Croat testifies about 1991 minefield massacre (Croatia)

A Croat survivor of a wartime massacre of civilians testified Monday how Serb fighters forced them into a minefield where they were sprayed with machine-gun fire.


Fourteen former Serb soldiers and paramilitaries have been charged with killing 70 civilians in the eastern Croatian village of Lovas when Serb troops took control of the area in October 1991.

The Lovas massacre is considered one of the most brutal events of Croatia's 1991-95 war for independence. The trial at Serbia's war crimes court in Belgrade is a major test for Serbia's judiciary.

Serbian prosecutors say 22 civilians died after being forced into a mined clover field and another 48 civilians were killed in their houses and yards in the sleepy and picturesque Croatian village.

Survivor Lovro Gersner told the court that when the Serb fighters took control of the village, they ordered all Croats to wear white hand bands and mark their houses with white ribbons.
He said that one day, the Serbs ordered a group of them to walk into a minefield and sweep the grass with their feet.

Gersner said that after one of the Croat civilians stepped on a mine that went off, the Serbs positioned around 50 meters (yards) away started shooting indiscriminately, killing and wounding the civilians.

He said that the 13 injured Croat villagers, including himself, were saved from a certain death by a Yugoslav army major who arrived at the scene and ordered the massacre be stopped.

The war in Croatia erupted in 1991 when the republic declared independence from the Serb-led Yugoslav federation, triggering a Serb rebellion backed by the Yugoslav army.

Serbia's prosecution of Serbs responsible for atrocities in the war became possible only after the country's pro-democracy forces toppled Slobodan Milosevic in 2000.

Von: 23.02.2009, By DUSAN STOJANOVIC Associated Press,

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