Serb Learnt Rape and Murder - A Report by Richard Beeston The Times (UK)
Borislav Herak delivered his gruesome confession of murder, rape and
butchery in a clipped and awkward monotone which is as painful to watch
as his story is to hear.
He learned hand-to-hand combat using live pigs and was taught how to
throw them, hold them down and slit their throats. Later he was told
to practise on Bosnian prisoners of war and rape and kill young Bosnian
"I did it because I had no choice, I had to obey orders," said the
captured Serb fighter, whose deeds and his mitigation of them are
chillingly reminiscent of the last time war crimes were committed in
central Europe, half a century ago. The account of his six months
service with Serbian forces north of Sarajevo is expected next month
to be the basis for the war crimes trial of the conflict in the former
Yugoslavia, when he will be charged with genocide, mass murder, rape
and looting under Article 41 of the Yugoslav criminal code.
His eyewitness testimony, the first by a participant in the
notorious "ethnic cleaning", should also offer a unique insight into
how Serb forces killed tens of thousands of Muslim and Croat Bosnians
and drove hundreds of thounds from their homes in the past eight
months of fighting.
The most disturbing episodes of Mr Heraks's activities began in June,
soon after he left his home in Sarajevo and joined the Biochanska
Serb Militia where he received his basic training. The first hint
of the sort of work expected of him emerged when he and other Bosnian
Serb volunteers were shown a demonstration of hand-to-hand combat
using pigs. Soon afterwards, in the village of Donja Bioca, he was
ordered to repeat the exercise on Bosnian Muslims, Mr Herak, 21,
said in an interview at Sarajevo's Victor Bubanj military prison.
He killed three prisoners with a 6-inch hunting blade, an episode he
recounted in a detached, almost dispassionate fasion: "They did not
resist, but one of them told me he had a wife and two children. His
name was Ahmed Ziad Osman." Mr Herak volunteered the information
readily and insisted that he had not been coerced or mistreated during
his captivity. Professor Aida Hasimbegovic, a clinical psychologist,
said he displayed no severe psycological problems that would make him
unfit to stand trial.
That impression was confirmed when he described in a clear manner the grim
saga of how his unit took part in the "cleansing" of the Muslim village
of Ahatovic, north of Sarajevo, last summer. This time he used a Kalash-
nikov rifle to shoot 20 civilians and then joined other Serbs in looting
"The order was that nobody should stay alive, we should kill everybody,"
he said, adding that the instructions had come down the Serbian chain
of command from the area commander in the town of Ilijas. "We did not
have any choice. He told us what had to be done, and we did it."
In probably the most gruesome episode, he said that Serb fighters
were encouraged to rape young Bosnians at a prison turned military
brothel where inmates were killed to make way for newcomers.
"They told us for the sake of Serbian morale that we should go to
the prison at the Sonja Motel in Vogosca where there were 80 to 90
girls", he said, speaking through an interpreter. "I went about 10
times in all, maybe two or three times a week. I was told by Miro
Vukovic, [the Serbian Commander of the brothel] to take the girls
away and kill them because there was no room to keep them or enough
food to feed them.
"I raped the girls in the motel and then took them to the Zuc hill
[north of Sarajevo], shot them and hid their bodies. I raped 10 girls
in their twenties and killed six of them," he said, identifying
the victims by name - Anissa, Fatima, Maira, Sabina and Senada.
He insisted that he was forced to act against his will because of
the threat of punishment by his superiors. He added that Serb commanders
continually told their men that Bosnian troops were performing worse
against Serbian civilians and that they were in a fight for their
What makes his account disturbing is the clear impression that his actions
were by no means an isolated but part of a widespread practise. The prospect
of trial and execution did not daunt the young prisoner, who said that
he looked forward to the judgement because he could no longer live with
what he had done. But he doubted it would have any impact in preventing
"All I know is that while I am here sitting and talking, these same horrors
are going on somewhere else," he said.