rights for "us ourselves" were accurate. The district Court in Zagreb awarded to Mercep 130,000 kuna [Croatian currency] for "the severity of experienced pain" caused by the article "Killing Fields in Pakracka Poljana" (Feral Tribune, issue 433). The article very delicately and cautiously treats the murders and crimes committed by the members of the the reserve police unit under command of Tomislav Mercep.
The court in Zagreb passed the verdict based on the plaintiff's testimony "in which the court has complete confidence," because it was "delivered with confidence and clarity." The verdict also says the following:" It is undeniable that the plaintiff has never been sentenced for a criminal act related to a murder of a robbery; hence it cannot be imputed that the unit under his command committed any crimes or robberies, as is claimed in the article in question." Therefore, it was concluded that in the Feral article, "the plaintiff's dignity, honor and stature are severely offended and that his morality, and his reputation of a man and a veteran from the Patriotic war, who has been decorated several times for his successes in war operations, are questioned."
"Dossier Pakracka Poljana", full of violence, fear and blood, was closed and put away in the central catacombs of Croatian jurisprudence more than three years ago. That, so far the most perverted act of debauchery against the rule of law, a game in which honorable politicians, judges, patriots and warriors took part, was performed quietly but efficiently; after confessing their crimes, the criminals were released; some of them achieved prominence in politics, others were decorated by the head of the state " for courageous acts performed in the war" and some, with a bag full of "donated" kunas are getting ready for a plastic operation in order to give facelift to their flabby "morality and reputation of a man and a veteran from the Patriotic war."
Seks in Ambush
In June 1994, Milan Vukovic, at the time the Supreme Court president and the president of the commission for war crimes, said that the chain of murders and violence in Pakracka Poljana was a fabrication. He concluded that war crimes had not been committed by the Croatian side - at least that "he doesn't know for a single court case of that kind". Then he added: "A mass grave with supposedly 200 killed persons was found in the Pakrac area last year. The exhumation found only 18 corpses. I was present when Mr. Sharif Bassiouni, the president of the international Commission of Experts, said that all corpses had been examined and that all were victims of fighting; there were no traces of violence."
After shameful cover up of crimes, Pakracka Poljana was turned into a test for detection of the freshest enemies of the state, those who - by poking through the epic war journey of Tomislav Mercep and his golden boys - "persistently insist on alleged crimes of Croatian warriors." A certain paramilitary weekly then accused Feral of trying to "turn Tomislav Mercep and his unit, all heroes of the Patriotic war, into cruel murderers"; all that was "an attempt to undermine the Croatian state," meaning that "the ultimate goal of that project is disappearance of Croatia in its present constitutional shape"!
Former State prosecutor Vladimir Seks assessed that the casting of a moral shadow on the so-called Mercep's unit aims to "soil the whole patriotic war, especially volunteers." Those who do that "are trying to soil their honor and to portray their leaders as ordinary criminals," and "attempt to claim that the Croatian state policy has, at least, tolerated war crimes." Finally the enemy paid the price; with that punishment all more visible factors were satisfied: Tomislav Mercep received 130,000 Kunas, patriotic war a cleaning fluid and Croatian state policy Vladimir Seks' reserve honor.
Deaf and Dumb
What happened with the crimes? Indictment against Tomislav Mercep and the members of the reserve police unit under his command was filed in February 1992, because of the series of murders and other criminal acts committed in Pakracka Poljana at the end of '91 and the beginning of '92. Feral obtained the original documents which were submitted as the incriminating evidence with the indictment: the official report of Zagreb PD inspectors made after the conclusion of the investigation, contains unequivocal confessions of the accused as well as the testimony of the victims of brutal violence in Pakracka Poljana. These papers disappeared in darkness as the result of a signal from above. Now when the Croatian justice system has cynically rattled its chain of absurd events, there are many more than 130,000 reasons for exposing these documents to public scrutiny.
Several testimonies, which we are publishing in this Dossier, are only a small part of the voluminous police documentation about the crimes of the so-called Mercep's unit; this part is just sufficient to give an idea of the atmosphere in which this wild cordon of death acted. However, it is only a small part of the whole truth about the events in Pakracka Poljana. Serial executions, kidnappings, torture of prisoners in the Pakrac jail, blackmail and banditry... Due to the hellish conspiracy of political and judicial power brokers these crimes remain unpunished. Probably the moral is that in the state of Croatia it is not that important that the justice is blind as much as it is important that everyone else is deaf and dumb.
Assembly Line of Death
Department for suppression of ordinary crimes in the Zagreb PD, submitted to the district court judge on 2/3/1992 an indictment against 16 members of the reserve police unit in Pakracka Poljana; among them was the commander of the unit, Tomislav Mercep. "An unknown number of unidentified persons," from the same unit who had taken part in the crimes were also indicted. Police knew some of them only by their nicknames: Bego, Mika, Zuti, Glava, Celo...
The indictment, signed by the head of the department, Ante Gugic, states that the members of the unit under command of Tomislav Mercep, the accused Miroslav Bajramovic, Stjepan Mandarelo and a few others, on 10/31/1991 following the orders of their commander Zvonimir Trusic abducted Milos Ivosevic, Rade Paic and Marko Gruic at the building site of Ivosevic's house in Zagreb (81 Rudeska cesta). They took them to Pakracka Poljana and handed them over to Branko Saric a.k.a. Kosa, the headquarters commander at the time, who kept them imprisoned for 10 days.
"During that time, the accused Mijo Jajic and other members of the unit physically mistreated the victims (beatings, electric shocks and other)". During the night between 11/11 and 11/12 the three victims, together with nine other unidentified prisoners, were taken to the village of Bujavica near Pakrac and massacred in the cellar of a family house.
The indictment also states that, following the orders of Tomislav Mercep and Zvonimir Trusic, Igor Mikola and Sinisa Rimac abducted Ina Zoricic-Nuic a.k.a. Marina, who was a member of the crisis headquarters in the borough of Kraljevica near the city of Rijeka, from the burial of Pavo Mlinaric (also a member of the Mercep's unit) at the Mirogoj cemetery in Zagreb. After interrogation at the Zagreb fair grounds they drove her toward the locality known as Janja Lipa, about half a mile from Pakracka Poljana, where the accused Antun Jurgec executed the victim.
At the same spot, in November 1991, Igor Mikola and Munib Suljic executed Aleksandar Antic, a.k.a. Sasa, also a member of the reserve police unit; according to the indictment, all that happened "according to the orders of and in collaboration between commanders Tomislav Mercep, Zvonimir Trusic, Demal Palos and Zvonimir Zakosek."
Stevan Brajenovic's case is also mentioned in the indictment. Stevan Brajenovic, a customs officer from Zagreb, was arrested on 12/8/1991; then, Munib Suljic took him to the jail in Pakracka Poljana. "On 11/11/1991, around 6 a.m., Brajenovic tried to grab a rifle which had been set aside in the room in which he was together with Boris Tucman and Zoran Karlovic. The accused Karlovic shot Brajenovic from a hand gun and inflicted a serious abdominal wound, after which Brajenovic was taken to a hospital; his car is still in Pakracka Poljana while the accused Tucman, Bajramovic, "Glava" and "Zuti" gave the money taken from Brajenovic (DEM 9,700) to the unit commander Demal Palos."
Zagreb PD submitted as evidence for these accusations, among other, testimonies and confessions of the accused, almost all of whom (all except for Tomislav Mercep) were in the District Court jail in Zagreb at the time.
However, the indictment covers only a part of the bloody events in Pakracka Poljana. According to the investigation of Helsinki Watch, for example, it can be proven that the following persons lost their lives in the jail in Pakracka Poljana: Mirko Cicvara director of "Ribnicarstvo", Blagoje Zabrdac accountant in "Ribnicarstvo", Duro Brkanjac pensioner from Kukunjevci, Pero Rajcevic head of the Bjelovarska Bank branch in Pakrac, Veljko Stojakovic, a worker in Kutina based company Petrokemija, Ivan Drekovic from Antunovac,Nada Radakovic and Milan Jerinic from Bujavica. Helsinki Watch report also has a list of a pretty large group of the murdered villagers from the village of Kip, which is located half way between Pakrac and Daruvar.
Branko Velagic:"Tomi" does that with a knife
When one adds everything up, the members of the Mercep's unit from Pakracka Poljana stole from Branko Velagic, a Serb, a truck, a car (Mercedes),a motorcycle (Japanese JAWA), a tractor, a television set, a video recorder and a pound of golden jewelry; the value of stolen goods is estimated at DEM 200,000. During his stay in the jail in Pakracka Poljana, Branko Velagic was tortured several times. The torture is described in the official report based on the statement given by Velagic to the PD Zagreb inspector, Damir Kukavica:
"They ordered him to take his clothes off and beat him all over the body with a 'police baton' made from an electric cable. At one point the forementioned man with moustache pushed the 'baton' into Velagic's large intestine; this was very painful. Besides the 'baton' they beat him with their fists and kicked him with their feet. Beatings like that one occured almost daily. All of the above mentioned persons took part in the beatings; besides Velagic all other persons jailed in Pakracka Poljana suffered from the same kind of treatment.
On one occasion, about 10 days ago, between 2 and 3 a.m., the previously described man, called 'Tomi' ('short, heavy built, about 30 years old; he always wore a black barret and fatigues') entered the room in which Velagic was held, together with a few other persons. They took him out of that room and led him to another one. Immediately, they started beating him and 'Tomi' delivered a strong blow to his face, which broke Velagic's jawbone. After that they took his t-shirt off and, while the others were holding Velagic, 'Tomi' took a knife and cut Velagic several times around his armpits. The wounds were surface wounds, deep enough to cause a bleeding."
Branko Velagic said in his statement that during the time spent in Pakracka Poljana he was taken outside the jail only once. That night "a man wearing fatigues, whom others called Igor" came for Velagic. The record continues:
"That evening Igor and another man in fatigues (whom Velagic neither remembers nor can describe) led Velagic and Nikola Peles out of the building and pushed them in a car, a compact Japanese model, and drove them to a meadow. There, they took them out of the car and forced them to dig a grave. When Velagic and Peles finished, two other men in uniform arrived in a car and brought another prisoner. Velagic cannot now describe neither those two men nor the prisoner, because it was already dark and Velagic was afraid for his life and didn't look around too much. One of the men in fatigues pulled out a gun, aimed it at Velagic and said that he would kill them all. Suddenly he heard the shots; Velagic at first thought they were shooting at him. However he didn't feel any impact or pain; he only saw that the prisoner fell in the grave."
Igor Mikola: I Killed a Friend
War path of Igor Mikola from Vukovar starts in September 1991 in Gospic where he, together with Nebojsa Hodak, Sinisa Rimac and others fought against the enemy, occupied army barracks etc. According to the official report signed by Gojko Markovic as an authorized person, Mikola "didn't notice that in Gospic some of the Croatian fighters were abducting or mistreating civilians. Before an action, the orders were usually, 'no prisoners' and 'burn everything'. He claims that the orders applied to every person encountered during military operations, even women and children. As far as he knows such ugly events didn't occur with women and children because all villagers managed to flee before the cleansing. He remembers that when they were in Pocitelj a man remained in a village; then when they started to approach him, he ran away; however, he was killed from a machine gun mounted on an armored vehicle. Only one house was burned in that village."
Mikola thinks that Pavo Mlinaric was executing people even before Mikola and the friends arrived in Pakracka Poljana. Mikola remembers that a German whom they called Sasa and a Bosniac who lived in Germany beat on prisoners and pierced their ears with knifes ("every single one talked after that"); in this way they obtained names of other persons who might be 'interesting'. "That way they formed a list of persons which would be submitted to Tomislav Mercep." Mikola stated that himself, Miro and Pika took a man dressed in a military uniform who had a gun and two hand grenades to a meadow where they shot at him. "Tomica Mercep and Zvonko Trusic knew about this execution; it is assumed that the guys who interrogated the victim also knew about the execution. Mikola believes that the order for execution was given by Mercep or Trusic. The murdered man was found a day later by some villagers from a nearby Croatian village. He believes that they informed someone about this and were told to remove the body. He is certain that the body was buried, but he doesn't know where. By the way, he was rarely present during interrogations. As he says 'our duty was to take people away and kill them, nothing else'."
During the conversation in Zagreb PD Mikola remembered an eighty year old man who looked "as if he popped out of a movie: he had a beard, a fur hat and opanci [peasant shoes]". Mikola believed that the man had been captured by Guardsmen because he had been "their [Serb] boss in Lovska". The man was killed by Sasa Antic : he shot the man in the head from a machine gun from about three feet away. By the way, Mikola said this about Sasa:" he was taking risks, he wanted to become someone, he was the boss after Pavo died." Mikola remembered that Pavo liked "to do it" (carry out executions), and added that Pavo was "a legend". Before executions Pavo would talk to the victims, allow them to have a last cigarette and fulfill their last wishes.
The report based on Miksa's statement also says the following: "Pavo never told him how many people he had executed. Mikula personally remembers killing 5-6 prisoners. All together, including combat, he thinks that he has killed about 15 persons. He doesn't remember the date on which the executions took place. He thinks that this took place during the last 10 days. He doesn't know the names of the victims nor can he describe them. Their age was different, usually ranging from 30 to 50 years. All executions were done according to the orders. Nothing could be done without 'a green light'. He remembers how on one occasion Pavo showed self initiative by killing a prisoner; after that Tomica [Mercep] screamed at him and sent him home for a few days. Executions always happened during the night. However, he has heard that Pavo and Sasa would sometimes kill during the day. The prisoners would usually dig graves for those who were supposed to be killed. This was done by two or three captives. He has visited the jail from time to time and once saw a large number of people there; he thinks that the people he saw on that occasion were 11 persons who were later killed in a cellar in the village of Bujavica. These people were killed by Miro Barisevac, Piko, Sasa Antic and Tonci Jurgec. They shot at the victims from a 'scorpio', 'pumperica' and a machine gun. He couldn't show the place where these people were killed.
He was one of the people who carried out executions; the order for an execution could have been received by anyone serving with the unit in Pakracka Poljana. When Mikula, Rimac, Brisevac, Hodak, Suljic and Sasa were not around, the commander would find someone else to carry out an execution. Normally, Mikula was not present when others were executing people; hence he doesn't know the number of people murdered by others."
According to the Mikula's statement, the meeting [domjenak] in the Zagreb restaurant "Trnjanka" which was attended by Mercep,Branimir Glavas, Stipe Spajic, Zvonko Trusic and Miro Brisevac had the crucial role in the death of Sasa Antic. Munib Suljic brought Sasa in a blue Volkswagen Rabbit, with police markings. Sasa was disarmed at the fairgrounds; when Trusic passed by, he said:" What is he doing here; don't do that here, take him away." Sasa was taken handcuffed to Pakracka Poljana; there two prisoners were picked out and they dug a hole at a meadow. Sasa told Mikola: "You should kill me, but quickly." Mikola responded:" Don't be afraid." Sasa turned and asked him: "How do you want me to stand?" He told him to kneel. When Sasa knelt, Mikola shot him from a hand gun in the back of the head. He thought that he shot from a "zbrojovka" which he usually carried with him. When the dead man fell in the hole he fired another bullet, into his heart. After that the two prisoners buried the corpse. Rimac and Suljic were also present at that execution. The report also says this:" He remembers that he was a good friend of Sasa. Sasa even gave him a sweat shirt as a present in Osijek and also gave him a gun. The day before the execution they went for a walk around the city [Zagreb] and had fun. He thinks that Sasa's murder was a test, the purpose of which was to check how obedient he was and whether he was ready to follow any orders. He believes that he would have been next if he refused to obey that order."
Mikola also stated that he thought that people from Zagreb were also brought to Poljana. He remembered that on one occasion Mlinaric together with Tonci went to Istria [peninsula in the far west of Croatia, several hundreds of miles from Pakracka Poljana and Zagreb], but he didn't know if they were supposed to pick someone up or whether Pavo simply wanted to visit a woman who lived there. As he said:" People could be brought from anywhere." Mikola said that he often went to the Ministry of Internal Affairs to see "Tomica [Mercep] and Kvaternik." "He was allowed to visit whenever he wanted. He remembers that on one occasion he was in front of the minister's office while Tomica was talking to the minister. He heard that the minister was telling Tomica that some guys had 'screwed up' in Gospic."
Dossier: Pakracka Poljana, Part 2
Viktor Ivancic Feral Tribune, 8/21/95, Split, Croatia
Sinisa Rimac: A Bullet for a Disabled Man
Sinisa Rimac, born in 1973 in Vukovar, interrupted his vocational school after the massacre in Borovo Selo and, together with Igor Mikola, Nebojsa Hodak, Pavo Mlinaric and others started a sentry duty. Immediately after his arrival to Gospic, Rimac and the friends completed several actions in which they removed barricades from the streets and captured a military warehouse and 18 members of the so-called JNA [Yugoslav Peoples Army]. They took part in several pursuit actions against Chetniks in the area around Gospic. They found out from Zvonko Trusic and Stipe Mandarel in the Zagreb cafe "Stil '92" that Mercep was about to open a new front in Pakrac; hence they also headed that way.
In Pakracka Poljana, Rimac saw a prisoner, Milan, who "came looking for his brother who had been mobilized; he thought that he had found a chetnik headquarters." Rimac beat up another three prisoners in military uniforms on one occasion. He also knew about a few more cases in which Guardsmen and people from his unit had brought people from Kutina or from the Novska area [towns near Pakrac]. Rimac hasn't spent a lot of time in Poljana (he was coming from and going to Zagreb, Kutina and on one occasion he traveled to Osijek planning to go with 400 volunteers as a reinforcement to Vukovar), but he has heard that 11 people had been found in the village of Bujavica; some of them were Chetniks. "He heard that they had been thrown in a cellar and killed."
Sasa Antic seemed suspicious to Rimac, because "he had some lists with photos and resumes; he could get hold of everything he needed and no one knew where he was getting it from. As far as Sinisa knows, Sasa was abducting people, interrogating prisoners, driving a different car every few days and doing a bit of everything; Tomica thought that Sasa should be sent to Serbia to carry out bombings and sow panic among people." Rimac became suspicious of Sasa "after a young man was abducted and beaten up and the result of his interrogation was the abduction of a director of a company from Kutina who wasn't guilty of anything. After that Sinisa talked to the beaten youngster and he told Sinisa that he had made up the story about the director in order to save himself." In connection with Antic's execution, Rimac also stated that he had asked Sasa, when they had been standing next to the grave, whether he had worked for the Yugoslav counterintelligence service and about sixty reserve police identification cards which had disappeared from Mercep's car. Sasa replied that he had nothing to do with the documents.
To the question about Marina's execution, Rimac replied that Mercep ordered her arrest. He has heard that she was supposed to kill Mercep. When she appeared at Mlinaric's funeral, Rimac, Mikola, Suljic and Hodak caught her, took away the documents she had with her, among which were at least 500 addresses, HOS [Croatian fascist paramilitary organization] badge, a gun and a pen. She was interrogated at the Zagreb fairgrounds by Demo (Palos), Rimac, Hodak and Suljic, after which Demo said that Tomica (Mercep) had ordered to take her to Poljana where "this should be sorted out". Three prisoners dug out a grave on a meadow, " and then Tonci asked Sinisa to do it himself; Sinisa let him carry out the execution and Tonci shot and killed Marina from an automatic rifle. Sinisa remembers that Tonci said after the execution: 'thank you, Rimac for letting me shoot.' Because the execution was carried out at night, Sinisa doesn't know the exact place where Marina was killed, but knows that this happened on a meadow surrounded by forest, about 300 meters from the jail in Poljana."
He didn't remember the exact date, but Rimac knew that a reserve soldier and a civilian on crutches were brought to Poljana on one occasion. "Sinisa and Sasa went to pick up that man and brought him to the jail in Poljana where he was interrogated after which someone said that they should execute the man. He doesn't know whether someone issued orders saying which persons should be killed, but on this occasion Sinisa, Nikola and Brisevac carried out this execution; they took a truck and also brought along two other prisoners. They carried out this execution during the day in a forest far away from the prison; the prisoners dug a hole and then the man with a crutch was killed from a small caliber rifle while Sinisa killed the man in the military uniform (he was a reserve soldier, about 30 to 32 years old) from a hand gun. After the execution, the prisoners filled in the grave and then returned to the prison." All this was recorded on 12/31/1991 in the Zagreb PD Department for suppression of common crime and signed by Nikola Jambrek, the authorized official.
Nebojsa Hodak: Kill Me Instead
Nebojsa Hodak, from Vukovar, was born in 1966, completed primary school at the age of 17, after which he spent two years in Borovo doing nothing, apart from a little gambling and getting in trouble with law from time to time. He met Mercep at that time and helped during the construction of his house. After finishing his [mandatory] military service, according to his statement given to the Zagreb PD, Hodak spent some time robbing Italian, German, Czechoslovak, Swiss and Hungarian houses and shops. His guide in those very untourist-like trips was Pavo Mlinaric who left the country in 1981 in order to avoid spending 5 years in jail. At the time of the massacre in Borovo Selo, Hodak was in Munich on a shop lifting trip with his colleague Milos Savic. When Hodak heard about the massacre, he immediately returned to Vukovar and joined the Mercep's unit as a volunteer; Mikola and Rimac were also members of that unit.
Hodak said that, after spending maybe two months on barricades, i.e. sentry duty, he and Mikola on their own accord arrested his neighbor Milenko Cukanovic, in whose apartment they allegedly found a Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) membership card, a hat with a nationalist insignia [kokarda] and several bottles with molotov cocktail. Cukanovic was interrogated and killed by Mlinaric and a certain Zagorac [a man from Zagorje, an area near Zagreb]. Cukanovic's corpse was found in Danube several days later, near Novi Sad... Since Cukanovic's mother Tonka inquired with Mercep about her son, Hodak, following a Mercep's order, had to write a report about the arrest, in which he stated that he had brought Cukanovic to the Territorial Defense headquarters and that he didn't know what happened to him after that. That report was signed by Mercep and Hodak, and Hodak gave one copy to Cukanovic's mother, Tonka.
As far as Hodak knew, 5-6 persons were brought for interrogation from Borovo. Executions were carried out by Mlinaric, Amerikanacand Zagorac. Mlinaric was a member of an active National Guard unit, and before his arrival to Vukovar, he was in a jail in Slavonska Pozega. He was supposed to serve 4 months but was "pulled out" by a certain Mr. Babic from the Ministry of Internal Affairs. "Mlinaric has," it says in the official police report, "shown a lot of courage in actions of that sort ( executions, Feral's remark) and, besides that, he terribly hated Chetniks , but not Serbs; at least not all of them since his wife was originally from Kolasin [town in Montenegro]. Mlinaric was very difficult when he drank a lot; he would behave as if he were mad."
Hodak stated in the interrogation that he didn't know who had put Mlinaric in charge; "he only knows that Mlinaric was interrogating prisoners in the cellar of the Territorial Defense building and that no one from other units was allowed to be there during interrogations." During an interrogation, "with use of beatings and electric shocks (from an inductive telephone set)," Mlinaric was "in charge," and his collaborators were Jozo Smuk, Zagorac from Zabok and "a young man from Chicago, whom they called Amerikanac [an American], and who is now (December 1991, Feral's remark) in Kumrovec undergoing training in a special forces unit." Hodak met that man, over 6 feet tall, with tattoos on both arms, black hair, and about 20 years old, in a disco in Zagreb, immediately before the interrogation in Zagreb PD. Amerikanac, who also has a brother undergoing training in Kumrovec, told Hodak that he would like to return to the Mercep's unit.
Hodak who, after two months spent on barricades, became a member of a group whose duty was terrain cleansing (persons who were members of SDS or for whom they had information that they had taken part in operations against the Republic of Croatia were brought to the Territorial Defense building), left with the friends for Gospic where their task to remove barricades from streets, hunt snipers etc. He personally took part in the capture of a warehouse in which some twenty soldiers were taken prisoner. After that, Hodak fought in Ceric, Nustar and Marinci and when he and his group arrived to Pakracka Poljana, a group of four prisoners was already there.
One of them was called Milan; supposedly he had come from abroad looking for a brother who had been mobilized to a Territorial Defense unit. "That guy said that he was a thief and that he had been stealing everywhere, in Italy and Switzerland; he had been arrested about ten days before they arrived to Poljana and after their departure, Pavo led him around everywhere dressed in a sajkaca [traditional Serbian hat] and wrapped in a Yugoslav flag." Hodak didn't know why the other three men had been arrested; supposedly, one of them, a veterinary from Pakracka Poljana, had had on himself artillery coordinates. The painter Milan, also known as Rus [a Russian], trained the prisoners to jump on their feet and shout "Za dom spremni" [greeting used by fascist Croatian regime during the WWII, roughly equivalent to "heil Hitler"; literal translation is 'ready for homeland'] every time he opened a door. Hodak stated:" these four prisoners were killed and it is known that Tonci killed Milan; Mikola and Rimac and also others told me about that; Tonci had to kill Milan because Pavo couldn't; he had become friends with Milan." The other three were killed by "Svabo" [a German], twenty year old man who hardly knew any Croatian. Hodak also remembered that "Svabo" during an interrogation pierced an ear of a prisoner and pushed a bullet through the wound.
Later, in the village of Kukunjevci, they caught a man who had two hand grenades and a PAP rifle. He told them that he had received the arms from the JNA; after that Hodak, Mikola and Miro drove the man in a van to a corn field and there all three of them shot at him: Hodak from a "scorpio", Mikola from an "uzi" and Miro from a "pumperica". Hodak remembered that the man had been wearing a grey jacket and grey trousers. Here's more from Hodak, from the report:" Quite a lot of people were brought in by 'Pop', that is Nikola Rukavina who had been in Pakracka Poljana before their arrival; he would bring people in for executions, and as he himself said, sometimes he wouldn't bother to bring them to Pakracka Poljana, but would execute them somewhere else. 'Pop' was acting alone and was visiting villages in the area with his people; Hodak remembers that Pop has brought in the veterinarian. Suljo was also bringing people, but only from Pakracka Poljana. All those brought in by 'Pop' and 'Suljo' were executed later; during 15 days which Hodak spent in Pakracka Poljana, about 10 people were executed." The names of new prisoners were obtained during interrogations in the prison in Pakracka Poljana. Hodak said that the prisoners were not immediately killed, but were kept around for several days to clean, wash, unload ammunition etc.
The official report, signed by Esad Paratusic also mentions that Hodak has heard from Rimac that Mercep and Zvonko had ordered Rimac and Mikola to kill Sasa; Rimac was against this and only wanted to drive Sasa away from Poljana. In the end it says: "Anyone 'working' in Pakracka Poljana, had to write reports during interrogation, and these reports were submitted to Mercep and Zvonko, who owned the cafe 'Stil'; the two of them were sitting in the headquarters, reading those reports and deciding what would happen to the prisoners."
Munib Suljic: "Daddy" Sent Them to Poljana
Munib Suljic's story, signed by Esad Paratusic, begins in the early fall of 1991. From Zagretje (Zabok municipality), Soljic went to the Ministry of Internal Affairs to find out where the volunteers should report. He was directed to the second floor, to Tomislav Mercep'soffice. After a short training he left with a group of volunteers for Pakracka Poljana. The evening when Rimac and the friends arrived,Pavo Mlinaric was killed in Zagreb; Branko Saric, a.k.a. Kosa and Demo Palos, a.k.a. Kobra were appointed to his position. Later Suljic heard that Palos had ordered the execution of all prisoners, and, according to the rumors in the headquarters, the executions were carried out by Miro Brisevac, a man with a nickname Tonci (Antun Jurgec), Miljenko Zadro, a.k.a. Pika and a man whose nickname was Bego. Allegedly, on that occasion, about 12 persons were executed in the village of Bujavici.
Suljic stated that he didn't know anything about the abductions of people from the Zagreb area, and added that "all orders in connection with apartment checks, confiscation of arms and abductions of people from apartments in the Zagreb area were issued by Zvonko Trusic; he would leave peaces of paper with data in an office inside pavilion number 22 at the Zagreb fairgrounds; whoever was first to arrive to the office would get that piece of paper and had to carry out the checks that were demanded by Trusic." Suljic emphasized that he never went alone to carry out checks and apartment searches, but that everything was done based on the orders of Trusic, Mercep, or Stjepan Mandarelo. On one occasion Suljic received from Trusic a business card belonging to Borislav Ostojic, from Rijeka. He was told to bring that man to Zagreb together with general Uzelac's brother. Suljic also said that, according to a Mercep's order, Sinisa Rimac, Igor Mikola, Nebojsa Hodak, Castimir Maric, Zeljko Basic and Suljic himself were supposed to travel abroad "in order to carry out checks of people on a certain list of people working against the Croatian authorities."
He also witnessed Sasa's (Aleksandar Antic) murder. Mikola and Rimac had told him that several id's disappeared from Mercep's BMW and that Sasa was a suspect. He remembered that before they left the Zagreb fairground, Mikola had had a private conversation with Tusic; hence he supposed that during that conversation Tusic had told Mikola what to do with Sasa.
Mercep and Tusic issued an order to arrest Marina from Rijeka, provided she turned up at Pavo Mlinaric's funeral. She came to the funeral; Mikola and Rimac caught her, disarmed her and drove her to the Zagreb fairgrounds where she was interrogated by Demal Palos. After interrogation, Palos said in front of everyone: "Daddy (Mercep) has ordered - straight for Poljana." Suljic stated that he had later heard that Marina had been killed from a machine gun by Tonci. "He doesn't know why Marina was executed, but he stated that he had heard rumors that Marina's father was a member of KOS [Yugoslav couterintelligence service] and that because of that it was necessary to kill her." This was written at the end of the Suljic's interrogation at the Zagreb PD.
Miroslav Brisevac: Massacre in a Cellar
"They took the prisoners from a van two by two, brought them to the cellar door and shot them." This is written in the report made on 12/23/1991 by Ilija Zolota, a Zagreb PD detective, based on the statement given by Miroslav Brisevac. Brisevac was born in 1967; he was a member of the so-called Mercep's unit in Pakracka Poljana. In his confession, Brisevac gives a detailed description of the execution of 12 males in the village of Bujavica, near Pakrac, which most probably occured during the night between 12/11 and 12/12, 1991 in the cellar of a family house. All the victims were brought from the jail in Pakracka Poljana, and only three corpses have been positively identified since then. The report states the following:
"First Tonci and Bego led two of them towards the cellar; as Brisevac was standing next to the van, he heard that a lot of shots were fired from a 'scorpio' and 'pumperica' as well as a hand gun. Next, Sasa and Miljenko Zadro led away another two prisoners and again he heard shooting and a few cries, while the prisoners in the van were quiet. He doesn't remember how exactly it went from there, but about half way through it he went together with Zadro to the cellar door; two persons were already there - the prisoners; he shot one of them from a 'TT', caliber 7.62mm; three or four bullets; the man he shot had his back towards Brisevac. Immediately after the two men fell in the cellar, he went back to the courtyard because he sensed a strange smell and was feeling sick. At the very end, when there was no one left in the van, he went with Zadro and Bego back to the cellar door, where another three prisoners were standing and shot at them. He was shooting from a 'TT', Zadro from a machine gun and Bego, as far as Brisevac remembers, from a hand gun. After the shooting and after these three men fell in the cellar, Miljenko Zadro fired into the cellar, at the bodies, about 30-40 bullets from a machine gun; Brisevac warned him not to do it, since one of the bullets could ricochet and hurt them.
After all this shooting, Sasa threw a hand grenade into the cellar, and immediately afterwards, Bego asked him if he could throw in another one and, since Sasa said that he could, Bego threw another grenade into the cellar."
After that, the house was destroyed with plastic explosives. Brisevac, in his statement said that " he does not know who the victims were; he claims that he doesn't know their identities and says that he didn't look at their faces; however, since they were in jail, he supposes that they were Chetniks." He also said that at the spot nobody issued a specific order to execute the prisoners: "it was presumed; he saw what the others were doing and joined in in order not to be left out; he believes that if he stayed on the side that might have been bad for his life."
According to the official report, Miroslav Brisevac admitted being an accomplice to the murders of two prisoners ("who were, before the execution, interrogated with the help of an inductive telephone set") at the time while the so-called Mercep's unit was in the Gospic area:
"After the interrogation, the two prisoners were placed in a van and all of us (Jozo, Igor, 'Ceno', Zadro, Madarevic, Scmuch and Brisevac) went with them on the road between Gospic and Ostarje; about half way between Gospic and Ostarje we stopped the van at a rest stop; an abyss was on the other side of the road. At the mentioned rest stop, they took out the younger prisoner, led him to the other side of the road and, all together, shot at him; as he fell down at the edge of the abyss, they had to push him over the edge. After that they carried the older prisoner out of the van, because he was unable to walk due to the beating he had received earlier; they shot him and pushed him into the abyss."
The report also contains the following description of the execution of two prisoners in the village of Janja Lipa, near Pakracka Poljana; the execution was carried out at the edge of a grave dug out by another three prisoners. Besides Brisevac, Igor Mikola and Sinisa Rimac also took part in the execution.
"After the shooting was finished, Igor Mikola ordered the other three prisoners, whom he called 'official personnel' to drag the corpse to the grave; they obeyed his order.
After that the 'official personnel' stepped aside and Rimac said not to shoot at the other prisoner, because he was 'his'. Rimac pulled him out of a truck and led him to the grave; while he was doing that he was also swearing at the prisoner saying 'why are you limping, you mother fucker?'.
At the grave, the prisoner was made to face the already dead victim and then Rimac took out a hand gun and shot the prisoner in the back of the head; the victim fell next to the grave, beside a tree; then Mikola and Brusevac came closer and both fired several bullets into the body; he remembers that he fired 2-3 bullets. After that, the 'official personnel' dragged the other victim to the grave and Mikola told them to cover the bodies. While the prisoners were covering the bodies the three of them (Mikola, Brisevac and Rimac) were standing next to the grave. He thinks that the prisoner with a ski hat lost the hat, so that someone picked it up and threw it in the grave."
Tomislav Mercep: I Didn't Want To Betray Them
In the official report made on 1/2/1992, Tomislav Mercep stated that the boys he had known from Vukovar would, "when they were free, do a lot of stupid things and get in trouble," around Gospic, in Karlobag, Crikvenica and other towns. When he found out about the problems he didn't approve but tried to protect them, because he knew that many of them had lost their families and that during the time spent in Vukovar, "they simply went nuts." They distinguished themselves in all actions; hence Mercep "tried to protect them by not doing anything once he found out about their mischiefs, like stealing cars and similar."
He didn't know that they had been executing people and stealing their money, "but even if he were to find out that they killed a Chetnik or two, he wouldn't blame them, but would try to protect them." Mercep took part in the interrogation of five-six officers captured during the take over of the barracks "Stanko Opsenica"; he beat up a certain Dotlic and hit the officer Strpac but he didn't know what happened to those two and the rest of them afterwards.
In October, Mercep's unit liberated Kukunjevac, Toranj and other villages in the Pakrac area; Mercep was wounded in fighting near Lovska. Nikola Rukavina a.k.a. "Pop" who imposed himself, Zvonko Trusic and Branko Saric Kosa (Mercep emphasized that he had appointed only Saric) took over the command of the unit; finally, Demo Palos took over the command; "he is the person who knows the most about the events in Pakracka Poljana."
After the unit's arrival to Pakracka Poljana, continued Mercep, he heard that a certain Sasa (Aleksandar Antic) was there; "an amiable man who knew how to get under everyone's skin." Mercep didn't like the fact that Sasa was in the headquarters: a Serb should not be more than a soldier. But, once he heard that Sasa was competent and capable of everything, he thought about sending him to Serbia to carry out terrorist attacks. Sasa accepted that task. Mercep had Sasa take his car to a wash on one occasion; several days later he noticed that some 50-60 reserve police identification cards were missing. Sasa denied any connection with their disappearance; Mercep told him to stay out of Poljana and wait to be sent to Serbia. After that, according to Mercep's version, Sasa simply disappeared. Only later, Mercep found out that Demo had become suspicious of Sasa; Demo ordered that Sasa be caught, interrogated and executed; Mercep didn't know who had carried out the execution.
To the question whether he knew anything about the executions in the village of Bujavica, Mercep replied that he had seen the action of cleansing of that village, but that he didn't know anything about executions of Chetniks or any other persons. His answer regarding Stipe Mandarelo, was similar; Mercep had met Mandarelo on the Zagreb fairgrounds; Mandarelo had been a commander of one of the units in Poljana. Mercep had heard that Mandarelo, in order to settle some old accounts, was abducting customs officers and detaining them in Pakracka Poljana. Later, Mercep heard that Mandarelo was some kind of a buffoon, "that's how he looked too," and that he joined the whole thing for his own interest and personal profit.
Mercep depicted Marina, i.e. Ina Zoricic as a sick person who had an affair with Nikola Rukavina. Marina's husband Sanjin even demanded through Mercep that Rukavina, a.k.a. Pop returns his wife. Pop, who like the other boys from Vukovar "has gone nuts", on one occasion brought to Mercep, to a hospital, a hand gun and said that Marina was supposed to kill Mercep with that hand gun. Mercep didn't take that seriously. At the funeral of Pavo Mlinaric, a man he had known from Vukovar and for whom he could say that he had been a good fighter, Mercep saw Marina for the first time.
In the police report, signed by Nikola Jambrek, we can read:" On that occasion he didn't order anything regarding Marina to anyone of the present men; several days after the funeral, Rimac and the others told him that Marina had 'swam away'; he was revolted by that and told them everything, because he was of the opinion that it was a sin to kill such a sick person and that she was harmless; she only talked a lot because she was sick and a female. Although he knew what happened and that the culprits were the boys from Vukovar, Tomislav didn't do anything in particular trying to justify their act and decided not to betray them. He later found out from the same boys that the order for Marina's execution was given by Demo."
Mercep was very angry when he realized that Poljana was actually "a brothel" (he had said a long time ago that women should be chased away from there) and that things "were not done properly", but he didn't want to stress too much about that. By the way, it is stated in the official report "he doesn't know that there was a jail in Poljana nor that some people were keeping detained there for a long time; he only knows that three men were imprisoned there according to the orders of Vlada Delac; one of them had a big head. When he found out about those people, Tomo reacted immediately and demanded that those men be released, if they were not guilty, and if they were, that they be moved somewhere else because there was no reason to keep them and feed them in Pakracka Poljana."
Here is the end of the report made after the interrogation in the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the republic of Croatia, where Mercep is an adviser:" Tomislav adds that he realizes his responsibility for the actions of the group of people from Vukovar, but that their actions and behavior can be explained by all the traumas they have been trough since the beginning of this war as well as the loss of their dearest. Because each one of them has lost someone from the closest family and because they were essentially good people, Tomislav was always ready to back them up and protect them, although he has heard that they were doing stupid and illegal things. All of them, except for Rimac, yearned for an easy and luxurious life, which they were unable to achieve; because of that, carried away by events, they probably did things which were not in order. He tried to keep them together and protect them because they didn't have anyone else who would take care of them. However, because of his obligations in the Ministry of Internal Affairs and on the front, he lost control of a good deal of things. It is possible that certain events mentioned in this conversation have occured, but he certainly was not in the position to prevent them since, because of other obligations, he failed to control people with whom he worked and, mostly, trusted. He also mentions that he has heard for the butcher Zec only after his murder and that he is bothered in that whole case by the fact that the boys had killed a child, although one should suspend the final judgment until the motive for the act is known."
Police Officials Knew About Pakracka Poljana Prison
Final report of the United Nations Commission of Expertsestablished pursuant tosecurity council resolution 780 (1992) Annex X.BMass graves - Pakracka Poljana,UNPA sector west, Croatia