September 02, 1997

Croatia arrests another three for war deaths

By Laura Lui

ZAGREB, Croatia (Reuter) - Croatian police Tuesday arrested three former policeman who allegedly took part in the killings of nearly 400 people, mostly ethnic Serbs, at the start of the 1991-95 war, the Interior Ministry said.

The arrests of Munib Suljic, Igor Mikula and Nebojsa Hodak, came a day after another policeman, Miro Bajramovic, admitted in a statement to an independent Croatian newspaper to killing 72 Serbs.

Police arrested the three and took them to detention in the Zagreb county court together with Bajramovic, the ministry said in a statement carried by the state news agency HINA.

It said the three and Bajramovic, all members of a Croatian paramilitary police unit fighting against the Serbs, were due to appear before an investigative judge in Zagreb.

Bajramovic, 40, was arrested in the village of Dodos south of Zagreb Monday only hours after his interview with the weekly. The ministry did not say where the other three were arrested.

Bajramovic told the paper the unit was responsible for killing nearly 400 people, mostly Serb civilians but also unsympathetic Croats in several locations, including the town of Gospic and the village of Pakracka Poljana.

He disclosed details of grisly crimes, such as torture and summary execution of prisoners, committed by the paramilitary police unit. Among others, he directly named Suljic, 38, Mikula, 26, and Hodak, 31, as taking part in the crimes.

Bajramovic said he had been responsible for the deaths of 86 people and actually killed 72 of them, including nine women.

It was not clear why he came forward with his story. He said only that he was embittered by the fact that other members of the unit got rich, while he ended up with nothing.

It was the first time a member of the Croatian armed forces, who fought against Serbs in a war in which each side attacked the civilian populations of the other ethnic group, had publicly admitted acts that could be qualified as war crimes.

State television said Monday the Zagreb county prosecutor had ordered an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the 1991 killing spree described by Bajramovic in the interview.

Bajramovic, along with some other members of the unit, was imprisoned by the Croatian authorities early in 1992 but released some three months later.

No charges were brought against them despite numerous media reports alleging misconduct.

Some 18 ethnic Croats have been charged with war crimes by the U.N. tribunal in The Hague, but all of them for alleged acts committed in neighboring Bosnia, not Croatia.

Feral's journalists said they had been receiving phone threats since the interview was published.