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Serb on Trial Describes Crimes in Chilling Detail

March 14, 1993| From Times Wire Services

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina — In chilling testimony Saturday at Bosnia's first war crimes trial, a Serbian soldier showed how he slit POWs' throats and described a massacre of 150 villagers.

He said orders to rape Muslim women came from the Bosnian Serbs' top leader.

At no point during more than two hours of testimony did Borislav Herak express any remorse for the 30 killings he is charged with. But he repeatedly told of superior officers who ordered him to murder or rape, and said he could have been killed for disobeying.

The trial, which opened Friday before a five-judge military tribunal, is the Bosnian government's first attempt to prove in court its claims that Serb nationalist forces have carried out widespread atrocities during the 11-month-old war.

Herak, 22, and co-defendant Sretko Damjanovic could face a firing squad if convicted.

Herak described growing up in Sarajevo, getting along with Muslim neighbors, until the war broke out last April. Relatives told him Muslims planned to kill all Serbs.

Herak said he was taken to a farm after joining the Serb army and taught slaughtering techniques, which he practiced on pigs.

"My commander told me that because I come from Sarajevo and lived with Muslims, I could be suspected as a spy, so I had to prove myself," Herak said. "All the time, another soldier was standing behind me with a rifle. If I didn't do it, they would shoot me."

At the request of the judge, Herak demonstrated the technique on a court security officer.

Herak said he later was sent with some soldiers from Serbia to the village of Ahatovici, near Sarajevo, with orders "to kill everybody and burn everything down."

He said about 150 villagers, including many children, were herded together and shot.

Herak said an order to rape Muslim girls and women came from a local commander who said the instructions came from Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic.

Also Saturday, in a dramatic amateur radio broadcast from the besieged eastern town of Srebrenica, French Gen. Philippe Morillon, commander of U.N. troops in Bosnia, backed Muslim demands for aid and urged the Serbs to stop their attack.

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