Associated Press

October 21, 1997

War Crimes Tribunal Hears Witness

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) -- Using more muscle in its push to prosecute war crimes, a U.N. court Tuesday heard from the first witness it has forced to testify: a man who may have overseen the burials of Bosnian Serbs slain at a prison camp.

Fadil Zebic, the first of five men compelled to testify before the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal, took the stand in the trial of three Muslims and a Croat accused of torture and murder at the Celebici camp in central Bosnia.

The other witnesses include two Bosnian army generals and an ex-general set to testify Wednesday and Thursday. Prosecutors want them to shed light on the chain of command that established the camp run by the Bosnian government.

Prosecutors said they asked tribunal judges to issue subpoenas for the five last week because they had refused to testify. Zebic told the judges Tuesday he always was prepared to testify, but was reluctant to leave his sick wife behind in Bosnia.

Zebic said that as the wartime director of a public works office in Konjic, a town near Celebici, he was in charge of burying the region's dead.

He showed judges a list of nine people his staff had buried around June 1992. Zebic, a Muslim, said the bodies came from the village of Celebici but could not confirm they were from the notorious camp.

Under cross-examination, Zebic said he never saw the nine bodies.

Prosecutors believe the men on the list were all Bosnian Serbs killed at Celebici.

A 49-page indictment accuses Zdravko Mucic, a Croat, and Muslims Zejnil Delalic, Hazim Delic and Esad Landzo of beating Bosnian Serb prisoners with steel cables, burning them with heated scissors and confining them to vats of water.

All four, who face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment if convicted, deny the charges.

The tribunal, set up by the U.N. Security Council in 1993, has indicted 77 suspects publicly. Twenty are in custody.

Most of the suspects still at large are Serbs, including former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and his wartime military chief, Gen. Ratko Mladic. Both have been indicted twice for genocide but refuse to surrender for trial.