President of the Croatian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, Ivan Zvonimir Cicak, reacted immediately by writing a letter on September 1, 1997, at 10:57 am to the President of the Republic of Croatia, dr. Franjo Tudman, which we herewith enclose and as a consequence of which the following was undertaken: Miro Bajramovic was arrested that same day at 6 p.m. Later on four more persons, whose names were mentioned in the interview and who were directly involved in killings and executions in Pakracka Poljana were also arrested.
The editorial office of one of the most important informative programs on the state-controlled television "Motrista" severely attacked the CHC President, I. Z. Cicak for writing the letter and denunciating the Croatian state once again.
A phone rang in the editorial office of Feral. Forty-year-old Miro Bajramovic, mechanical engineer, father of four. Later it will be seen that besides these benign facts, Miro Bajramovic is, by his own confession, responsible for the death of 86 people, out of which he killed 72 with his own hands. He was a member of Mercep's unit "Autumn Rain" in Gospic, Pakracka Poljana serving a 4 month prison term. Unlike some of his fellow soldiers, who have in the meantime built restaurants and have been awarded medals from the President, Bajramovic is rejected and today has nothing except - as he says - a wonderful family.
He wanted to tell his story to the public, a story which certainly in this country is not the only one, but is nevertheless no less horrifying. We talked with him at several different locations (from Tuesday to Friday). That which follows is his complete story.
I was born 1/30/1957 in Zenica [Bosnia-Hercegovina]; I have no memory of my father, and my mother died in 1990. I finished mechanics school in Zenica and moved to Zagreb, where I got a job in Janko Gredelj, in steam locomotives department at the main railway station. Later on I got a job in the "Rade Koncar" factory, where I was given a chance to further my studies. I graduated from the University for Mechanics. In 1990 I lost my job and soon received an invitation from the Ministry of the Interior.
I met Tomislav Mercep in 1991 in the village of Dalj. We fought together from that time on, and had been through many things together. Our unit was named "The Autumn Rains" i.e. officially the 1st special unit of MUP. Croatian soldiers knew very well who was in "Autumn Rain" units.
That story about a doctor from Gospic is also false: he was not killed, he committed suicide. It is also untrue that we burned 50 Serbs in one house. We did kill but never by means of burning.
The role of Tihomir Oreskovic; I think he is a good man and it was good working with him. Due to our friendship I'd rather not talk about him. The order for Gospic was to perform "ethnic cleansing", so we killed directors of post offices and hospitals, a restaurant owner and many other Serbs. Executions were performed by shooting at point blank range since we did not have much time. I repeat, orders from the headquarters were to reduce the percentage of Serbs in Gospic.
We went to Slano four times and liquidated 13 persons there, all Serbs. Their centre was in the village of Vukovici, between Slano and Dubrovnik. I killed 8 out of 13. I was together with Sinisa Rimac, Miroslav Brisevac, Miljenko Zadro, Igor Mikula, and little Gordana (I cannot recall her family name).
We kept prisoners in the school cellar; and when we had more prisoners, we would put them in classrooms. Nights were the worst for them, since it was then that we "interrogated them" ...; this consisted of finding the best way to inflict the greatest pain in order to make them confess the most amount of information.
Do you know which is the best way? Burning prisoner with a flame, pour vinegar over their wounds, mostly on genitalia and on the eyes. Then there is that little inductor, field phone, you plug a Serb onto that; it is a direct current which cannot kill, but it is very irritating. You ask him where he comes from, he says from Dvor, and you then dial a number in that place. Or, a five-wire cable would be stuck into a prisoner's rectum and was left there for hours so that they couldn't sit.
Wounds were opened and salt or vinegar scattered over them; we did not let the bleeding stop. The prison commander Mijo Jolic forced them to learn on the same day the Croatian anthem; today he possess- just like Suljic- restaurants all over Croatia. Why don't I have anything?
When I recall all that torturing, I wonder they managed to think of all of those methods. For example, the most painful is to stick little pins under the nails and to connect it to the three-phase current; nothing remains of a man but ashes. I would never think of that, although I do know of the Lenz law. I was doing the interrogation of prisoners, but I never harassed them nor did I enjoy that; but some did, as Munib Suljic for example. We only cared about the results he would get, we did not bother with the means he used. After all, we knew that they would all be killed, so it did not matter if we hurt him more today or tomorrow. During the torture, people would confess all they knew, or what they were asked for. We did play some kind of a democratic police at the beginning and would give papers to Serbs to write all they knew, for instance names or locations.
Who were these Croats? Well, the most beautiful one was Marina Nuic. Then Aleksandar Antic, although many incorrectly claimed that he was a Serb. Ten police ID cards were found in his car. He was accused of being a traitor and was executed. Zvonimir Trusic gave orders for his execution. Antic told Mikula: Please, I would like you to kill me. And he did. A bullet from a magnum to his head. He had to dig his own grave before the execution. Suljic, Rimac and Mikula beat him terribly at the Velesajam (the collective centre), it was only when he was brought down that he was really interrogated.
Then there was Ilija Horvat, whose only sin was to invite both Croats and Serbs into his home. Then there was an Italian, because there is an Italian village in the vicinity of Poljana. And this Italian, like all Italians, was corrupt. We arrested him and killed him without any discussion. I personally killed him.
Once I stated that every person that I killed, died happy. I issued them release forms written on tiny bits of paper and let them go home. Then I waited for them with a sniper. They died with a smile. This Italian stole an automatic rifle, which was kept in the school building and which he sold to the Serbs.
First, we arrested Milos Ivosevic, state director of customs. When we came to his office and talked to his secretary, a Croat, she was afraid to tell us his whereabouts. We found him on Rudeska cesta while he was building a house, and he told me: "In the end you Croats will be cleaning our shoes." He was directly responsible for the attack on the Krnjak police station, where 11 of our fellow-soldiers died, so we did not have any mercy towards him. We interrogated him for 4-5 days, after which he mentioned the name of Stevan Barjanovic.
I came to Stevan' s house on the day of his mother's death. I deeply apologised for the things I was doing. He started off towards Velesajam with his Toyota, and he had a smoked ham in his car. I, acting like an idiot, took this ham from him and took it to the bar "Stela" and gave it to Zvonko Trusic and told him to slice it up for our boys. Later on, in the course of his investigation, Stevan said that I treated him well; but then he asked about his ham. Fuck the ham! This is how I nearly ended up as a war profiteer, although I never even tasted it.
I cannot call Serb a gentleman, but I admire him for the fact that in the course of the investigative procedure he held to truth and facts, and in fact he could have said all kinds of things against us. I do not know whether he did it because he was afraid, because at the time we executed a majority of witnesses. Barjanovic is maybe not aware that he is the only Serb who survived Pakracka Poljana. He survived because he was accidentally wounded in prison, and Dzemal Peles, the idiot, took him to the hospital in Kutina, instead of killing him. He became crown witness later and he could have told everything. O.K, such was the order coming from the highest authorities and investigative judges did not insist on details.
Self-interest was very popular at the moment. Thirty of us went some 50 meters in front of the first tank. We cleaned and executed everyone. After us there were others who called themselves "mercepovci", who stole from the houses and then burnt them. These were Maeralo and Rukavina ... Mercep told us to take everything away from the Serbs, and the money we found should be handed over to Headquarters for purchasing arms. However, Trusic, Mercep, and Rukavina, who was called Pop and Nedeljko Posavec, divided the money amongst themselves. How do I know that? A day before the murder of Pavo Mlinaric, Posavec and Rukavina shot at each other because they did not split the money equally. Posavec was removed from the unit, however the money was not taken away from him, and it wasn't merely a question of 1000 or 100000 DM, but much more.
I could not say that mass executions were carried out in Pakracka Poljana. These were mostly groups of 7 to 10 people. It actually depended on how many people were in the prison at the time. Sometimes we executed people in their homes, and then blew up the house. There were no bodies left. There were many houses like this, mostly in the village of Bujavica.
We were thinking along these lines at the time; kill the children of a Serb because they survive at 20 degrees below freezing. I did not have any feelings at the time towards Serbs as being human beings like us, that they are somebody's father, brothers, children....No, we did not kill children, except for Suljic who killed little Aleksandra Zec. I saved 10 children by my own hands in Vocin. I would not be able to look into my little daughter's eyes if I had killed children.
According to my estimate, there were 280 people all together killed in Poljana, including 10 women. Besides Marina Nuic, there was a Nada from the village of Kusonja who was infiltrated among us. There was a very old lady also in whose house they found a sniper. Besides this old lady, all women were raped and then killed. That's the truth.
It is my firm belief that if it hadn't been for the Zec family, nothing would have been known about Pakracka Poljana. It was the main key and the main reason why the unit has been looked at from this angle, and there were many Pakracka Poljanas in Croatia.
We can talk about the way we conducted the interrogation of our prisoners - but there are no secrets here - we beat and physically abused prisoners in any way possible in order to extort their confession. That is when he confessed for whom and what his brother did.
When I came to Zagreb, I issued an order for Mihajlo Zec's arrest. Mercep gave me this order. Mihajlo Zec was more worth to us alive then dead. However, Munib Suljic, intoxicated and drugged out, joined on his own initiative, the group which was supposed to arrest Mihajlo Zec. I told Sinisa Rimac that only in case of resisting the arrest should M. Zec be executed. He tried to escape, Rimac let him go, although it is very hard for me to understand how a 19 year old man like him could not stop Zec. Well, maybe it was just a question of the moment, and then he shot him.
Then suddenly Munib Suljic appeared driving a blue van, without licence plates, because our arrests around Zagreb were carried out by vehicles without licence plates and in uniforms without insignias, to pick up little Aleksandra and Mrs. Zec. He first took them to the Panorama hotel, then to Sljeme and then he killed them there.
A few days ago Suljic's statement issuing a denial that he had never confessed the crime was published in Nacional. It is true that upon his arrest, Suljic told everything, confessed everything, and then took the police officers to Sljeme and showed the location of their graves. Then he confessed that he himself did the killings. The most tragic thing was that he threatened Nebojsa Hodak-Cena, Igor Mikula, Sinisa Rimac and little Snjezana Zivkovic from Gospic, and he even forced Mikula to fire 20 bullets at little Aleksandra and Mrs. Zec. This was in order for him to be sure, and then he forced them to bury the bodies.
This is the mere reason why they were involved in this affair. Rimac publicly admitted in the course of the investigation: I killed Mihajlo Zec, but do not accuse me of other things". That's the truth. Today they make Mihajlo Zec look like a hero and tales are told that he died in vain. If it were up to me, if I were the one to publish some newspaper, I would write more about Marina Nuic, because she is the one that really died in vain.
However, let us see the reasons why she was killed. Branko Caric Kosa, Mikula and I think Rimac and Ceno guarded Mercep at the hospital, you know, stood in front of his door, because, Mercep was visited by more then 200 people daily. Then information leaked out that Mercep was supposed to get a pen from Marina Nuic and that that pen would kill him.
Marina came with the Rijeka brigade and she was, my God, only 5 days with us. One night she called me, and invited me for a drink, my witness is Franjo Nemet, in the one liquor store called "Domovina", and it was one of the places where we drank. We met there that night. She had beautiful hair that night, straight falling on her back, mahogany colour. Mercep was wounded in Lovska a few days earlier. The troops from Rijeka failed to protect us, and we found ourselves surrounded by enemy troops. People from Cazma were slaughtered there. She looked at me for a very long time and said: "When will this war end, and what is still ahead of us?"
I told her like this: "Marina, there is only tomorrow for us and nothing else, and the day will come". She was later arrested. I did not know that this would happen. They put her in our detention centre in Meuric. She was a woman and she was beaten there severely...
I would like to contact Marina's parents, because I am a father too, and I would like to know everything about my child. Marina came to our unit together with 200 people from Rijeka, because at the time we had many problems with a shortage of men. There were many soldiers at the time in Zagreb, but they mostly waged war drinking at the bar.
When it came to the point to go into the field to fight, few of them actually came. We were rather well-known at the time, that we were mostly engaged in clearing the territory and that we fought direct battles with Chetniks, that we confronted tanks at a distance of 50 meters and that we simply did not fool around. We started off towards Lovska. Thirty-two of us fell into a trap. However we counted on 500 people from Rijeka, who were 500 meters behind us, and if one of them had fired only one shot, we would have been able to get out of it. However, when they heard that we had lost our first tank, they turned around and ran away. We somehow managed to get out of there and found people from Rijeka some 8 kilometres behind us. They threw away their arms and we made them leave for Rijeka the following morning. We did not need soldiers like that. However, I chose among all of them some 10 people who deserved to stay. That is how Marina stayed and today I feel sorry for not letting her go. She was so innocent, she did not know how to cry, she only wept.
Her execution was not ordered by her name or surname, but it was merely said that the prison should be cleansed, and that meant that prisoners should be executed, among them Marina.
It is not the case, as Vekic stated, that there was a separate Mercep and Mika unit. Mika Cvitanovic took over the unit after Mercep dissolved it on January 30, 1992 and after the unit became a part of the First National Guard Brigade. This is when Mika made some sort of insignia which indicated that this was both Mercep's and Mika's brigade. This made Mercep very angry. Our unit was called "Autumn Rain". I repeat, Ivan Vekic knew everything.
The first month in prison they behaved rudely towards us. No, nobody could touch us, because if there would have been some physical misconduct, I think there would no longer be a police station in šordiceva Street. Mercep had a lot of influence in this, as he was the one that organised our defence, as well as Ivan Vekic, who is now going public with all sorts of nonsense. At that time he was on our side. Maybe I have already said this, but Justice Jovanovic and Justice Horvatinovic were very co-operative and they did not ask for any details.
I am a big believer. I have on my finger a rosary-ring from Medugorje. God forgives everything to a certain limit. I think I have been punished enough up to now for what I did. My lifelong dream would be satisfied if my children have their subsistence ensured, because I know very well what will happen to me after this story, but I would like somebody to take care of my children. I really do have a beautiful marriage and a beautiful family, two small children. My wife knows about everything I did since this was the only way that we could live together.
I do not feel any sense of relief after telling you my story. I am afraid of my unit. These are experienced professionals who do not miss often. And I know that the Hague is unavoidable as well.
A shocking interview with the engineer Miro Bajramovic, a former member of the special police forces which had been active in the homeland war, was published in the weekly journal Feral Tribune on September 1, 1997.
The fact that Mr. Bajramovic very thoroughly depicted and described the events which occurred during the war and which are punishable as war crimes under the Criminal Code of the Republic of Croatia, as well as the Statute of the International War Tribunal, I request that Mr. Bajramovic and his family be given full protection.
Namely, Mr. Bajramovic has announced a possibility of retaliation against himself on behalf of his former fellow-soldiers. Since Mr. Bajramovic delivers some facts in his interview which will jeopardise certain persons who held very high positions in the Croatian government, the Committee demands that you personally use your authority and position in order to protect Mr. Bajramovic, not only as a potential witness in domestic and Hague tribunals, but as well as a possible defendant, since he himself admitted that he had personally executed 72 persons, of which 9 were women.
By respecting the legal principles of the state, the Croatian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights does not wish to influence in any way the work of the legal institutions in the Republic of Croatia, however we freely believe that there are more then enough elements which can be found in Bajramoviµ's statements which public prosecutor, Mr. Hranjski, should take into consideration while at least initiating criminal investigation against Mr. Bajramovic. We wish to inform you that the Committee has informed the Prosecutor's Office in the Hague concerning the content of the interview.
Finally it is our opinion that this would be the best protection for Mr. Bajramovic from the retaliation of his fellow-soldiers. Since the Committee, at the same time, understands the practical realism of the whole situation in which the Croatian society and the state on the whole is placed, we wish to inform you that in case something "accidentally" happens to Mr. Bajramovic, the Committee will hold you responsible.
Lastovo, September 1, 1997
For the Committee:
Ivan Zvonimir Cicak
Esteemed Ms. Arbour,
As announced in our letter of 01/09/1997, we submit herewith the translation of the text published in the September 1, 1997 issue of the weekly Feral Tribune.
As you already know, the CHC President sent a letter on 01/09/97 at 10, 57 a.m. to the President of the Republic, dr. Franjo Tudman concerning the matter.
The TV evening news informed the public about Mr. Bajramovic's arrest, under suspicion of committing criminal acts liable to punishment.